Locks and security

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Your rights and obligations

Under the terms of the standard residential tenancy agreement, you agree:

  • not to alter, remove or add any lock or other security device without reasonable excuse (see below) or unless the landlord agrees
  • to give the landlord a copy of the key (or other opening device/information) to open any lock or security device that you change within 7 days of the change.

Landlord’s obligations

The landlord agrees:

  • to provide and maintain locks or other security devices necessary to keep the premises ‘reasonably’ secure (see below)
  • to give each tenant named on the tenancy agreement a copy of the key (or other opening device/information) to open any lock or security device for:

–– the premises
–– any common property that you are entitled to access

  • not to charge you for copies except to recover the cost of replacement or additional copies
  • not to alter, remove or add any lock or other security device without reasonable excuse or unless you agree
  • to give you a copy of any key (or other opening device or information) that they change within 7 days of the change.

Reasonable excuses for changing the locks

Reasonable excuses for having altered, removed or added a lock/security device include:

  • there was an emergency
  • you (or the landlord) had to comply with an order of the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal (CTTT)
  • the tenancy of a co-tenant was terminated
  • a tenant or other occupant was excluded from the premises by an apprehended violence order (AVO).

A copy of a changed key or other opening device need not be given to the other party if:

  • they agree not to be given a copy, or
  • the CTTT authorises a copy not to be given, or
  • they are excluded from the premises by an AVO.

‘Reasonable’ security

The law does not define what ‘reasonable’ security means. The CTTT determines this on a case-by-case basis (see below). In the Sydney metropolitan area, ‘reasonable’ security could mean double-cylinder deadlocks on the main doors and locks on the windows. In an inner-city area, it could also mean bars on lower-ground windows but in a rural area this is unlikely. If you believe the locks and security are inadequate:

  • ask an insurance company what locks and security devices it requires before it will insure your home’s contents (get this in writing)
  • write to the landlord/agent and ask that they install the required locks/devices.

If the landlord/agent does not install the locks/devices as requested, the landlord may be in breach of their obligation to provide ‘reasonable’ security for the premises.

Applying to the CTTT for orders

You can apply for one or more of these orders:

  • that the landlord install security measures to ensure that the premises are ‘reasonably’ secure (apply with 3 months of becoming aware that the premises are not reasonably secure)
  • that the landlord compensate you for loss of or damage to your goods because the premises were not ‘reasonably’ secure (apply within 3 months of your loss)
  • that the rent is excessive for the time that the premises are not kept ‘reasonably’ secure (apply at any time during the tenancy). You can also apply for these orders at any time during the tenancy:
  • that you may alter, remove or add a lock or security device
  • that you may refuse to give the landlord/agent a copy of a key or opening device/information
  • that the landlord must give you a copy of a key or opening device/information.

The landlord can also apply for such orders (that they may alter a lock, that they may refuse you a key, that you must give them a key). Orders that reasonable security be provided When determining whether the landlord has provided premises that are reasonably secure, the CTTT will consider:

  • the physical characteristics of the premises and adjoining areas
  • the requirements of insurance companies for allowing you to get insurance for your property kept at the premises
  • the likelihood of break-ins, unlawful entry or risks to your personal safety. Take the following types of evidence to the tribunal hearing:
  • information from an insurance company or NSW

Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research

(www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au) about the risk of breakins in your area

  • a copy of a household contents insurance policy for the premises and/or a policy from someone else in your street
  • a list of the steps you have taken in asking the landlord to improve security including letters requesting security improvements
  • photographs of broken locks or windows and evidence of previous break-ins.

Excessive rent and compensation orders

You will need to show that:

  • you told the landlord of the problem or that they otherwise knew of the problem (letters to the landlord, statutory declarations from witnesses, the condition report)
  • the landlord failed to provide or maintain the necessary locks and security devices for reasonable security (see above).

If applying for compensation, you will also need to provide a list of the stolen or damaged goods and their (depreciated) value.

The CTTT may not order compensation for losses that you could have avoided by taking reasonable steps (e.g. you boarded up broken windows and otherwise secured your valuables).

If the CTTT finds the rent excessive, it will make an excessive rent order. The order will specify:

  • the amount that the rent must not exceed
  • the day from which this maximum rent applies – for

a period of up to of 12 months.

The CTTT can award up to $15,000 compensation.

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Information supplied courtesy of the Tenants Union of NSW

Further information and advice for NSW tenants can be sourced from www.tenants.org.au