Electronic conveyancing is growing in popularity and real estate agents face digital disruption to their trade. Now, the residential property industry in NSW pleading for residential tenancy laws to get up to speed with the twentieth century – not even the twenty-first – by recognising email as a means of communication.
At a time when Australia Post has brought in a two-speed mail service to stem losses from falling letter volumes – and making cheaper letters two days slower than premium ones – the state’s Residential Tenancies Act 2010 had to recognise and accept changing communication needs, Real Estate Institute of NSW chief executive Tim McKibbin said.
“We have to accept that SMS and emails and those sort sorts of things are gaining every day in part of our work of communication,” Mr McKibbin said. “The traditional postal service and facsimile and these sorts of things are losing ground. Our legislation needs to keep pace with contemporary technology.”
About one-third of the 2.47 million private households in NSW live in rented properties, in both private and public/community housing, according to 2011 census figures. The state’s growing population has already driven an overhaul of strata community laws to make them more compatible with the increased use of apartments – and which also permitted the service of documents by email. But in property and planning generally the laws lag innovation and changes in culture, hindering the development of housing infrastructure.
The window for submissions closed last week into the state’s residential tenancy laws review and Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Victor Dominello is due to table a final report in parliament mid-year.
“Tenants and landlords frequently request email as the preferred method of communication,” the REINSW said in its submission. “NCAT [NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal] sends service of notice via email.”
Greater email use would help estate agents boost the value-added services they already offer beyond the immediate property ones, such as connecting utilities for tenants, Mr McKibbin said.
However, there are limits to what change is acceptable, he said.
“Social media’s probably a bridge too far,” Mr McKibbin said. “It’s a very powerful tool in communication, but I’m not sure that social media is lending itself to be able to service documents.”
This story was first published in the AFR