October 22, 2013

Natural disaster information for property managers, landlords and tenants of NSW

Natural Disasters and rental property

 Disaster Management Best Practice Guide

The following steps are best practice suggestions for licensees and property managers who face natural disasters. Consider making an email account that all emails can be forwarded to (such as fires2013youragency@gmail.com or send to one existing accounts.

  • Start a separate disaster management journal (such as January floods 2011) for entry of all reported damage and incidents of properties managed. This could be kept either electronically or in a paper based manner; as long as it is easily accessible by all staff.  Also ensure appropriate diary notes and paperwork are placed in computer software and the property file. Draw up six columns to record the following;
    • Date
    • Property
    • Damage reported and by whom
    • Insurance policy number (once advised by landlord)
    • Action taken
    • Task completed (once all works are finalised)
  • Alternatively ensure two copies are made of any maintenance forms; one to be centralised in one file for follow up and management over coming weeks and months.
  • Direct staff who are taking phone calls from tenants and any notification of damage that the incident is to be recorded in the disaster management journal.
  • Prioritise the damage to property and tenant situation and work on the highest priority first and make your way through the list.
  • Contact landlords of known property damage and advise of the situation. (further information is below on procedures). Where possible, send a generic email to all clients advising of the situation and request communication to be in writing.
  • Contact tenants of suspected fire damaged property and the tenants of property who have reported damage. Provide them with the FAIR TRADING Fact sheet on Natural Disasters. If the property is completely uninhabitable, advise the tenant that the tenancy most likely will lawfully end. Advise that discussions will be needed with the landlord prior and more information will be provided.  If the property is not completely unliveable and has only sustained ‘minor’ fire /water damage, advise the tenant that the landlord will be contacted to discuss the matter further. as soon as possible. Patience may be needed.
  • In regards to the tenant’s own property being damaged, advise them to contact their personal contents insurance company. Regrettably some tenants will not have their own personal insurance; in this event, advise tenants that the landlord will be advised and all attempts will made to see if the landlord’s insurance will cover the situation. In most cases, the landlord’s insurance will not cover the tenants belongings.
  • There is no legislative duty for landlords to provide tenants with alternative accommodation If available in times of natural disasters; however this may be recommended in some cases as a sign of good faith however many landlords may not be in a situation to afford this option. Landlords may wish to contact their insurance companies to identify if there is any coverage for this situation.
  • Contact landlords accordingly and advise the current status of their property and that more information will be provided where required and when obtained. Provide landlords with the FAIR TRADING Fact Sheet on Natural Disasters available from the FAIR TRADING website www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au type in natural disaster in the search field. If the property is not liveable, advise the landlord that the RT Act allows for the tenancy to end in some cases.
  • Advise landlords to contact their insurance companies (contents, building and landlord insurance) to report the incident and to start the process of making a claim. Advise landlords to start the claim paperwork process.
  • Advise landlords to provide the following information in writing to your agency
    • the insurer, contact phone details (email and phone number) and name of contact (if possible)
    • the insurance policy number;
    •  the claim number and
    • the insurance paperwork (mostly completed) for finalisation once required works are carried out.
  • Explain to landlords that due to the large volume of properties and people affected, all communication to be in writing in regards to this matter.
  • Contact the agency preferred tradespeople/contractors in regards to high priority jobs and allocate work. Follow up the contact with a written work order. In high to medium damage property (or if any doubt), contact the insurer for advice before proceeding.
  • Assess progress of high priority work daily until tasks completed. Keep in regular communication with landlords and tenants as to progress and for great customer service. Ensure the disaster management journal is maintained.
  • Once the majority of the works are considerably under control, arrange for routine inspections to check on properties that have had minor damage. Ensure photos are taken, extensive visual reports are provided to landlords and take action as appropriate (such as advising landlords to make insurance claims for particular cases)
  • Ensure all verbal conversations with tenants, landlords and other third parties are recorded in office files; either hard copy file notes or electronic file notes.
  • If your agency is at risk, ensure all files are safe and easily accessible (such as back ups of site and retrievably remotely).
  • Look after yourself and your team

Source below from www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au

Information for tenants

As a tenant it is vital you know what your renting rights and responsibilities are if you have been affected by a natural disaster, such as a flood, bushfire or storm damage.

What happens with the tenancy

This will depend on the extent of the damage and what you and the landlord want to do about the situation.

