Privacy and access - renting

IMPORTANT changes to rental laws during COVID-19 (coronavirus) emergency period

New laws have commenced which affect tenants, property owners and agents. Read about the COVID-19 Disease (Emergency Provisions) Act 2020 and the changes to:

  • Delaying evictions
  • Breaking leases due to severe hardship
  • Reducing rent
  • Repairs, maintenance and property inspections
  • COVID-19 residential tenancy emergency provisions

    Right to quiet enjoyment during a lease

    An owner must not interfere with a tenant’s quiet enjoyment, which means their reasonable peace, comfort and privacy. It does not necessarily mean not noisy.

    Example 1. The agent/owner must not switch off services (e.g. water or electricity) during the tenancy.

    Example 2. The agent/owner cannot say who can visit the tenant at the property.

    If a tenant feels they are not being allowed this right, they should raise it with the owner or agent.  If this does not resolve the issue, the tenant can contact the Tenants’ Union of Tasmania (external link), or Rental Services for advice. The tenant has some options:

    • Serve a notice to terminate for the owner’s breach of the lease. However, if the owner stops interfering with the tenant’s peace, comfort of privacy (by stopping their actions that have caused the breach) before the notice to terminate is to take effect, the notice to terminate may no longer be valid. If it is not valid, it means the tenant will have to stay at the property, or if they leave the property, they may be ‘breaking the lease’  rather than validly terminating it. This means they will have to continue to pay rent until the end of the lease or until a new tenancy starts (whichever happens first) OR
    • Make a complaint with the Commissioner by using the Contact Us form. In this case, the Commissioner will need evidence to support the complaint, such as:
      • the lease
      • any dates and times of the owner’s breach
      • any requests the tenant has made to the owner to stop their actions.

    A tenant may still give the owner a notice to terminate even if they have lodged a complaint with the Commissioner.

    Note: a complaint can only result in the Commissioner investigating the matter for the purpose of issuing the owner with a penalty. The Commissioner cannot force an owner to stop doing what they’re doing. However, sometimes the threat of a fine or the Commissioner explaining the owner’s rights and obligations to them may result in an owner changing their actions.

    Neighbour complaints

    Rental Services cannot become involved in disputes between neighbours as they are not parties to the same lease.

    However, a tenant is required to respect their neighbours' right to peace, comfort and privacy.

    If a neighbour believes the tenant is interfering with their quiet enjoyment of their home they may speak to the agent/owner.

    If a neighbour complains, the agent/owner may want to address the issue with the tenant. However, they are not responsible for a tenant's behaviour or actions and do not have to take action when a neighbour complains about the tenant.

    Other agencies that may be able to help

    • Your local Council might investigate complaints relating to residential properties (e.g. dogs barking and excessive noise from air conditioners)
    • Tasmania Police can act on complaints about excessive noise, bad behaviour, and complaints such as dangerous driving
    • Dispute resolution centres may offer free mediation services to help manage neighbourhood disputes without going to court.

    Routine inspections

    Routine inspections are carried out to ensure the property is well cared for and to check if there are any maintenance or health and safety issues.

    A routine inspection is not a housework inspection. The person inspecting the property should appreciate that people are living there. However the tenant should have the property in a good condition on the day of inspection.

    Inspection timeframes

    Routine inspections cannot be carried out more than once every 3 months (unless the tenant agrees in writing), including once in the first month.

    The tenant must be given a minimum of 24 hours’ notice for entry.

    Routine inspection checklist

    Many property managers provide checklists for routine inspections.

    Things for the tenant to consider may include:

    • cleaning and tidying the property
    • routine cleaning (e.g. dusting, sweeping/vacuuming and cleaning kitchen and bathroom surfaces)
    • removing any mould from surfaces
    • lawn mowing and gardening
    • tidying up outside areas (e.g. decks, patios).

    Entry to property by owner without permission

    The owner and tenant should agree on times when the owner may enter the premises. However, if the owner and the tenant cannot agree the owner may enter the premises at any time without the tenant’s permission only if it is reasonably believed that:

    • the tenant is injured or ill and so is unable to give permission
    • a denial of immediate access is likely to result in damage to the property
    • there is a risk to the tenant or another person on the property
    • damage has occurred to the property
    • the property has been abandoned.

    An owner may enter the property without permission between 8:00am and 6:00pm if they give at least 24 hours’ notice:

    • to meet commitments under the tenancy agreement (such as undertake repairs, or inspections (3 monthly only)
    • if it is reasonably suspected that the tenant has broken the lease
    • to ensure that repairs have been properly carried out
    • showing the property.

    If the property is going to be sold or re-let, the owner must receive written permission from the tenant before holding an open home for either selling or re-letting the property.

    The owner and tenant should agree on suitable times to show the property to individual prospective buyers or tenants. If they cannot agree on a time, rules apply (showing the property to potential new tenants, and showing the property to potential buyers).

    Showing the property to potential new tenants

    If the owner and tenant cannot agree on a time, an owner may enter to show the property to a potential new tenant and anyone accompanying them if:

    • a notice to vacate has been given to the current tenant
    • the current tenant has given a notice to terminate
    • a fixed term agreement has less than 28 days to go before expiring.

    In this case, the owner may enter the property after giving 48 hours’ notice in writing and then:

    • only once per day
    • on no more than 5 days in any week
    • only between the hours of 8:00am and 6:00pm.

    Showing the property to potential buyers

    If the owner and tenant cannot agree on an acceptable time, an owner may enter the property to show the property to a potential buyer and anyone accompanying them after giving 48 hours’ notice in writing and then:

    • only once per day
    • on no more than 5 days in any week
    • only between the hours of 8:00am and 6:00pm.

    Advertising with photographs of rental property

    When advertising a tenanted property for sale or rent, an owner must seek the written permission of the tenant before publishing or displaying photos or any other images (e.g. online tours) of the property which might identify the tenant or any other person.

    Updated: 15 Sep 2020