Commissioner's Blog: Rental home maintenance and repairs
With Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard
Renting a home is a good option for many consumers but sometimes the relationship between tenants and landlords can experience difficulties when issues arise.
Residential Tenancy is a large part of the work we do at Consumer Protection. We give free advice to all parties in a residential tenancy agreement, look into complaints and, wherever possible, help to settle disputes.
Renting a home in Western Australia is governed by a set of laws called the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 and the Residential Tenancies Regulations 1989. If we can’t negotiate a fair outcome to resolve a dispute, then it may be necessary for the matter to be settled in court.
Tenants and landlords have shared responsibilities when it comes to rental home maintenance and repairs. Obvious maintenance and repair issues should be noted in the property condition report, which is required to be completed by the landlord when a tenancy agreement starts and finishes.
As a tenant, you must keep the property reasonably clean and you are expected to hand it back in a similar condition to when you moved in, taking into account normal use - meaning fair wear and tear is expected to occur on fixtures such as carpets and curtains.
You should consider the state of the property before entering into a tenancy agreement. Check for pests and make sure the property is weather tight and secure. Check the doors, windows, taps and hot water system all work, that fencing is sound and look at the state of the garden as well.
If there are any issues, then you should ask the landlord if they intend to fix the problems and make sure this is written into the tenancy agreement. It is a good idea to take photos of the property before you move in and when you move out.
If fixtures or items such as a TV aerial, air conditioners or a solar hot water system provided with the property appeared to be available when you inspected it, then the landlord must maintain them unless they were disclosed as not functioning before your tenancy agreement was signed.
Repairs are the landlord’s responsibility, but if you cause any neglectful damage then the landlord can ask you to arrange for, or pay for, repairs. For example, worn carpet from normal use can be put down to fair wear and tear, while you will be responsible for repairing any severe stains, burns or other damage you may have caused to the carpet.
Landlords do have a responsibility to respond to repair requests promptly. Set procedures must be followed when dealing with urgent or non-urgent repairs, but you must continue to pay rent even while you are waiting for repairs to be completed.
It is important for all parties to take note of any phone calls reporting the need for repairs and, where possible, to communicate information about repairs in writing and keep copies for future reference.
And remember, you usually will need to complete a satisfactory end of lease clean as part of getting your rental bond returned. We recently warned consumers that some dodgy cleaners advertising online have been known to take a booking and payment but then fail to turn up to complete the work. So always check reviews before hiring cleaners online.
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