Standards for Residential Housing

In 2016, the Parliament of South Australia enacted the Housing Improvement Act 2016 (SA). The new act repealed the Housing Improvement Act 1940 (SA), and sets the minimum standards for residential housing in South Australia. Landowners take note – if your property doesn’t meet the minimum requirements you could be at risk of incurring penalties and tenants terminating their tenancy early. Renters – if you are living in unliveable conditions, here’s what you can do.

Prescribed Minimum Housing Standards

  • The Housing Improvement Regulations 2017 (SA) establish the minimum standards for residential premises considered safe and suitable for human habitation.
  • Generally, the residential premises and its fixtures, fittings or other facilities must be in sound condition and in good repair, and must not present a health hazard. The fixtures, fittings or other facilities must be properly installed, fit for purpose and in good working order.
  • Further standards are set out in relation to the toilet, bathroom, kitchen and laundry areas, water supply and sewerage, electricity and gas and other miscellaneous items.

Orders and Notices

  • Under the act, the Minister can issue the following orders:
  • If the Minister has reason to believe the premises may be unsafe or unsuitable for human habitation, they may issue a housing assessment order.
  • If there is reason to believe the premises are unsafe or unsuitable for human habitation and require works to remediate defects, a housing improvement order may be issued. If an order of this nature is issued, the Minister may declare the premises to be subject to rent control, ie there will be a proposed maximum rent allowed for the premises.
  • A housing demolition order may be issued if the Minister has reason to believe the premises are so unsafe or suitable that it would be impracticable or unreasonable to undertake works to remediate the defects.
  • Failure to comply with these orders can result in a maximum penalty of $10,000 and the Minister is able to take any action required by the order and recover costs from the person to whom the order was issued or the owner of the premises depending on the circumstances.

What this means for Landlords:

  • You must check and ensure your residential premises meets the minimum standards,
  • If you receive an order or notice under the Act, it is in your best interests to comply with the order, otherwise penalties may apply and costs of taking action per the order may be recovered from you.

What this means for Tenants:

  • If the place you are renting is subject to an order or notice under the Housing Improvement Act 2016, you are able to terminate the tenancy without giving a reason for termination, provided you give at least 7 days’ notice
  • You have an obligation as tenant to take reasonable steps to “ensure that the premises are maintained in a reasonable state for the purposes of human habitation”
  • If the owner of the residential premises has not complied with an order, you may seek authorisation from the Minister to take action required by the order and recover reasonable costs and expenses occurred, which may be deducted from rent payable in respect of the premises.

If you are a landlord or tenant with any queries in relation to orders or notices under the Housing Improvement Act 2016 (SA), our team at Clelands Lawyers Adelaide will be happy to assist.

Shannon McMenamin

31 August 2017