Landlords in Sydney have been ordered to pay their tenant more than $7000 for overcharging him on rent for an apartment that was kept in a state of disrepair.
The one-bedroom Potts Point apartment, in the city’s inner east, was being rented by the tenant since about 2017.
When the landlords purchased the property in 2019, the tenant signed a new lease and continued living in the unit.
The rent agreed in the new lease was $550 a week, until April 2021, when it was reduced to $480 a week during the COVID pandemic.
In February 2022, the landlords increased the rent to $540 a week. However, that increase was withdrawn when the tenant made an application to the Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
The rent for the apartment remained at $480 a week.
In his application, the tenant claimed the rent he paid for one year, up to February 2022, was excessive by 100 per cent per week due to the “reduction or withdrawal of goods, services and facilities provided with the residential premises due to their state of disrepair or dilapidation”.
He also made a claim for $15,000 in compensation from the landlords for non-economic loss, being distress and disappointment caused by the state of his rental property.
The tenant also applied to have an order made that would require the landlords to replace the vinyl floor coverings and repair or replace the bedroom wardrobe in the rental.
Several other claims were dismissed or withdrawn before the matter was heard due to filing restrictions.
Issues cited by the tenant included holes in the cornices of each room, which were used to facilitate the installation of new electrical wiring, a broken blind in the bedroom, broken kitchen tiles, a broken bedroom light and fan, torn vinyl floor coverings and broken bedroom wardrobe doors.
The landlords contended the extent of the unit’s state of disrepair and dilapidation was reasonable given the tenant was paying an under-market rent.
The landlords also disputed the claimed impact of the condition of the premises on the tenant’s comfort.
In his claim, the tenant said he had complained about the issues to the landlords repeatedly and requested they be repaired or replaced.
The landlords said the repairs took time because of COVID lockdowns, the availability of tradespeople and a particular contractor’s accidents. They also said personal issues impacted on their ability to manage the rented premises.
They also contended they had no obligation to replace the floor coverings or the wardrobe, as that would amount to a capital improvement, not a repair.
Repairs to the cornices, blinds, kitchen tiles and bedroom light were undertaken before the tribunal proceedings, but were included in the excessive rent claim.
In his decision, Senior Member of the Tribunal Philip French said the holes in the cornices were “seriously unsightly”.
“The landlords were obliged to provide the rented premises with intact, sealed ceilings,” he said.
“Similarly, the broken and missing tiles in the kitchen area were seriously unsightly and inconsistent with the standard of wall finish that a tenant is entitled to receive from a landlord under a residential tenancy agreement.”
French said the vinyl floor coverings were “very old, torn and have become detached from the floor underneath” and accepted the tenant’s evidence that they present a “trip and slip hazard”.
The wardrobe was also “seriously dilapidated”, he said.
Due to the issues with the rental, French concluded that rent was excessive by 20 per cent during the period the claim relates to and ordered the landlords to pay the tenant $5151.
In the claim for compensation, French found the state of the rental did have an emotional impact on the tenant and awarded him $2500.
“I am satisfied that the landlords’ continuing breach of the obligation to maintain the premises in a reasonable state of repair did cause him substantial disappointment and distress,” he said.
“I accept the tenant’s evidence that living in the premises in its state of disrepair had a serious emotional impact on him.
“During this period, he made repeated complaints about the state of disrepair to which he received no or unsatisfactory responses, essentially up until he made his application to the Tribunal.
“I accept that it was seriously disappointing and distressing for the tenant to have to institute legal action against the landlords to have necessary repairs carried out.”
French also ordered the tenants to replace the dilapidated vinyl floor coverings and replace the bedroom wardrobe.
It’s unclear whether the tenant continues to live in the apartment.