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Avoiding Confusion Around Landlord and Tenant Responsibilities

By Sarah Barton, Terri Scheer Distribution Channel Manager

Smoke alarms, lawns and security are key features of rental properties.

But who is ultimately responsible for their maintenance can be a source of confusion and conflict among landlords and tenants.

According to leading landlord insurance provider, Terri Scheer, misunderstandings and miscommunication around tasks such as changing the battery on a smoke alarm, mowing the lawn and maintaining security locks can place strain on a rental relationship.

For property managers having a clear understanding on the responsibilities of both the landlord and tenant, and ensuring their responsibilities are met, is critical.

Otherwise there is a risk that important tasks are not done, which can not only impact on the liveability of a property but also present a safety concern.

Testing and replacing a smoke alarm battery, for example, can be a relatively simple job. However if it’s overlooked in the confusion over responsibility, lives can be put at risk.

Smoke alarms

As daylight savings comes to an end, local governments and emergency service agencies recommend households change smoke alarm batteries at the same time as winding their clocks back.

Tenants in all states and territories other than South Australia are responsible for carrying out smoke alarm maintenance. In SA, landlords are required to clean, test and replace the batteries in smoke alarms annually.

Regardless of who is legally responsible for changing smoke alarm batteries, landlords should proactively check the alarms are in working order.


The priorities of landlords and tenants can sometimes differ when it comes to maintaining lawns, particularly during dry months.

Unless otherwise stated in the lease agreement, maintaining the lawn and gardens is the responsibility of the tenant.

This can include weeding, watering, pruning and fertilising to keep the grounds to a suitable standard.

Security locks

It is up to the property owner to provide a safe and secure property for the tenant to reside in.

Landlords are responsible for ensuring adequate security features are in place such as locks on external doors.

Tenants seeking to change any locks must first seek a landlord’s approval before doing so.

Any landlord or tenant who is unsure of their responsibilities should be encouraged to seek clarification, ideally before entering into a tenancy agreement.

Managing expectations ultimately comes down to properties managers maintaining a clear and open communication channel between the tenant and landlord.


Insurance issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 AFSL 230859 trading as Terri Scheer. Read the Product Disclosure Statement before buying this insurance and consider whether it is right for you. Contact Terri Scheer on 1800 804 016 or visit our website at www.terrischeer.com.au for a copy. The Target Market Determination is also available.

The information is intended to be of a general nature only. Subject to any rights you may have under any law, we do not accept any legal responsibility for any loss or damage, including loss of business or profits or any other indirect loss, incurred as a result of reliance upon it – please make your own enquiries. This article has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situation or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it.

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