An older person (or a person with a disability) may require property modifications, often small, so that they are able to continue to live in a rented property.
The information below outlines the rights you have to modify your rented property.
As a tenant in NSW you have some rights regarding property modifications under the Residential Tenancies Act 2010. A tenant requires the consent of the landlord to make alterations to the premises. However, the landlord must not unreasonably withhold consent to a fixture or to an alteration, addition or renovation that is of a minor nature. The tenant must bear the cost of the alteration, unless the landlord agrees otherwise. (Section 66)
For private tenants, clause 22 of the Residential Tenancies Regulation 2019 provides a non-exhaustive list of alterations that are considered to be of a ‘minor nature’. However, even if the alteration you wish to make is on this list, you must still obtain written consent from your landlord.
Some minor alterations must be installed by an appropriately qualified professional. These are: installing hand-held shower heads or lever-style taps for the purpose of assisting elderly or disabled people, and installing a carriage service for connecting a phone line or accessing the internet.
The process of requesting ‘minor’ alterations in clause 22 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 does not extend to residents of strata schemes or land lease communities. Social housing tenants can utilise this process, with one exception (please see ‘Social housing landlords’ below).
A tenant may remove fixtures at the end of their tenancy, but only in accordance with Section 67.
A tenant may apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) for orders relating to disputes here, including an order that the tenant may install a fixture or make a renovation, alteration or addition to the residential premises, or an order that the tenant is entitled to remove a fixture installed by the tenant. (Section 68)
A landlord may apply to the Tribunal for orders relating to disputes here, including payment of compensation for the cost of rectifying work done by or on behalf of the tenant on the residential premises. (Section 69)
A tenant, when vacating, must restore residential premises to the same condition, less ordinary wear and tear, as existed before any modification (see Section 51 (3) (b)). Otherwise, the landlord may make a claim against the tenant’s rental bond or initiate a claim for compensation at the Tribunal.
The above processes may be cumbersome and prove costly for the tenant.
NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT)
The Tribunal has made various decisions in relation to alterations: verbal consent is not sufficient. Written consent is required. Awareness by the landlord does not constitute written consent. Payment for materials or work by the landlord does not constitute consent. If a landlord agrees but does not specify detail, the landlord cannot later object. The landlord can be compensated if the Tribunal determines that the work completed by the tenant is not of a satisfactory standard or that it is likely to affect the landlord’s ability to re-let the premises. If there is not evidence of loss provided by the landlord, then the landlord will not be granted compensation. These and other decisions are discussed in the Appendix below.
Social housing landlords
Social housing tenants may follow the same process as private tenants to obtain consent for minor alterations, however for social housing tenants, installation of “wireless removable outdoor security cameras” (item l of Clause 22, Residential Tenancies Regulations 2019) is not considered a ‘minor’ alteration.
DCJ Housing NSW has a policy specifically on 'modifications'. Tenants with a disability are able to apply to have their home changed or modified to suit their specific needs. These modifications may entail either minor or major work. Check out this policy at: http://www.housing.nsw.gov.au/forms,-policies-and-fact-sheets/policies/modifications-policy
Community housing also may have a policy specifically on ‘modifications’. Check with your community housing provider. For example, you may read the policy of St George Community Housing at: http://www.sgch.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Modifications.pdf
Home maintenance and modification services
You may wish to speak to your local home maintenance and modification service. Read more about them at: https://www.myagedcare.gov.au/support-people-living-with-disability Find a service at: http://www.myagedcare.gov.au/service-finder?tab=help-at-home
Advice and assistance
If you need further advice contact your local Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service.