How to sort out issues with your landlord

If you’re a renter, from time to time you might stumble into awkward territory and have trouble with your landlord. While this isn’t ideal, it’s not all that uncommon. Tenancy issues can arise for a number of reasons, and it’s important to be able to sort out issues as they arise. 

According to New South Wales’ Department of Fair Trading, tenancy grievances found a place on the top 10 consumer complaints for the 2013-14 year. Over the year, the department fielded 45,108 complainants, 1522 of which were related to tenancy, bonds and residential parks.

“Complaints about tenancy made the top 10 list for the first time, so it’s encouraging to see tenants are seeking advice from the consumer watchdog to mediate disagreements with their landlord and real estate agent,” said Matthew Mason-Cox, NSW Fair Trading Minister.

While there are avenues to sort out issues with your landlord, consider some of these preliminary steps before taking your issue to mediation or the applicable tenancy tribunal in your state. Failing to resolve an issue could end up being a costly exercise, potentially affecting the figures in your savings account. Here are some ways to navigate difficulties with your landlord.

Know your rights

There’s no point insisting your landlord has to do something they’re not obliged to, just as they shouldn’t require you to make substantial repairs to the property that actually fall under their jurisdiction.

In order to resolve issues — big or small — with your landlord, you need to know your rights. There is a wealth of information available online, so have a look at tenancy fact sheets applicable to your state. 

When raising an issue with your landlord, it’s helpful to point to the specific legislative section or agreement in your tenancy agreement that you’re relying on. This will ensure you’re both on the same page. 

Arrange a low-key chat

Sending numerous letters, leaving countless voicemails and locating your landlord in person might harm rather than help you in particular instances. 

Don’t be the boy who cried wolf and turn every minor problem into a huge issue. In the first instance, meet in person with your landlord. Explain your concerns in a polite yet firm manner. This approach will help you preserve your relationship with your landlord. However, if a well-meaning conversation doesn’t resolve your issue, you will need to proceed to the next step.

Escalate and get agreements in writing

If you haven’t had any success so far, you’ll need to escalate the situation. Saving for a home loan while renting can be stressful enough, so there’s no point compounding this with landlord-tenant gripes.

Put your concerns in writing and mail this to your landlord. Keep a copy of the letter for yourself, too. From this point, make sure your correspondence is documented; if you do come to an oral agreement, put this in writing as soon as practicable.

This way, if you need to take legal action, then you’ll have written evidence of the steps you’ve taken.

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A guarantor is someone who provides a legally binding promise that they will pay off a mortgage if the principal borrower fails to do so.

Often, guarantors are parents in a solid financial position, while the principal borrower is a child in a weaker financial position who is struggling to enter the property market.

Lenders usually regard borrowers as less risky when they have a guarantor – and therefore may charge lower interest rates or even approve mortgages they would have otherwise rejected.

However, if the borrower falls behind on their repayments, the lender might chase the guarantor for payment. In some circumstances, the lender might even seize and sell the guarantor’s property to recoup their money.

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If you want to take out a low-deposit home loan, it might be a good idea to consult a mortgage broker who can give you professional financial advice and organise the mortgage for you.

Another way to take out a low-deposit home loan is to do your own research with a comparison website like RateCity. Once you’ve identified your preferred mortgage, you can apply through RateCity or go direct to the lender.

What is breach of contract?

A failure to follow all or part of a contract or breaking the conditions of a contract without any legal excuse. A breach of contract can be material, minor, actual or anticipatory, depending on the severity of the breaches and their material impact.

What happens when you default on your mortgage?

A mortgage default occurs when you are 90 days or more behind on your mortgage repayments. Late repayments will often incur a late fee on top of the amount owed which will continue to gather interest along with the remaining principal amount.

If you do default on a mortgage repayment you should try and catch up in next month’s payment. If this isn’t possible, and missing payments is going to become a regular issue, you need to contact your lender as soon as possible to organise an alternative payment schedule and discuss further options.

You may also want to talk to a financial counsellor. 

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