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5 facts every landlord needs to know about their property

By George Hadgelias

Whether you’re new to the property investment game or not, it’s always helpful to be reminded of the realities – and changing requirements – of being a landlord.

Regulations for rental properties are ever changing, so what’s on the horizon that landlords should know? From facts about smoke alarms to liability protection, here are a few things to keep abreast of in 2021.

1. Smoke alarm rules are changing

Depending on which state you’re in, you could be facing changing regulations for smoke alarms.

In Queensland, for example, landlords will need to install interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms in residential rental properties from the start of next year.

“From the first of January 2022, when a new lease is signed or a current lease is renewed [in Queensland], the landlord is required to upgrade the smoke alarms in that rental property before the commencement of that new lease,” Queensland Fire and Emergency Services‘ Executive Manager, Fire Safety Section, Mark Halverson shares.

“Tenant responsibility remains the same. During the lease, [tenants] need to test and clean all smoke alarms at least once a year, replace batteries and advise the landlord if the device isn’t working for any other reason. Replacing or upgrading smoke alarms is the responsibility of the landlord.”

You can check the current smoke alarms regulations in your state via the corresponding fire and emergency services website or your state’s consumer affairs website.

2. Landlord’s insurance is a good idea

Landlord’s insurance isn’t compulsory, but it can be helpful, especially in a market that remains unpredictable.

While renters are responsible for insurance to cover things like theft of their personal property, landord’s insurance covers damage caused by leaks, plumbing issues, other incidental damage and if the tenant wilfully damages the property.

Depending on your policy, landlord’s insurance may protect your rental income if, for whatever reason, your tenant needs to vacate quickly or stops paying their rent.

3. A landlord’s costs are ongoing

If you’re new to investing, you may not be aware of the ongoing fees associated.

Insurance is one. Then, there is your land tax, council rates, water bills and perhaps a strata or owner’s corporation fee if you’re buying a unit.

When it comes to the latter, while you may pay a consistent maintenance or base fee, you could also be asked to fork out more when it comes to communal repairs, such as if the roof needs fixing.

4. Can your tenant have pets?

Depending on which state you live in, you may not be able to refuse your tenant’s right to have pets. In Victoria, for instance, as of March 2020, new regulations established that landlords cannot automatically refuse pets in a property.

Instead, the landlord has to apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for permission to deny pets in the property.

A similar process must be followed in ACT.

In other states, renters can ask their landlord for permission but it ultimately remains in your hands (or that of the building’s strata).

5. Most COVID concessions are lifted – but not all

By now you’re probably aware of various provisions made to assist tenants during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. While many of these sanctions were lifted in March 2021, some will remain for a while longer.

For instance in Queensland, some COVID provisions are remaining in effect until the end of September. This includes some ongoing protection for tenants who have faced hardship due to COVID-19, including reduced penalties for breaking a lease early.

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