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Standard fact sheet.
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Large print fact sheet.

Residential tenancy and real estate complaints 

Tenants, landlords and agents 

NSW Fair Trading provides a free complaint service for tenants, residents, landlords and agents with real estate and property related matters or disputes.

How can Fair Trading assist with my matter?  

The complaint service offered by Fair Trading is a voluntary process between parties that are involved in a tenancy, real estate or property dispute, and who have been unsuccessful in resolving the issue themselves. An experienced Fair Trading officer will provide the parties with relevant information in order to assist them to come to a mutual agreement. In some circumstances, formal mediation may also be offered.

The complaint process does not include:

  • enforcing orders that require action or payment from either party
  • a decision on evidence resulting in a legal determination or an Order
  • a Fair Trading officer inspecting property to determine fault or attribute blame, which falls outside their role.

A video is available that demonstrates how the complaint service works: Help with tenancy problems contains examples of cases based on real complaint scenarios. It can be viewed on Fair Trading's YouTube channel.

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What type of matters can Fair Trading assist with?  

Fair Trading can assist with matters about:

  • residential tenancies where the dispute is between a tenant, agent and/or landlord e.g. tenants illegally locked out of their tenancy, or a landlord seeking advice on getting access to have a repair done
  • the landlord or agent refusing access to Rental Bonds Online
  • individuals involved in the sale or purchase of property/stock in NSW
  • retirement village residents or owner/operators
  • residential community (park) residents or owner/operators
  • owner/occupants of strata schemes
  • conveyancers.

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What type of matters can't Fair Trading assist with? 

Fair Trading cannot assist with matters about:

  • public or social housing
  • urgent health and safety issues
  • an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) or violence related matters
  • boarding house residents
  • commercial or retail lease disputes
  • suspected and/or illegal activity
  • termination of agreements
  • serious damage to the property
  • contractual disputes
  • rental bond matters (other than Rental Bonds Online).

For these matters, you may lodge a claim with the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT).

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What should I do before coming to Fair Trading for help?  

Parties involved in the complaint should try to resolve the issues themselves before coming to Fair Trading for help. These steps can help you find a resolution:

  1. Review the Fair Trading website for relevant information on your rights or obligations and any applicable legislation.
  2. Seek independent legal assistance when legal advice or interpretation of legislation is required.
  3. Discuss your concerns and explain the issues with the other party. Let the other party express their concerns and position and try to come a mutual agreement.
  4. Contact the organisation’s head office if a resolution cannot be achieved. Many businesses have their own internal complaint resolution body. These industry based organisations may assist to resolve complaints or simply provide advice.

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What will Fair Trading do to help resolve complaints? 

We will contact each party to seek a mutual resolution to the complaint. If Fair Trading is able to help both parties reach an agreement, we will finalise the complaint without any further intervention.

Parties involved need to be prepared to put their points forward and listen to what the other party has to say. The parties will benefit when each is willing to negotiate and make suggestions to settle the matter.

The time to finalise the complaint depends on parties' availability and the level of inquiries to be made by Fair Trading. We aim to finalise most complaints within 30 days.

Please keep in mind that if a complaint is complex or the parties do not co-operate, then this time may vary. Please also keep in mind that we cannot order or direct either party to resolve the complaint, only a court or a tribunal can do this.

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What is the role of the Fair Trading Officer?  

The Fair Trading officer will:

  • provide impartial advice to the parties with the complaint
  • allow all parties to put forward their points
  • explain the relevant matters in the complaint
  • confirm that all relevant matters have been discussed
  • make suggestions as to the best way to finalise the complaint, and
  • refer applicable strata disputes to Fair Trading's free strata and community mediation service.

Fair Trading can conduct investigations and take disciplinary action where a breach has been identified.

The Fair Trading officer will not:

  • take sides or represent either party
  • continue with the complaint handling process if the parties do not show willingness to reach an agreeable settlement, or
  • offer any legal advice.

The complaint process is voluntary and its success depends on parties co-operating. Fair Trading cannot force either party to continue with the complaint process.

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What happens if there is no resolution?  

Where agreement cannot be reached, parties will be advised of the outcome and recommended to seek independent advice or lodge a claim with the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT).

NCAT can make orders which are binding on the parties. These may include monetary payment, ending a tenancy agreement, or repair work to be completed.

Find out more at http://www.ncat.nsw.gov.au

Information on strata and community mediation services can be found on the Fair Trading website.

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How can I access the complaint service? 

If you are not able to resolve the matter yourself, you can lodge a complaint online via the NSW Fair Trading website or call Fair Trading on 13 32 20 to discuss your matter further.

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