Tenancy agreements should make better use of technology

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Legislation covering residential tenancy agreements in New South Wales should be updated to make better use of changing technologies according to one of the state’s peak real estate bodies.

The NSW government announced last October that it will undertake a review of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010, with NSW Fair Trading commissioner Rod Stowe saying it was important the state’s laws are correctly serving all parties.

“Whether you’re a renter or a landlord everyone needs residential tenancy laws that are balanced, modern and flexible,” Stowe said at the time.
“Over 800,000 NSW households live in rental properties and it is important that the state’s tenancy laws are working as intended,” he said.

In a submission to the review, the Real Estate Institute of New South Wales (REINSW) has called for the act to be overhauled so that those in the property industry as well as tenants can make better use of technology, especially in the area of communication.

“We just think the legislation has fallen behind the advancements we’ve had in technology in the past few years,” REINSW chief executive officer Tim McKibbin said.

“It’s not really much a much of surprise that’s happened given the speed that technology moves at and that the legislation is only reviewed every five years. We think now is the right time for that to be addressed.”

In particular, the REINSW is calling for the act to be updated to allow for tenants, landlords, property managers and others to be able to make use of more contemporary method of communication.

“A lot of the language in the legislation talks about people communicating and sending documents by post or fax. As a medium these days I think to a certain extent post and fax have been made redundant,” McKibbin said.

“I don’t think social media is as yet a way people can serve documents like a lease, but I think there’s definitely a place for email, and to a certain extent SMS messaging, to be better incorporated into real estate transactions.”

McKibbin said an update of the legislation would bring more certainty to situations currently encountered in the real estate industry.

“We’re at the point now where landlords, tenants and agents are receiving or sending emails to do with residential agreements. We need some consistency so people know how to act when that occurs.

“If there’s a dispute about some aspect of an agreement then and somebody sends an email then it would be benefit everybody if they knew that was something they need to act on and make record of.”

Opening more official channels of communication would also likely help in minimising some of the headaches that can come with rental properties.

“The best way to stop a lot of disputes is to have a pro-active agent or landlord who takes the time to ensure you find a good tenant that will respect the property,” McKibbin said.

“There’s still a chance that there will be issues and disagreements, but if you have open and accessible methods of communication, then you’re going to go a long way to minimising the impact of those.”

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