If the premises are destroyed or become totally or partly uninhabitable, this does not automatically end your tenancy. Either you or the landlord can give a termination notice in writing to end the tenancy. The notice, once served, can take effect immediately or can specify a later date. If the landlord serves you with a notice and you do not want the tenancy to end you should let them know. You cannot be evicted without a Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal order.

If the premises are only partly uninhabitable, such as one room not being usable as a result of hail damage to the roof, you may wish to stay on in the premises while the repairs are being carried out. You should only consider doing this if the damage is relatively minor and there is no ongoing safety risk to you or your family. Follow any instructions from emergency personnel and talk to the landlord to see if they agree.

If the premises have been more seriously damaged or have become totally uninhabitable another option is to move out temporarily and return once the premises are liveable again. This may be for a few days or weeks or however long it takes. If this is what you want to do you should talk to the landlord or agent  as soon as possible. While the landlord or agent can try to help you as an act of goodwill they are not obliged to find or pay for your temporary accommodation.

You and the landlord/agent can also decide to formally end the agreement and re-sign a new agreement after the repairs are complete. However, be aware that a higher rent could be included in the new agreement.

What happens about the rent

If the tenancy is ended permanently, no rent is payable from the day you move out. Any rent already paid in advance must be fully refunded.

If you move out temporarily or continue living in the partially damaged premises the rent should be waived or reduced. Whether any rent is payable at all and, if so, the level of reduction will depend on the extent of the damage and the amount of use you have of the premises. Any agreement in these situations about the rent, how long you may be away from the premises and what will happen to your possessions while you are away is best put in writing.


If the tenancy is to continue, the first step is for the landlord or agent, preferably with you being present, to inspect the premises and document the repairs needed.

You should discuss with the landlord or agent the timetable for repairs, recognising that there may be unavoidable delays because of the demand for insurance assessments and qualified tradespeople in the area. A landlord is not obliged to compensate you for any damage to your furniture or personal belongings arising from a natural disaster.

Serious storm, fire or flood damage are all considered to be urgent repairs. Such repairs should be done as soon as possible. If you believe the landlord or agent is not acting quickly enough on needed repairs you can apply to the Tribunal or arrange for the work yourself and be reimbursed.


After a natural disaster most repairs needed are likely to be classed as urgent repairs. The landlord or agent does not have to give you any minimum period of notice before sending tradespeople to do this work.

In normal situations you must be given at least 2 days notice if tradespeople need to access the premises to carry out non-urgent repairs. It may be in your best interest to talk to the landlord or agent and agree on a shorter period of notice in order to get the work completed as soon as possible.

Disclosure of previous disasters

The landlord or agent must tell you before you sign the tenancy agreement if the premises have been subject to flooding or bushfire in the previous 5 years. This only applies where they know of the event. If this information was not disclosed before you signed the agreement and it happens again you may be entitled to compensation.


Any tenancy related disputes following a natural disaster can be taken to the Tribunal.

NSW Bushfire response from the CTTT          21 October 2013

If you are adversely impacted by the NSW Bushfires and need assistance from the CTTT we are ready to respond quickly to your application.

How to request an urgent hearing

Clearly mark your CTTT application form 'URGENT'. Urgent applications can be faxed to 1300 135 247. 
Attach a written letter to your application form setting out in detail your reasons for requesting an urgent hearing.  Attach any relevant supporting documents.
If granted, an urgent hearing can be held within 1 to 7 days depending upon the urgency.
Learn more about how to make an urgent application.


The information provided by Real Estate Excellence is of a general nature only and is not intended to constitute legal advice under any circumstances.  Individuals should consider their own circumstances before proceeding to rely upon any information provided by Real Estate Excellence.  Whilst care has been taken in best practice advice provided, and the information contained in it has been obtained from sources that Real Estate Excellence  believe to be reliable, Real Estate Excellence (including its directors, officers, employees and contractors) does not warrant, represent or guarantee the accuracy, completeness or fitness for purpose of that information. Real Estate Excellence (including its directors, officers, employees and contractors) accordingly does not accept any responsibility, liability, loss or damage whatsoever resulting from the use of the information provided. By using the services of Real Estate Excellence, Clients acknowledge that they have read, understood and accepted this disclaimer of liability. 



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Members will be emailed the October member update early next week. Interested in Membership? Contact 07 3161 1865 stacey.holt@realestateexcellence.com.au or visit www.realestateexcellence.com.au