Maintenance of your rental property - Who is responsible?: Landlord bulletin issue 12 (September 2017)

This publication is for: 
Property industryLandlord / lessor

14 September 2017

Your tenant notifies you the hot water system at your rental property is broken or the sprinkler head is broken, what would you do?  If you want to avoid an all-too-common maintenance and repair dispute with your tenant, read on for a summary of your rights and obligations. 

One of the keys to avoiding disputes is to note obvious maintenance and repair issues in the property condition report, which you are required to complete when your tenant moves into and out of your property.

Maintenance inside

You must keep the premises in a reasonable state of repair during the tenancy and comply with building, health and safety laws.

Your tenant is responsible for basic household maintenance like replacing light globes, vacuuming, cleaning windows, dusting and removing cobwebs inside and out.

You are responsible for the upkeep of the property, for example plumbing and the maintenance of contents already provided such as the stove, hot water system, or air conditioner.

If there is mould or mildew caused by faults in gutters or other fixtures, then you must fix it. On the other hand (where the property allows), your tenant must ensure there is adequate ventilation throughout to help avoid mould problems occurring.  Further information is available in bulletin Issue 10 Mould and your rental property.

Maintenance outside

You are responsible for major tree lopping, cutting back overhanging branches (such as those near power lines) and maintaining fire breaks.

Your tenant is responsible for garden maintenance, such as mowing and edging lawns, weeding and light pruning. You should provide them with the necessary hoses, sprinklers etc.

You are responsible for the normal maintenance to any garden reticulation system. Delays in dealing with maintenance problems can lead to claims from your tenant that the lawns or gardens suffered damage because they were unable to water them properly.

Your tenant may still be responsible for hand watering the garden where it is reasonable to do so.

Your tenant should advise you if they notice a water leak.  If they don’t, and the leak is obvious, they may be liable for the cost of water resulting from the leak. However, tenants are not liable for issues or consequential damages caused by hidden water leaks. Once your tenant tells you there is a water leak the cost becomes your responsibility.

Before the start of a tenancy, it is a good idea to leave clear instructions on the proper use of any reticulation system.  In addition, your tenant should always have access to the system’s timer box. Setting and locking the timer yourself means your tenant has no control over the system – and can argue that because of your unnecessary use of water, you should pay the costs.  The tenants could also argue that a lack of water caused plants to die. 

If you prefer to have sole access to the automatic reticulation system it is a good idea to contribute to a percentage of the water costs. You should clearly write whatever you decide into Part C of the Tenancy Agreement before signing.

Urgent Repairs

Your tenant must inform you as soon as possible if they need you to carry out an urgent repair.  Urgent repairs are those that are necessary to supply or restore an essential service, or to avoid:

  • exposing a person to the risk of injury;
  • exposing property to damage; or
  • causing the tenant undue hardship, or inconvenience.

'Essential services' are urgent repairs including the following services: gas, electricity, a functioning refrigerator (if supplied with the premises), sewerage/septics/other waste water treatment and water (including the supply of hot water).

When your tenant advises you about an urgent repair, you must contact a repairer to arrange repairs to restore essential services within 24 hours.  Arrangements for the repairs which are not necessary for the supply and restoration of an essential service must be made within 48 hours. This means you need to contact a suitable repairer within that time to arrange to have the problem fixed.

You are also responsible for following up with the repairer to ensure the repairs are carried out as soon as possible.

Your tenant can arrange repairs themselves:

  • if they have been unable to contact you within the 24 hours (in the case of repairs of essential services) or 48 hours (in the case of other urgent repairs); or
  •  if after they have contacted you, and the repair is not carried out as soon as practicable.

Your tenant can only arrange for a tradesperson to carry out the repairs to the minimum extent necessary and must use a suitably qualified repairer.

If your tenant arranges for repairs to be carried out, you must reimburse your tenant for any reasonable expenses they incurred in relation to arranging and paying for the repairs as soon as possible.

It is a good idea to provide the tenant with emergency contact numbers so they can contact you rather than arranging their own repairs.

Non-urgent repairs

Your tenant should notify you in writing about any non-urgent repairs and detail what you need to repair.  You should commence action to undertake necessary repairs within a timeframe that is reasonable to the situation.

You do not have to fix items if you disclosed they were not working before your tenant signed the tenancy agreement, or they are items which the tenant could not reasonably have expected to be working at the time they entered into the agreement.

You can find further information on your rights and responsibilities as a landlord on our Property renting guides and videos page

Important: From 3 July 2017, it  has been compulsory to use Form 19 for those circumstances, where you may enter the rental  premises. For further information on those cicumstance please refer to the website. 

Consumer Protection
Last updated 14 Sep 2017

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