What Are the Legal Responsibilities for Self-Managed Landlords?

Understand your obligations as a self-managed landlord with this guide to everything involved.

A Self-Managed Landlord's Guide to Legal Responsibilities

Being a property owner and rental provider is not always an easy task, and it can be even more challenging if you're not really aware of what you need to do. As a self-managed landlord, you are responsible for understanding the legal rights and obligations that come with the job.

To maintain compliance, it’s important to stay current on state and local laws, fair housing regulations, security deposits, evictions, and other aspects of renting out a property. But don’t worry - RentBetter has got you covered! 

In this guide, we will provide an overview of your legal responsibilities so that you can confidently navigate the complexities of renting. Let's get started!

Understanding Your Legal Responsibilities

As a self-managing landlord, it's important that you grasp the legal rights and responsibilities associated with owning rental property. Whether you're a novice or an experienced professional, you must be well-informed about state and local laws, fair housing regulations, security deposits, evictions, and other key aspects of property rental. 

Here are a few reasons why you need to stay on top of all your responsibilities:

To comply with state and local law

Every state has its own landlord-tenant laws, and it’s up to self-managed landlords to familiarise themselves with these. Violations of these laws can result in hefty fines or other penalties. 

To protect yourself from legal action

If a tenant believes their rights have been breached or their landlord is not complying with the law, they can take steps through actions via the tribunal or otherwise.

To create a good relationship with your tenants

Making sure you understand and follow all of your legal responsibilities as a rental provider shows your tenants that you value them and respect their rights and foster positive relationship.

To maintain a successful rental experience

Following the legal requirements helps ensure that both landlord and tenant have a smooth and successful rental experience. 

State and Local Laws in Australia

One of the most critical elements of rental property ownership is understanding the laws in your jurisdiction. These laws cover everything from evictions and security deposits to discrimination and habitability standards. It’s up to you to familiarise yourself with these state and local laws, as failure to do so can result in costly legal action or penalties.

In Australia, rental properties must meet specific legal requirements to ensure the well-being and safety of tenants. Some vital legal requirements include:

Property standards

You are responsible for providing safe and habitable living conditions. This includes ensuring the property is structurally sound, with proper ventilation, sanitation, and electrical systems.

Repairs and maintenance

You must promptly address repair requests and ensure the property remains habitable. This includes maintaining essential amenities like plumbing, heating, and cooling systems.

Privacy and access

You must respect tenants' privacy rights and provide reasonable notice before entering the rental property for inspections or repairs, except in emergencies.

Rent increases

Rent increases must adhere to the regulations set by the respective state or territory. You should know any restrictions or notice periods associated with raising the rent. Learn more about rental increases here.

You may also visit the following state websites to learn more about the rental laws in your area:

Fair Housing Regulations

Under Fair Housing Regulations, it is illegal to discriminate against potential or current tenants based on certain protected characteristics. These prohibited forms of discrimination may include:

  • Race or ethnicity: It is unlawful to discriminate against individuals based on their race, colour, nationality, or ethnic background.
  • Gender: Landlords cannot discriminate against individuals based on gender or gender identity.
  • Disability: Discrimination based on a person's disability, whether physical or mental, is prohibited. This includes ensuring reasonable accommodations or modifications for tenants with disabilities.
  • Family status: It is illegal to discriminate against individuals with children or who are pregnant.
  • Age: Discrimination based on age, including young and elderly individuals, is prohibited.
  • Sexual orientation: Landlords cannot discriminate against individuals based on their sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation.

Fair Housing laws also require you to provide reasonable accommodations or modifications to individuals with disabilities to ensure equal access to housing. Reasonable accommodations are changes or exceptions to rules, policies, or practices that may be necessary for a person with a disability to fully enjoy the rental property. Examples of reasonable accommodations may include installing wheelchair ramps, allowing service animals, or providing designated parking spaces.

To avoid fair housing breaches and ensure compliance with the law, consider the following tips:

  • Understand the specific fair housing laws and regulations applicable in your state or territory. 
  • Implement fair and consistent screening criteria for all potential tenants, focusing on objective factors such as rental history, creditworthiness, and references rather than protected characteristics.
  • Treat all prospective tenants equally, regardless of race, gender, disability, family status, age, or sexual orientation. Avoid making assumptions or stereotypes about individuals based on these characteristics.
  • Be proactive in addressing reasonable accommodation requests from tenants with disabilities. 
  • Keep thorough records of tenant applications, communication, and rental decisions. This documentation can serve as evidence of fair treatment and compliance in case of any disputes or complaints.

