A real estate agent acts as a representative of the landlord. Everything that an agent says or does is as though the landlord said it or did it. If the agent tells you (in writing) that you have permission to install a shelf, you can rely on it as though it was the landlord who told you. If the agent interferes with your privacy, it is as though the landlord interfered with your privacy.
Also, if you say something to the agent, it is as though you said it to the landlord. So, if you notify your real estate agent of the need for repairs, it is assumed that the landlord knows about it.
There is no law against the landlord contacting you. The landlord can take over any of the tasks that their agent does, but they cannot duplicate them. So if your landlord does an inspection, your agent is not entitled to do another one.
There is also nothing in law preventing you from contacting your landlord directly, if you have their contact details. Normally, tenants deal exclusively with the agent, unless there are problems with doing this.
A real estate agent is legally required to act in the best interests of the landlord, unless it would be against the law to do so. Although agents are paid their commission from the rent you pay, it is the landlord who hires or fires them, so it is also in an agent’s interests to please the landlord.
If your rights under the tenancy agreement are breached, the Tribunal can only make compensation orders against the landlord, not the agent, even if the agent was the one at fault. However, agents have to comply with a Code of Conduct in the Agents Regulation, and the Office of Fair Trading can investigate complaints about agent conduct (read Tenancy Factsheet: Making a Complaint Against a Real Estate Agent).
A landlord can hire, fire or change real estate agents whenever they want. But this does not give them a right to change any terms of your lease unless you agree. Your old agreement, whether a fixed term lease or a periodic (month-by-month) tenancy, written or verbal, continues on the same terms. They cannot force you to sign extra terms or a new agreement.
You probably have to pay rent to a different person or account, but they aren’t allowed to make you change the way you pay rent (eg BPay, transfer, cash) or how often you pay rent (weekly, fortnightly, monthly) unless you agree to the change. Always ask for written confirmation that an agent has been appointed or ceased acting for the landlord before you change who you pay rent to or who you communicate with.
Information reviewed 4/12/13
Tenants’ Union ACT publishes this website as a free service to the public. Please note that the information on this site is only relevant to renters in the ACT.
This website provides information about the law designed to help users understand their legal rights and obligations. However legal information is not the same as legal advice (the application of law to an individual's specific circumstances). Although we make all efforts to ensure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult the Tenants Advice Service for advice specific to your circumstances. You are also free to consult an independent solicitor for a second opinion.
Please note that this website is NOT intended to be used as a substitute for specific legal advice or opinions and the transmission of this information is NOT intended to create a solicitor-client relationship between the Tenants’ Union ACT and members of the public.
Tenants’ Union ACT makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currency, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. Please also note when the page was last updated, as the law may have changed.