As the immediate flood crisis recedes, the housing crisis in the Northern Rivers is worse than ever, particularly for tenants in flood affected areas.
Tenants returning to unliveable properties due to flood damage face decisions on what to do with their rental and whether to find new or temporary housing but they do have options, according to Fair Trading NSW.
Fair Trading’s Executive Director of Community Engagement, Andrew Gavrielatos, said returning to find a property uninhabitable is devastating, and the last thing a tenant needs is having to worry about continuing to pay rent while finding emergency accommodation.
‘Working out where to live is one thing but trying to extricate yourself from a rental contract at the same time only adds to the woe of experiencing a flood,’ said Mr Gavrielatos .
‘I want to reassure tenants and landlords that there are protections in place to support both parties when it comes to the impacts of natural disasters.
‘For example, if the property is destroyed or becomes uninhabitable, the landlord and tenant can agree to end the tenancy.’
Mr Gavrielatos said even if no agreement is possible, the tenant or landlord can give a written termination notice to end the tenancy immediately or a specified date, on the basis the property is unliveable.
Alternatively, the tenant can move out temporarily and return once repairs have been carried out. The landlord is not obliged to find or pay for the tenant’s temporary accommodation, but a tenant can seek a rent reduction for the time they were unable to live in the premises.
If the property is only partly uninhabitable, the tenant can choose to stay in the property while repairs are being carried out. Tenants should only consider doing this if the damage is relatively minor and there is no ongoing safety risk. In this situation the tenant can ask for a partial reduction in rent.
The tenant and landlord can also decide to formally end the agreement and re-sign a new agreement after the repairs are complete.
‘It’s important to assess whether to stay or go early on, as payments need to be maintained until there is an agreement to reduce rent or end the tenancy,’ said Mr Gavrielatos.
‘We are conscious of the low supply of alternative accommodation in many regions, exacerbated further by the flooding. We encourage owners, tenants and agents to work together collaboratively to ensure the best outcomes at a time of high stress emotional and financial impact.
‘Rest assured we are here to provide advice and support to everyone affected by the floods. Help is at hand so please visit the website or call us,’ he said.
Where to get help
Visit fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/resource-library/publications/natural-disasters or call 13 32 20.
Visit nsw.gov.au/floods to find information on emergency accommodation and financial support services.
For details on emergency accommodation, visit www.nsw.gov.au/life-events/living-nsw/if-you-need-emergency-accommodation.