Uninhabitable tenancies - Tenants bulletin issue 11
31 October 2019
Uninhabitable tenancy complaints on the rise
Consumer Protection has recently received a high number of complaints regarding unacceptable living conditions in rental properties, including:
- Faulty electrical wiring – tenants were required to vacate a property as it was deemed uninhabitable due to faulty electrical wiring. The property manager was aware of electrical faults yet failed to notify the tenant.
- Plumbing (sewage and other water) – a burst pipe resulted in ankle depth water accumulating throughout a property and the property manager failed to have the issue rectified within a reasonable time.
- Mould – tenants exposed to health risks due to the continued exposure to mould.
- Clandestine laboratories – tenants becoming unwell due to the exposure to production residue of meth and other toxic gases used in its manufacture.
Termination of a tenancy agreement when property is uninhabitable
Under the Health Act 1911, local government may declare a house, or specified area/s, unfit for human habitation due to:
- a lack of cleanliness or essential services; or
- situations where the property is dangerous and poses serious health and safety risks for the occupiers.
Under the Residential Tenancy Act 1987 (RTA), one of the reasons a lessor or tenant can terminate a tenancy agreement is when the whole or part of the premises is rendered uninhabitable due to damage or is declared as such by the local government or any other authority.
Responsibility for safe tenancy
If you raise concerns with your lessor regarding the living conditions and maintenance standards of a property, they must follow up by inspecting the premises, arranging for any necessary repairs and ensuring the property is compliant with local building, health and safety laws. Property managers have an obligation to inform the lessor of the issues and assist them to understand their obligations in relation to the tenant and the property.
As the tenant, you must keep the property reasonably clean and at the end of a lease agreement you are expected to hand it back in a similar condition to how it was at the start of the agreement, taking into account normal use (fair wear and tear).
If the rental property is severely damaged due to an accident or other major event (storm, damaged roof etc.) and becomes unfit to live in, you can approach your lessor and try to reach an agreement to end the lease, or give your lessor a notice of intention to immediately end the lease.
Your lessor is not required to help you find alternative accommodation or pay for relocation costs in the event you end your lease due to an accident or major event.
Best Practice Tips
Below are some best practice tips to assist you as a tenant:
- Regularly air out the property to avoid mould problems in winter;
- Notify the lessor if you are aware of any potential roof damage, including blocked gutters;
- Alert your lessor (in writing) of any safety issues around the home as soon as possible;
- Report all electrical hazards to Western Power (or Horizon Power in some areas of WA) and gas leaks (or the smell of gas) to ATCO Gas immediately. Once any immediate danger has been reported to the appropriate authority you should the notify the property manager or lessor; and
- When inspecting a rental property for the first time, use Tenancy WA’s Inspecting a property checklist.
A final note
You have the right to live in a property that does not pose any health and safety risks to you or your family/visitors. If an issue arises you should not be penalised for reporting an issue, requesting a repair, or excising your rights under the legislation.
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