Maintaining a Safe and Habitable Rental Property

As a self-managing landlord, you must maintain your rental properties in a safe and habitable condition for your tenants. You must ensure that all essential services like water, electricity, gas, and plumbing are always in working order. You also have specific responsibilities regarding repairs and maintenance to ensure the safety and habitability of your rental properties. These obligations include:

  • Structural integrity: It's your responsibility to maintain the structural integrity of the property, including the roof, walls, floors, and foundations. Any issues that compromise the structural stability must be addressed promptly.
  • Plumbing and electrical systems: You must ensure that plumbing and electrical systems are in good working order. This includes repairing leaks, addressing electrical faults, and maintaining adequate water supply and drainage.
  • Heating and cooling: You should provide appropriate heating and cooling systems, particularly in areas with extreme weather conditions, to ensure a comfortable living environment for tenants.
  • Essential amenities: You must ensure that essential amenities such as toilets, sinks, showers, and stoves are functioning correctly. Any malfunctioning or broken fixtures should be repaired or replaced.
  • Pest control: You are responsible for addressing pest infestations promptly. Regular pest control measures should be implemented to prevent and manage pests effectively.

It's also your responsibility to conduct regular inspections of the rental property, both inside and out. This will help you identify and address any potential problems before they become an issue. 

During inspections, you should:

  • Look for potential safety risks such as faulty wiring, loose handrails, trip hazards, or non-functioning smoke detectors.
  • Assess the overall condition of the property, including the roof, walls, windows, and doors, to identify any signs of deterioration or damage.
  • Inspect plumbing fixtures, water supply, drainage systems, and electrical outlets to ensure they are in proper working order.
  • Check the functionality of essential appliances, such as stoves, ovens, refrigerators, and air conditioning units, to ensure they are in good working condition.

Read more more about Routine Inspections here.

You must promptly address health and safety issues in rental properties to maintain your tenants' well-being and fulfil legal obligations. If health or safety issues arise you should take immediate action. 

One of the benefits of using the RentBetter platform to manage your property is the ability quickly connect with pre-qualified, licensed, and insured contractors available to help with any necessary maintenance or repairs. 

Being a self-managing landlord requires diligence and attention to detail. Properly maintaining your rental property is essential for keeping tenants happy and ensuring the building remains safe and secure. Regularly inspecting the property will help you identify any potential issues before they become more significant problems!

Handling The Bond

The bond is a financial obligation tenants must pay when renting a property. You are responsible for handling the bond per applicable laws and regulations. 

When collecting and storing the bond, you must follow specific guidelines to ensure compliance with the law. The key considerations include:

  • Amount: There are usually restrictions on the maximum amount landlords can collect as a security deposit. These amounts vary between states and territories, so knowing the specific regulations in your jurisdiction is important.
  • Documentation: You must provide tenants with a receipt or written acknowledgment of the security deposit payment. This document should include details such as the amount paid, the date of payment, and the property address.
  • Separate account: In most states, rental providers must deposit the security deposit into a separate account with the bond authority, within a specified timeframe. This ensures the funds are held securely and separate from the landlord's personal or business accounts.

Read more about how to register and lodge the bond for your property here.

Making deductions

You may be entitled to make deductions from the bond to cover certain costs or damages. However, it's important to understand the permissible deductions and follow the proper procedures. Common deductions may include unpaid rent, damage or cleaning costs, or outstanding bills or utilities.

Keep in mind that deductions must be reasonable and supported by evidence. You should maintain detailed records, such as photographs, inspection reports, and receipts, to substantiate any deductions made. Read more about making a claim for the bond here.

Keeping and Organising Accurate Records

Organisation is key to successfully managing a rental property. As an experienced or even novice self-managed landlord, keeping and organising accurate records to effectively manage your rental properties is essential. For each of your rental properties, you should keep the following records:

  • Signed lease and tenancy agreements for each tenant. 
  • Detailed inspection reports should be conducted at the beginning and end of each tenancy agreement.
  • A record of any maintenance or repairs, including the date, cost, and description of work completed.
  • Records of all payments made by tenants and any other relevant payments, such as water or utility charges. 
  • Copies of all receipts for any payments made by you, including maintenance, repairs, and taxes. 

It's also worth noting that you should store these records after the tenancy agreement ends. Keeping your records organised and up-to-date will save you time, money, and potentially a whole lot of stress down the track. 

One of great benefits of using the RentBetter platform to manage your lease is the ability to keep everything stored in one place. Your lease history with rental payments, condition reports, bills, expenses and maintenance are all recorded and stored conveniently for you to access any time.

You can even download a report at the end of financial year for the tax man so there is no need to looking for receipts, it's all right there. Read more about maintaining records here.

The all-in-one solution for Self-Managed Landlords!

Being a rental provider is no easy task and comes with a lot of responsibility which is why it's important to understand your legal obligations and keep accurate records of all activities related to the rental property. Doing this will save you time, money, and stress in the long run. So remember: be organised, stay up to date on regulations, and never underestimate the power of organising your records!

At RentBetter, we understand how important it is for self-managed landlords to stay informed about their responsibilities, and we make it easy for you to do this with our intuitive online platform. You’ll get all the info you need to stay up-to-date on the latest rental laws and regulations.

RentBetter has everything self-managed landlords need to be successful, from advertising your property, handling enquiries and applications and tenant screening. You can create your lease agreement with the click of a button and handle the bond, complete your condition report, collect the rent and then stay on top of everything to do with our property with tenant bills, expenses and maintenance plus reporting and more. 

Simplify your journey today and join RentBetter to take control of your rental property. With us by your side, you can feel confident in knowing that all your property investment needs are taken care of.