As a tenant it is vital you know what your renting rights and responsibilities are if you have been affected by a natural disaster, such as a flood, bushfire or storm damage.
This will depend on the extent of the damage and what you and the landlord want to do about the situation.
If the premises are destroyed or become totally or partly uninhabitable, this does not automatically end your tenancy. Either you or the landlord can give a termination notice in writing to end the tenancy. The notice, once served, can take effect immediately or can specify a later date. If the landlord serves you with a notice and you do not want the tenancy to end you should let them know. You cannot be evicted without a NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal order.
If the premises are only partly uninhabitable, such as one room not being usable as a result of hail damage to the roof, you may wish to stay on in the premises while the repairs are being carried out. You should only consider doing this if the damage is relatively minor and there is no ongoing safety risk to you or your family. Follow any instructions from emergency personnel and talk to the landlord to see if they agree.
If the premises have been more seriously damaged or have become totally uninhabitable another option is to move out temporarily and return once the premises are liveable again. This may be for a few days or weeks or however long it takes. If this is what you want to do you should talk to the landlord or agent as soon as possible. While the landlord or agent can try to help you as an act of goodwill they are not obliged to find or pay for your temporary accommodation.
You and the landlord/agent can also decide to formally end the agreement and re-sign a new agreement after the repairs are complete. However, be aware that a higher rent could be included in the new agreement.
If the tenancy is ended permanently, no rent is payable from the day you move out. Any rent already paid in advance must be fully refunded.
If you move out temporarily or continue living in the partially damaged premises the rent should be waived or reduced. Whether any rent is payable at all and, if so, the level of reduction will depend on the extent of the damage and the amount of use you have of the premises. Any agreement in these situations about the rent, how long you may be away from the premises and what will happen to your possessions while you are away is best put in writing.
If the tenancy is to continue, the first step is for the landlord or agent, preferably with you being present, to inspect the premises and document the repairs needed.
You should discuss with the landlord or agent the timetable for repairs, recognising that there may be unavoidable delays because of the demand for insurance assessments and qualified tradespeople in the area. A landlord is not obliged to compensate you for any damage to your furniture or personal belongings arising from a natural disaster.
Serious storm, fire or flood damage are all considered to be urgent repairs. Such repairs should be done as soon as possible. If you believe the landlord or agent is not acting quickly enough on needed repairs you can apply to the Tribunal or arrange for the work yourself and be reimbursed.
After a natural disaster most repairs needed are likely to be classed as urgent repairs. The landlord or agent does not have to give you any minimum period of notice before sending tradespeople to do this work.
In normal situations you must be given at least 2 days notice if tradespeople need to access the premises to carry out non-urgent repairs. It may be in your best interest to talk to the landlord or agent and agree on a shorter period of notice in order to get the work completed as soon as possible.
The landlord or agent must tell you before you sign the tenancy agreement if the premises have been subject to flooding or bushfire in the previous 5 years. This only applies where they know of the event. If this information was not disclosed before you signed the agreement and it happens again you may be entitled to compensation.
Any tenancy related disputes following a natural disaster can be taken to the Tribunal.
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