The Landlord's Guide To
Part 6 – Strata Renting
For landlords, renting out a strata unit is entirely
different from renting out a house because a strata unit is
part of a strata community.
Repairs and tenant behaviour are special hazards when
renting out a home unit.
This newsletter sets out the rules about repairs and
tenant behaviour for strata owners.
What damage is the owners corporation’s responsibility?
The strata building is owned and governed by the strata
owners corporation (the body corporate), not the landlord.
The landlord owns the airspace inside their part of the
And so it is the owners corporation, and not the
landlord, which is responsible for maintenance and repairs
to the building and to insure the building.
During a storm, water penetration through the roof,
windows, or the balcony doors might damage carpets,
furniture, clothes, cupboards and paintwork. The owners
corporation must repair the roof, gutters and downpipes; and
pay for the damage caused by the water ingress to the
landlord’s fixtures and tenant’s goods.
Sometimes, water will start dripping down from the
ceiling because something is overflowing or flooding in an
upstairs apartment. It could be a burst water pipe, a burst
hot water heater, blocked drains or floor wastes, or a
defective waterproofing membrane. The owners corporation
must repair and compensate the owner and the tenant for the
A home unit, villa or townhouse can be damaged in other
ways. Smoke from a nearby fire might discolour paintwork.
Floors may crack from rusting balcony railings or steel
reinforcement (this is called concrete spalling or concrete
cancer). Defective services to the property – electrical
wiring, gas pipes, communication lines and water pipes and
drains – are the owners corporation’s responsibility to
repair up to where they poke through the wall.
What is the owners corporation’s responsibility to
Section 62 of the Strata Law states - An owners
corporation must properly maintain and keep in a state of
good and serviceable repair the common property (i.e. the
building). The owners corporation is responsible to repair
the damage to the building, and pay compensation, no matter
that it is not at fault.
Illustration: In the NSW Court of Appeal decision of The
Owners SP 35042 v Seiwa Australia Pty Ltd , the owners
corporation was ordered to pay the landlord $150,000 as
compensation for loss of rent for 30 months until the
repairs were completed. The premises were a top floor
penthouse in North Sydney with a roof top terrace. It was
vacant because it was not habitable until repairs to the
membrane and the steel railings around the roof top terrace
The owners corporation pays for the repairs out of its
administrative or sinking fund.
The owners corporation takes out strata insurance to
cover damage by storm and tempest, fire, flood, vehicle
impact, and so forth. Strata insurance usually pays for the
cost of drying or replacing carpets, patching and painting
walls and ceilings, replacing ruined kitchen cupboards and
built-ins (if made of particleboard, they swell with water),
and compensates tenants for damaged goods.
Many landlords take out landlords insurance to cover
damage which is not covered by strata insurance, such as
fire and water damage caused by accident inside the four
walls of the home unit.
Is the landlord at risk if the repairs are not carried
In a perfect world, all that a landlord needs to do is to
pass on the tenant’s request for repair to the strata
manager, and the repair will be carried out quickly.
Landlords cannot use the excuse that the owners
corporation is slow in looking after the repairs to do
nothing, because the landlord is responsible under the
Tenancy Agreement to make sure that the premises are fit to
live in and kept in a reasonable state of repair (clauses
18.1 & 18.3). If the owners corporation is too slow, the
landlord must organise the repairs themselves, and obtain
reimbursement later, to limit tenant claims for rent
What is a reasonable time frame for repairs? The
Residential Tenancy Law states that serious roof leaks, a
gas leak, a dangerous electrical fault, flooding or serious
flood damage, serious storm or fire damage, failure of the
gas, electricity or water supply are all urgent repairs, and
must be fixed within 14 days (sections 62 & 64).
What rent reduction and compensation is a tenant able to
A tenant can claim a rent reduction until the damage is
repaired. This is called a rent abatement. The tenant can
also claim compensation for damaged goods from the landlord.
Illustrations – Tribunal Decisions
The cause of the damage and the repair
||The rent reduction
2010/240 The water mains broke in an adjoining unit
and flooded the home unit. Contractors immediately
suctioned the carpet, installed fans, and later on,
re-laid the carpet and re-painted the walls and
||A rent reduction of 75%
totalling $1,000.91 was awarded. Compensation of $1,000 for
inconvenience, distress and embarrassment was awarded; for
the period the premises were affected: 23 December to 18
2012/139 Rainwater leaked through the ceiling in one
corner of the lounge room. The owners corporation
repaired the roof.
||A rent reduction of $30 pw was limited to 7 weeks
because the tenant had not given access for repairs when
2012/400 Water leaked through the ceiling of the
master bedroom and en suite from a burst pipe in the
apartment upstairs. The owners corporation repaired
the pipe and replaced the ceiling. Two months later,
water leaked from an overflowing bath. The owners
corporation again repaired the ceiling. Six weeks
later, it repaired another pipe.
reduction for loss of amenity of the rooms of $3,479.82 was
awarded, being 15% of the rent for four months until the
tenant vacated. Compensation of $3,002.45 was awarded to
replace the water damaged electric blanket, quilt and bed
linen and $3,650 being 50% of the cost of a king bed
ensemble, which was at least two years old.
