Natural disasters or severe weather events refer to severe storms, winds, flooding or bushfire, which result in damage to a rental property.
If a rental property becomes unliveable after natural disaster/severe weather event
If a rental property has been affected by a natural disaster such as a severe storm/winds, flooding or bushfire, the property owner and tenant should discuss the state of the property as soon as possible.
If it’s not possible or reasonable for a tenant to live at the property with the damage, the property owner is not required under the Residential Tenancy Act 1997 (Tas) to provide the tenant with an alternative place to live or pay for the tenant’s alternative accommodation.
However, it may be that the lease can no longer be fulfilled as the property cannot be provided to the tenant as agreed in the lease. In this situation the tenant and owner should discuss ending the tenancy.
If the parties cannot agree, the tenant can serve the owner with a Notice to Terminate the lease for no longer providing the property as agreed.
In severe cases, the lease may be automatically terminated where it becomes legally frustrated. This means it is impossible for one or both parties to fulfill the terms of the lease.
Until a notice is given, or the parties agree, the tenant is responsible for paying the rent in full (even if they have been evacuated from the property). A tenant can negotiate rent reductions with the owner.
While the property owner is not obligated to reduce the rent, the owner should consider whether it is reasonable to charge the full amount of rent if the property is not currently liveable or enjoyable to the same extent it was prior to the damage.
Any agreement in rent reduction should be put in writing.
Responsibility for cleaning debris caused by a disaster
The property owner is responsible maintaining the property, including cleaning or clearing any debris caused by a disaster.
The tenant(s) are responsible for removing or cleaning their own possessions.
Repairs to a damaged property
Any repairs needed to the property due to a natural disaster or severe weather event are the responsibility of the property owner.
Please be aware that there may be delays: the property owner may be in discussions with their insurance company about repairs and it may be difficult to get trades people to the property, as many properties may need repair at this time.
Compensation for possessions that were destroyed or damaged in this disaster
A property owner is not obliged to compensate a tenant for any damage to their furniture or personal belongings arising from a natural disaster.
Claiming all or part of the bond to cover damage caused by a disaster
A property owner can only claim the bond at the end of a tenancy for the cost of repairs or cleaning due to the tenant’s use of the property and not for damage caused by a natural disaster.
Disputed claims against the bond for unpaid rent following a natural disaster or severe weather event may take into account the state of the property following the event.