Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Paying rent at Christmas

If the Commonwealth Bank sent their customers a seasonal greeting that read 'Please remember that your mortgage doesn't stop for Christmas' (let alone a note to the effect that if you're thinking of having a Christmas party, keep in mind that they've got the police on speed-dial), each and every Member of Parliament, and member of the press, would take up a pitchfork and torch and charge pell-mell down Martin Place to give the bank its just deserts.

Alas, sending rude letters to tenants is something of a Christmas tradition (though this year's effort by Housing NSW is a new low).

Many private tenants will have by now received a letter from their landlords' real estate agents advising that the agents will be off on holidays for a few weeks, and the office will be shut, so make sure your rent is paid up well in advance.

In one case of which we're aware, a tenant has been instructed to keep additional money in their bank account because the agent (under their direct debit arrangement with the tenant) will be dipping in early.

Here's what the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 says.

You must pay your rent on or before the day set out in the agreement (s 33(1)).

However, you are not required to pay more than two weeks' rent in advance, or to pay rent for a period of the tenancy before the end of the previous period for which rent has been paid (s 33(2)).

The law doesn't stop for Christmas. If because of their holiday plans an agent won't be around to take payment of your rent on the due day, that's their problem. They can take payment when they get back from holiday.

Because you probably possess a superior sense of Christmas cheer, you might not be inclined to advise in reply that requiring more than two weeks' rent in advance is an offence under the Act, punishable by a penalty of $1100 (s 33(2)). But you should at least cancel the direct debit arrangement, if you have one, and arrange a safer way to pay rent.

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