Some loss of rent cover is included in the standard
strata insurance policy.
Landlords are not responsible for each and every loss. In
Tribunal Decision 2011/489, the strata insurance compensated
the tenant $9,000 for furniture, clothing and other goods
destroyed when the premises was flooded with water rising
from the floor waste and the shower waste in the bathroom.
The tenant claimed against the landlord for the cost of
hotel accommodation, distress and inconvenience (which the
strata insurance did not cover) arguing a breach of the
requirement to keep the premises in good repair. The
Tribunal rejected this claim because the landlord did not
cause or know that there was a problem.
a tenant able to end the lease early if the building is
What if the landlord knows that major remedial
building work is about to commence on the outside of the
block of units and does not let the tenant know when signing
Tribunal decision 2012/450, the work was to take several
months. It started with scaffolding the home unit building
which prevented use of the balconies; the noise, disturbance
and paint fumes made it impossible to work from home; and
during the day, the workmen blocked access to the driveway
The Tribunal said that the landlord’s failure to let the
tenant know that the building work was about to commence was
a breach of clause 14.2 of the lease which gives the tenant
quiet use and enjoyment. The tenant was entitled to
terminate the lease. The tenant was awarded a refund of 30%
of the rent from the date the work commenced until the lease
ended for loss of amenity – inability to use the premises
and the driveway during the day, and the balcony at all.
The experienced landlord will warn the tenant that building
repair work is no the horizon and offer a rent reduction to
keep their tenant while the building is under repair, to
defray the special strata levy the landlord will need to pay
to fund the work.
Tenants must comply with the
strata by-laws as well the lease
Some tenants do not know how to behave! They park in
visitor car spaces, they party loudly late at night, they
dump rubbish anywhere except in the bins provided, they do
‘wheelies’ on the lawn, they have yappy dogs as pets.
Both the Residential Tenancy Law and the strata by-laws
contain rules for tenant behaviour.
Landlords must give their tenants a copy of the strata
by-laws within 7 days of signing the lease. Landlords who
fail to do so might leave themselves exposed to tenant
In Tribunal decision 2009/410, the tenant moved into a home
unit with his dog, after being assured by the landlord’s
agent that the building was “pet friendly”, even though the
strata by-laws prohibited the keeping of animals . The
landlord did not give the tenant a copy of the strata
The owners corporation took legal action against the tenant
to remove the dog. The tenant moved out. The Tribunal
awarded the tenant $3,723, payable by the landlord, as
compensation for breach of the promise of quiet enjoyment in
Should a landlord intervene
when tenants are misbehaving?
What should a landlord do when they receive a complaint
about tenant misbehaviour?
The experienced landlord will issue a warning to their
tenant if the complaint is about excessive noise, damage or
is pet related, because they know that tenants misbehaving
in these ways might mean that they are causing damage to the
If the warning is ignored, the landlord might terminate the
lease, even though the owners corporation could also deal
with the tenant misbehaviour as a breach of a strata by-law.
In Tribunal decision 2012/416, the tenant had been smoking
in the garbage room in breach of the non-smoking by-law. The
strata manager complained to landlord’s agent, who in turn
asked the tenant to sign an undertaking to cease smoking.
The tenant did not sign, or cease. The landlord went to the
trouble and expense of terminating the lease based upon a
non smoking clause in the lease, probably to keep a good
relationship with the other owners.
Should a landlord leave it to
the owners corporation to enforce the strata by-laws
Generally, a landlord will avoid terminating the lease
for tenant misbehaviour, so long as the rent is paid on time
and the premises are kept neat and tidy. Tenancy Law is too
vague and the time and trouble of terminating the lease and
going to the Tribunal is impracticable for a landlord.
On the other hand, owners corporations prefer that the
landlord deals with tenant misbehaviour. The logic is that
the landlord has the power to evict the tenant under the
Tenancy Agreement, while the owners corporation can only
make the tenant comply with the strata by-laws.
The experienced landlord will leave strata issues such as
noise, parking in visitor spaces and dumping of rubbish, for
the owners corporation to deal with directly with the tenant
because the strata by-laws are better designed to cover
these kinds of issues.
What if the tenant complains
about a neighbour’s behaviour?
In Tribunal decision 2012/400, the tenant complained of
raucous and loud noise from the occupants of an upstairs
apartment. The noise was coming through the polished wooden
floorboards. The floor was original, not a modern floating
floor laid with acoustic underlay. The Tribunal said that
the landlord had not taken all reasonable steps –
requesting that rugs be placed over the boards was not
enough; the landlord should have requested the owners
corporation to enforce the strata by-law dealing with floor
noise. As a result, the landlord was ordered to refund 20%
of the rent to the tenant, being $3,699.81 for the five
months that the noise disturbance had continued.
The Landlord’s Guide to Renting has been produced by
Cordato Partners Lawyers, as part of its Property Law
practice. It contains a brief outline of the Tenancy Law.
Because it is a general guide, is not intended to be
relied upon for any specific tenancy situation. For those
situations professional advice should be obtained.
If you would like to receive the Guide as a pdf email
attachment rather than as a hard copy, or would like further
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