New laws for residential
tenancies started on 23 March 2020 in NSW
Long gone are the days of the Landlord and Tenant Act
1899 (NSW) when all that the law required of the
landlord was to follow due process when repossessing a
The Residential Tenancies Act 1987 (NSW) changed
the Ďif you donít like it, move outí attitude by landlords,
by giving tenants the rights to have standard form leases,
to have urgent repairs done, to limit rent increases and to
give fair notice for lease termination.
Amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act 2010
(NSW) (which replaced the 1987 Act) commenced on 23 March
2020. The new laws continue the trend of giving rights to
tenants and imposing obligations on landlords and their
This is a summary:
The fit for habitation, smoke alarm and minor changes
apply to existing and new tenancies. The break fee and
disclosure requirements apply only to new tenancies.
Case study Jin v
Jupiter St James Pty Ltd  NSWCATAP 210
The tenant entered into a new residential lease of a two
bedroom apartment in Potts Point. The lease was for one year
to commence on 16 July 2018. The rent was $5,518 per month.
On 17 July 2018, the tenant reported a water leak after
he found carpet was wet outside the ensuite off the main
bedroom. A plumber fixed the leak which was in the vanity.
The tenant continued to complain about the mould smell and
on 15 August moved out claiming that the apartment was
uninhabitable due to a significant health risk Ė he was
experiencing itchy eyes and a sore throat. He obtained an
expert report which demonstrated the presence of mould. On
30 August 2018, he moved his belongings and furniture out,
and handed the keys and a termination notice to the
landlordís agent to end the lease.
The Tribunal (NCAT) decided:
- The water leak was not so serious as to make the
apartment uninhabitable on health grounds when there was
another bathroom and another bedroom (which the tenant
used) and the door to the main bedroom (which was not
used) could have been kept closed.
- The water damage and disruption caused by the water
leak did result in a substantial interference with the
tenantís right to quiet enjoyment of the premises
between 17 July and 30 August 2018. The Tribunal
assessed the loss of value as a result of that breach at
25% of the rent paid and awarded $2,041.
- The landlord was entitled to a break fee of 6 weeks
rent ($7,620), according to the lease because the tenant
had abandoned the premises. The tenant argued that no
break fee was payable but failed to prove that immediate
termination was justified.
- After crediting rent paid in advance of $2,902.86,
the Tribunal ordered the tenant to pay the landlord
Under the new laws, instead of paying the landlord, the
tenant would have received a refund of at least $1,905, as
- The Tribunal would have awarded a refund of 50%, not
25% of the rent paid because the Ďfit for habitationí
standard requires that there be no significant dampness.
- The break fee is now 4 weeks, not 6 weeks rent, for
terminating a lease if less than 25% of the agreed term