As a landlord or a tenant, it is crucial you know your rights and responsibilities if the property you own or rent has been affected by a natural disaster.
With the shock of the recent bushfire crisis, we thought it appropriate to answer a few questions about what to do if a residential rental property is destroyed by a natural disaster like a bushfire.
Obviously the utmost important thing here is the health and safety of the occupants including any animals. If your property or your life is at risk your first call should always be to the appropriate emergency service or dial 000.
What happens if the property is completely severely damaged or destroyed by a natural disaster?
Firstly, as circumstances can differ it is strongly recommended that you contact your landlord or managing agent to discuss your options if the property is damaged or destroyed by a natural disaster.
In general terms if the property has been destroyed or wholly or partly uninhabitable, you can mutually agree to end the tenancy. If the premises are only partly uninhabitable, you can choose to stay on in the premises while the repairs are being carried out however you should only consider doing this if the damage is relatively minor and there is no ongoing safety risk to you or your family.
You can move out temporarily and return once the premises is fixed but unfortunately under these circumstances the landlord is not obliged to find or pay for your temporary accommodation.
Who is responsible for the clean-up after a natural disaster?
Generally speaking it would be the landlord's responsibility to arrange the clean up and repairs caused by a natural disaster ensuring the property is safe for occupation and habitable. Depending on the extent of damage or cleaning required delays could be experienced if insurance assessors were required to inspect the property prior to any works being undertaken.
The tenant is generally only responsible for any cleaning that arises from their use of the property.
When it is safe to do so we would strongly recommend that both the landlord/managing agent & tenant arrange a suitable time to meet onsite to discuss any concerns and review what works are required.
Do you have to pay rent during a natural disaster?
This would again depend on the circumstances and whether you have had to move out temporarily or whether the lease is terminated. If the lease is not terminated but you have had to relocate temporarily, or continue living in a partially damaged premises the rent should be waived or reduced for this period but any agreement in these situations should be put in writing.
Until otherwise agreed you should continue to pay rent as normal.
Can a landlord claim all or part of the bond to cover damage caused to a rental property by a natural disaster?
No. The landlord can only claim bond money at the end of a tenancy for the cost of repairs or cleaning due to the tenant’s use of the property or for any other outstanding expenses such as rent, water.
Can I inspect the damage to my rental property?
As a tenant, if your property has been destroyed or damaged so that it is unfit to live in you may require permission of local authorities prior to attending the site.
As a landlord, you should firstly contact the police or emergency services before travelling to a disaster area to ensure it is safe to do so. Under the terms of a NSW Residential Tenancy Agreement you may access the premises with no notice in the case of an emergency or by giving at least 2 days’ notice to carry out, or assess the need for necessary repairs.
If you have any other concerns or questions relating to your rental property and natural disasters please make contact with your MMJ Property Manager or email us and we'll find the right person to talk to