OPAL CRISIS RENEWS CALL FOR PROPERTY SERVICES COMMISSIONER
The crisis surrounding the Opal development captured the attention of Sydneysiders just before Christmas and reopened the call by the Real Estate Institute of NSW (REINSW) for a Property Services Ombudsman.
The 36-storey Opal Tower in Sydney’s Olympic Park experienced cracking on Christmas Eve and caused tenants to be evacuated. The tower needs significant rectification work and residents are still in the dark about when they can return.
The REINSW chief executive, Tim McKibben, believes Fair Trading NSW, which is responsible for the property services sector, is not capable of protecting the interests of apartment owners and lacks the required knowledge, skills and experience. McKibben says the department is “too broad and generalised with most consumer protections focused on small dollar value and high-volume transactions”.
In a letter written to FlatChat, McKibben wrote Fair Trading’s lack of experience to support the industry puts consumers at risk. “The REINSW has lobbied Government for over 10 years for increased entry education and training for agents, unfortunately without success … The REINSW is calling for increased and quality assured continuing professional development. We see this training as essential if a practitioner is to stay abreast of changes to market conditions and the regulatory environment.”
According to the REINSW, the property services industry has more legislation regulating behaviour than all the other industries covered by NSW Fair Trading combined. REINSW added the body has a history of poor legislative decision-making resulting in adverse outcomes for consumers.
McKibben says seven of the major NSW property associations had written to the Premier asking to be moved from Fair Trading but the Premier wrote back to say she would not meet with them to discuss their concerns.
The REINSW is calling for the introduction of a Property Services Commissioner under the direction of the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet who has appropriate industry experience and expertise to deliver better outcomes for both consumers and the businesses that operate in the sector.
IS IT TIME FOR PET-FRIENDLY TENANCIES?
Whether landlords should automatically allow tenants to have pets has always been a fairly contentious issue but with Victoria introducing legislation that grants tenants this right, other states may soon be following.
Only one in 20 rentals are advertised as being pet friendly. However, about 62 per cent of Australian households have a pet and with the supply of homes in some areas now greater than the demand, renters could be in a good negotiating position. Therefore, it is important to know your rights as a landlord when it comes to allowing your tenants to have pets.
The Victorian government introduced changes to the tenancy laws in 2017 that specify pets are allowed in rentals except in exceptional circumstances. Tenants must still get permission to have a pet but landlords must go before the state tribunal if they want to deny their tenant this right. While the reforms have not yet come into force they are expected to be implemented by July 1, 2020.
In NSW, pets are allowed in rentals but tenants must have the consent of their landlord. It is also the tenant’s responsibility to ensure the property they renting is suitable for their animal. Tenants are also liable for any damage their pet may cause and a breach of their lease may arise if their pet is excessively noisy or disturbs the peace of their neighbours.
Deciding not to allow pets could cut landlords out of a significant number of potential renters, however, animals do have the potential to cause damage as well as ruin landscaping. Therefore, if landlords do decide to advertise their property as being pet-friendly, it’s very important to not only have landlord insurance but also one that covers damage by domestic pets.
QUIET ACHIEVERS: PRIVATE SALES RISE OVER BREAK
There was a higher-then-usual number of private sales over the Christmas break as many sellers decided to leave their property on the market rather than wait for the auction season, which usually starts in late February or early March.
Buyers seeking a bargain sought out deals from the large number of homes that remained unsold in 2018. Data from realestate.com.au showed in one week in January there were eight auctions in NSW but about 800 private sales. An article in the Australian Financial Review attributed the situation to more buyers and sellers making their move earlier to get ahead of a slowing market. This move makes sense as Domain’s latest sales update found the average number of days on the market for houses and units at the end of December is now about 70 to 71 compared with 44 to 54 days at the same time last year.
Private sales are also expected to remain strong throughout 2019 as the market slowdown is predicted to continue.