Interestingly, the primary source of disputes between landlord and tenant is not the item that binds them – rent. Rather, the leading cause of dispute between landlords and their tenants is who will take responsibility for maintenance and repairs in a rental property. Yes, every landlord on one side, every tenant on the other, and the property manager will admit that repairs and maintenance are the number one cause of disputes in a rental arrangement. The question is: what do the tenancy laws say?

Generally, the residential tenancy laws throughout Australia are fairly clear on this matter even though there are a few grey areas where disputes are likely to arise.

 

Let’s spell out the responsibilities of both parties in a rental agreement first. We’ll also look at some of the grey areas – such as routine repairs – that are likely to cause disagreements between both parties.

 

Landlord’s Responsibilities in Maintaining and Ensuring That a Rental Property is in Good Repair 

 

  • Well before a tenant comes into the equation, the landlord is responsible for ensuring that the property is in good condition and ready for tenancy.
  • The landlord and tenant should both complete a thorough inspection before the tenant moves into the property. The purpose is so that any outstanding repairs are documented and an agreement is reached about when those repairs will be addressed.
  • The landlord's responsibilities when it comes to repairs and maintenance of the property should be clearly stated in the rental agreement.
  • Depending on the state and territories you reside in, there may already be legislations about who is responsible for certain maintenance issues, such as the responsibility for changing a battery and installing smoke alarms.
  • The landlord is responsible for ensuring that the property complies with building, health and safety laws in Australia. Hence, the landlord is responsible for making major repairs such as fixing electrical, water and gas problems; sorting out problems with the roof, ceiling and floors; and fixing problems with plumbing heating and sewage systems.
    The landlord is essentially responsible for all repairs and maintenance that affect the structure of the building. Also, providing and fixing essential amenities are generally the landlord’s responsibility too.
  • The landlord and their property managers must address all urgent and emergency repairs within the timeframes that exist in all states and territories or face potential penalties. What can be classified as an emergency and urgent includes things like gas leaks, serious water leaks, serious sewage problems, roof leaks, damages from a storm, fire flood or impact, and serious electrical faults.
  • Other repairs that are not classified as emergency are called routine repairs. After being notified of a routine matter, landlords and their property agents should address them within stimulated timeframes where applicable or as agreed with the tenants.

 

Responsibilities of the Tenant in Ensuring That a Rental Property is Maintained in Good Condition

 

  • The tenancy agreement should clearly outline the tenant’s responsibilities when it comes to maintenance inside the property and its surroundings. Who’s to look after the garden or swimming pool should be clarified at the beginning of the tenancy.
  • The tenant is solely responsible for keeping the premises clean and healthy for occupancy. The tenants are also responsible for preventing potential repair issues arising, such as clearing out the refuse to avoid rats from festering, or cleaning and drying out wooden floors to prevent rot.
  • The tenants are obligated to inform the landlord or property manager of any maintenance issues that may require their attention. Failure to report issues like water or roof leaks on time may lead to considerable damages in the future. They can be held liable for the repairs for the role played by their negligence.
  • Although the landlord is solely responsible for the cost of repairs, but not if the tenants, their pets or guests is the cause of the damage. In such a scenario, the tenants bear the costs of the repairs, and the repairs must be made to an acceptable standard.
  • The tenancy agreement should clarify what to do in the event of an emergency. The guidance in an emergency should include who to reach, a list of tradies to call and the amount limit to spend before getting the landlord’s approval.
    The tenants can arrange for the emergency repairs to be completed and seek reimbursements from the landlord afterward. This means the tenant has to keep important documents like invoices and receipts used for the necessary payments for the repairs.
    Tenants should take note, landlords are only liable for emergency repairs up to a certain amount in most jurisdictions. So, only exceed this amount if you have agreed to pay the difference. Also, landlords and property managers can apply to a tribunal if they dispute paying for the emergency repairs for any reason.

 

 

Who is Then Responsible for Routine Repairs

For routine repairs, the tenants should make a repair request in writing. The landlord or property agent is expected to carry out the repairs within a reasonable time. You can read up this advice to help you get your landlord to live up to their responsibility.

 

If a landlord refused to address the repairs within a reasonable time, the tenant may issue a Notice to Remedy Breach.

 

If the issue is still present yet, the tenant may report to Consumer Affairs, or apply to a tribunal from their state. The tribunal will generally issue compensation or require that the rent be paid to it until the repairs are carried out.