RTA in Focus: Condition Reports

RTA in Focus: Landlord’s contact details

4 June 2020

This article is part of the RTA in Focus series. With the raft of reforms to the residential tenancies framework which commenced on 23 March 2020, we’re giving you the information you need to ensure you understand your obligations.

You can access all the articles in the RTA in Focus series here.

The landlord’s contact details must be provided on the residential tenancy agreement, whether or not a property manager has been engaged by the landlord.

Being a landlord can be a tough gig – and it’s time consuming. Advertising the property is available to rent. Showing prospective tenants through the premises. Negotiating the rent. Sorting out the residential tenancy agreement. And that’s to say nothing of the plethora of ongoing tasks related to rent collection, maintenance requests, inspections and more.

With so many i’s to dot and t’s to cross, it’s little wonder that many landlords engage a property manager to manage their investment.

“Landlords want us to take care of everything, so they don’t have to,” Michelle McLean, Senior Property Manager at Leah Jay and Chair of the REINSW Property Management Chapter Committee, said. “This includes communicating with the tenant, dealing with repair and maintenance requests, negotiating rent increases and more.

“In my experience, the majority of landlords simply don’t want any contact between themselves and the tenant. After all, that’s what they’re paying us for. This is what makes the new requirement to include the landlord’s contact details on the residential tenancy agreement so perplexing.”

Property managers need to ensure that the landlord’s contact details are included on all residential tenancy agreements entered into on and after 23 March 2020. Importantly, you need to explain to landlords why this is required and the potential implications.

What’s changed?

The prescribed standard form of residential tenancy agreement, as set out in Schedule 1 of the Residential Tenancies Regulation 2019 (NSW), now requires the landlord’s name to be set out, as well as their telephone number or other contact details. These contact details must be provided even in circumstances where the landlord has engaged the services of a property manager.

Where the landlord is a corporation, the corporation’s name and business address must be included in the prescribed standard form of residential tenancy agreement in Schedule 1 of the Regulation.

The amendments in practice

“Providing the tenant with the landlord’s contact details, by virtue of those details being on the residential tenancy agreement, seems at odds with the concept of agency,” Michelle said. “Where a landlord has appointed a property manager to manage their investment, an agency relationship is in place and the property manager is authorised to act on behalf of the landlord in regard to all matters set out in the residential tenancy agreement. This includes communicating with the tenant on relevant matters.

“Giving the tenant the opportunity to directly contact the landlord about matters relating to the residential tenancy agreement seems to sidestep the agency relationship.

“It may also potentially undermine the relationship between the property manager and the tenant. Sometimes we have to deliver difficult news to a tenant or deny a request. Previously, the buck stopped with us. Now, however, if the tenant doesn’t like an answer we give them, they can go directly to the landlord to complain.

“It should also be noted that instances where property managers are threatened or have been victims of violence from disgruntled tenants are not at all uncommon. Now, with the inclusion of the landlord’s contact details on the residential tenancy agreement, they may also be put at risk. For example, if the landlord’s address is on the agreement, the tenant may go directly to their home. This has the potential to significantly increase the likelihood of disgruntled tenants harassing or threatening the landlord.”

So what can property managers do to maintain the integrity of the agency relationship?

“There will inevitably be landlords who question why they need to give their contact details to the tenant via the residential tenancy agreement,” Michelle said. “Explain to them that this is something required by law and is not a matter within your control.

“Also, give them guidance about the contact details they provide. If they provide their mobile number, there’s the chance the tenant will call them directly on issues that can, and should, be dealt with by you. Instead, advise them to provide an email address or post office box address. This fulfills the requirement to provide contact details, but ensures the landlord is not unduly disturbed by the tenant.”

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