Property investment is more than keeping an eye on your return on investment (ROI), there are also your responsibilities as a landlord to consider. Any profits made on your property can be swiftly dissolved, should you fail to adhere to any of the below key landlord obligations:
The safety and comfort of your tenant should be a high priority on every landlord’s agenda. Whilst the tenant is responsible for maintaining many aspects of your property once they sign their lease, the property needs to be fit for tenancy from the commencement of their lease. This includes things such as:
Working smoke alarms (although it is the tenant’s responsibility to check these regularly and replace batteries).
Sound structures eg. Replacement of rotten beams on a pergola.
Electrical appliances that have been checked and function correctly.
Garden maintenance and removal of potential hazards, such as dead trees and damaged limbs.
Ensuring there is no mould that could lead to health issues.
Whilst it is important to conduct regular inspections and keep an eye on your property, it is important to respect the tenant’s privacy. This means the landlord or agent cannot request access to the property without sufficient notice. On occasion, emergency repairs may require the urgent attendance of the agent or tradesperson, in which case these exceptions will need to be managed with the tenant. Experienced agents and landlords value the importance of building a trusting relationship with tenants so everyone can work together for mutual benefit.
Delay in repairing a defect at your property can result in your tenant becoming frustrated very quickly. Sometimes tradespeople are not available when we need them, but clear and regular communication between the landlord and/or agent to keep the tenant updated is essential for maintaining your tenant’s trust. The better the relationship you have with them, the more understanding they will be if an issue cannot be resolved immediately.
In the ACT, landlords are required to give their tenant 8 weeks’ notice prior to increasing their rent. The rent can also only be increased at a maximum of once per year. Work carefully with your property manager to ascertain market rates and adjust your rental rate accordingly to maximise your return on investment, whilst retaining reliable tenants.
There are a few essential pieces of paperwork associated with the lease of a property that need to be managed accurately and efficiently. This is another advantage of having a property manager, as they will be able to manage this part of the process for you. The essential documents include:
The tenancy agreement needs to detail the type of tenancy i.e fixed tenancy (usually 6-12 months) or periodic (month-by-month), and start date and end date (if applicable). Tenants are not obliged to sign another fixed term lease at the end of their first lease. It is also important to be clear about who is on the tenancy agreement, as this person/s are financially responsible for the tenancy.
A bond is paid by the tenant to the landlord or agent as a form of security that is lodged at the Office of Rental Bonds. Whilst a landlord does not have to request a bond from a tenant, this is highly recommended as this will give the landlord some security against the tenant causing damage to their property. A bond cannot be anymore than 4 weeks’ rent, and is a one-off payment that cannot be increased. In the instance of a new agreement being signed, the original bond is refunded and a new bond submitted. Landlords are legally obliged to provide the tenant a receipt for their bond payment. The tenant completes the Bond Lodgement form, and it is the landlord/agent’s responsibility to submit this, along with bond money to Office of Regulatory Services (Rental Bonds). The timeframe to submit the bond is 2 weeks for landlords and 4 weeks for agents. Failure to submit within these timeframes can result in penalties for the landlord or agent.
A Condition Report (also known as Condition of Premises Report or Inventory) is essential for both the landlord and tenant when entering a tenancy agreement. This document details the condition of the property at the time the lease is signed. It is the landlord/agent’s responsibility to provide two copies of this completed report to the tenant within one day of them moving into the property. It is the tenant’s responsibility to return the report within 2 weeks, advising if they accept or reject comments on this report. If the tenant does not agree with the Condition Report, they need to advise their comments in regards to the condition of the property and inventory.
The level of detail captured in this document is essential. It should include all marks/stains on walls and carpets and defects as this report is used as evidence at the end of the tenancy. It is advisable for both parties to take photographs and agree on the condition of the property. Experienced agents have a clear process for documenting this crucial information.
Be aware it is illegal to charge tenants for key money, inspection fees and tenancy agreement preparation. (RTA s 15 (1) and STT cl 24). Your property manager will understand the tenancy rules and regulations in the ACT and be able to guide you through this process. It is also essential to keep copies and records of the above paperwork for future reference. Further information can also be found at the Tenants’ Union ACT Inc.
With a little careful planning and research, it is possible to navigate your way through your responsibilities as a landlord, but the advice and experience of a property manager can certainly make this process much easier.
The relationships between you, your property manager and your tenant are the most important relationships in regards to your investment. The more you can respect and nurture these, the better return on investment you will receive.