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 Consumer Trader and Tenancy Tribunal
- the tenancy of a co-tenant was terminated
- a tenant or other occupant was excluded from the premises by an apprehended violence order.
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 Consumer Trader and Tenancy Tribunal authorises a copy not to be given, or
- they are excluded from the premises by an Apprehended Violence Order.
The law does not define what ‘reasonable’ security means. The Consumer Trader and Tenancy Tribunal 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
Applying to the Consumer Trader and Tenancy Tribunal 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 Consumer Trader and Tenancy Tribunal 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 Consumer Trader and Tenancy Tribunal 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 Consumer Trader and Tenancy Tribunal 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 Consumer Trader and Tenancy Tribunal can award up to $15,000 compensation.
- Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal, phone 1300 135 399, www.cttt.nsw.gov.au
- Housing Appeals Committee: phone 02 9715 7955, free call 1800 629 794. www.hac.nsw.gov.au
FURTHER HELP: Tenants Advice and Advocacy Services
- Inner 9698 5975
- Inner West 9559 2899
- South 9787 4679
- South West 4628 1678
- East 9386 9147
- West 8833 0911
- North 9884 9605
- North West 9413 2677
- Blue Mountains 1300 363 967
- Central Coast 4353 5515
- Hunter 4969 7666
- Illawarra Sth Coast 4274 3475
- Mid North Coast 6583 9866
- Northern Rivers 6621 1022
- Northwest NSW 1800 836 268
- Southwest NSW 1800 642 609
- Sydney 9569 0222
- West NSW 1800 810 233
- South NSW 1800 672 185
- North NSW 1800 248 913
Older persons 1800 131 310 Website www.tenants.org.au
NSW Fair Trading 133 220
This factsheet is intended as a guide to the law and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice. It applies to people who live in, or are affected by, the law as it applies in New South Wales, Australia.