Common tenancy disputes

This page has information about common renting disputes and how to resolve them. 

The most common disputes are about:

  • when a landlord can visit
  • property maintenance and repairs
  • security deposits
  • unpaid rent. 

When your landlord can visit

The landlord or agent can only enter the premises during a tenancy in accordance with the Residential Tenancies Act. Read the law

The landlord is only allowed to enter the premises between 7am and 9pm, and must give you the amount of time stated under the act.

Valid reasons 

The landlord can enter your premises for any of the following reason:

  • to collect rent - they must give seven days notice and the collection time must be previously arranged
  • to complete a condition report - they must give 24 hours notice
  • to inspect the premises - they must give at least seven days notice and they can only enter once every three months, unless the tenancy agreement states a longer period
  • to carry out or inspect the repairs or maintenance on the property - they must give 24 hours notice 
  • in an emergency or if significant damage is threatened - they do not have to give notice
  • to show the property to prospective tenants 28 days before your tenancy ends -  they must give 24 hours notice and be reasonable about the numbers of inspections 
  • to show the property to prospective purchasers 24 hours notice must be given - the landlord or agent must be reasonable about the number of inspections sought.

Inspections

Any inspection must be carried out in the presence of the tenant, unless any of the following apply:

  • you have refused to be present
  • you have waived the right to appear or be represented at the inspection in writing 
  • you are not at the premises at the time arranged for the inspection
  • it is an emergency.

Both you and your landlord can agree to the landlord entering the premises outside of the times allowed under the act. Read the law.  

Property maintenance

Your responsibilities

You must not, without reasonable excuse, alter, remote or add a lock or security device without the landlord's consent.

If you do change a lock, you must give the keys to the landlord within two business days. 

As a tenant, you must tell the landlord:

  • if repairs and maintenance are needed - you must notify them in writing
  • of any damage or potential damage to the premises
  • if the premises are to be vacant for more than 30 days.

You must not:

  • maintain the premises in an unreasonable dirty condition
  • cause or permit damage to the premises
  • use the premises for any illegal purpose
  • cause or permit a nuisance
  • cause interference with the reasonable peace or privacy of another person nearby
  • alter the premises without written consent of the landlord. 

Landlord responsibilities

The landlord must make sure the premises and surrounding property are habitable and meet all relevant health and safety requirements.

The landlord must also:

  • make sure the premises are clean and in a reasonable state of repair at the start of the tenancy
  • maintain the premises and surrounds 
  • make sure there are sufficient locks or security devices
  • make sure the property and surrounds are secure. 

The landlord must not interfere with your peace and privacy in the premises, or force to attempt to force you to vacate the premises except under the act.

The landlord must not, without reasonable excuse, alter, remove or add a lock or security device without the consent of the tenant. 

Security deposit

Your landlord has seven business days to return your security deposit after you move out. 

Your landlord may retain part or all of the security deposit for any of the following reasons:

  • repair property damage that you are responsible for (excludes fair wear and tear)
  • replace items that you have lost or destroyed
  • clean the property if it is left unreasonably dirty
  • replace locks that you have altered, removed or added without the landlord's permission
  • cover unpaid rent, electricity, gas or water bills
  • compensation if you remain in the property after the agreed tenancy period.

Property damage

Your landlord can retain part or all of your security deposit to repair property damage or lost or destroyed items only if:

  • you received a completed and signed condition report no more than three business days after taking possession of the property
  • your landlord can clearly distinguish between damage through neglect and abuse and general wear and tear.

Property left unreasonably dirty

Your landlord can retain part or all of your security deposit for dirty premises only if:

  • you received a completed and signed condition report no more than three business days after taking possession of the property
  • your landlord provides receipts and documentation to support their claim. 

Landlord responsibilities

It is your landlord's responsibility to prove any claim against the security deposit, including damage to property. 

If your landlord wants to keep any or all of your security deposit, they must notify you within seven business days of you moving out. 

They must do all of the following:

  • tell you how much money they want to keep and why
  • attach receipts and other supporting documentation
  • include the balance of the security deposit they have not claimed.

The notice is sent to your last known address, so make sure you give your landlord a forwarding postal address before you move out.

Security deposit disputes

If your landlord wants to keep any or all of the security deposit they must give you notice with seven business days of you leaving the premises.

The notice must set out how much they want to keep and what it's for.

They must also provide supporting documents, which must include:

  • receipts and invoices
  • a statutory declaration stating the receipts and invoices relate to the security deposit being withheld.

The landlord must also return the portion of the security deposit not being claimed.

If they have not returned the deposit to you or made a claim within seven business days of the end of the tenancy, they must return the deposit in full.

How to protect yourself in a dispute

You can take steps to protect yourself in the event of a dispute with your landlord. 

These steps include:

  • keeping records of your rental payments
  • communicating with your landlord in writing
  • logging of all telephone conversations and meetings with your landlord, including details like the date, time, duration and what was discussed
  • keeping copies of your tenancy agreement, condition reports, rent receipts and other supporting paperwork. 

You should not take matters into your own hands by paying less or no rent. 

This is a breach of your tenancy agreement and you could be evicted.

If the dispute is not able to be resolved, you or the landlord can refer the matter to the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a decision.

Last updated: 27 June 2017