As a tenant or landlord, you should be familiar with the rules about who bears the responsibility for maintenance and repairs of your rental property. These rules can seem quite complicated as the responsibility changes hands depending on the type of damage. The general rules are contained within the Residential Tenancy Agreement, which distinguishes between three main types of damage: maintenance, urgent repairs, and non-urgent repairs. Also, as a landlord, you may be wondering what responsibilities belong to you versus your property manager. This article will give you a quick and thorough summary of the rules so you have a good understanding of your rights and responsibilities.
According to the Residential Tenancy Agreement (RTA), tenants have several responsibilities with respect to their rental property. These include:
- Keeping the premises ‘reasonably’ clean.
- Telling the landlord about any damage or disrepair ASAP.
- Leaving the premises as close as possible to the condition they were in before the tenancy began – except for ‘fair wear and tear’.
- Not damaging or permitting damage to the property either purposely or negligently.
- Not adding or removing fixtures from the premises.
- Not doing any renovations or alterations to the premises without written consent from the landlord, unless permitted under the RTA.
If a tenant fails to comply with these obligations, the landlord may apply to the NSW and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) for any of the following orders:
- the tenant complies with the tenancy agreement; and/or
- to end the tenancy; and/or
- for compensation.
Landlord and/or Property Manager Obligations
Landlords also face a number of obligations with respect to the maintenance and repair of their rental properties. The actual extent of their active duties will depend upon whether they are self-managing landlords or if they have a property manager looking after their property.
Generally, the landlord of a rental property has an obligation to:
- Provide the premises to the tenant in a ‘reasonably’ clean state which is fit to live in.
- Provide and maintain the premises in ‘reasonable’ repair (even if the tenant was informed of any disrepair before moving in) à ‘reasonable’ repair depends on the age of the premises, the cost of rent and the potential life of the premises.
- Make any repairs mentioned in the original condition report.
The landlord is not responsible for any damage caused by the tenant. If they wish to claim compensation from the tenant for such damage, they must make reasonable effort to minimise the cost of any repair or replacement.
I have a Property Manager – What are their responsibilities? Am I still responsible?
As a landlord, having a Property Manager is an excellent option if you want to assign your ongoing, routine duties to somebody else who is much more experienced. Property managers will typically take care of the physical management of the property, including regular maintenance and repairs. The many duties of Property Managers include:
- Preventative maintenance à This is aimed at keeping the property functioning in top condition, thereby keeping current tenants happy and attracting new tenants. For example, Property Managers are personally in charge of, or must hire someone to:
- check for leaks,
- shovel snow, and
- remove trash.
- Repairs à Where there is an issue, the Property Manager must attend to it themselves or hire someone else to attend to it. Property Managers often have a large network of reliable plumbers, electricians, carpenters and other contractors who can get the job done quickly and to a high standard.
Self-managing landlords are significantly more exposed to risk of liability from maintenance or repair issues. History shows that unless landlords have specific experience in inspecting properties for safety issues, they are much more likely to be included in a claim. Even if you do have a Property Manager though, it is important to remember that the argument of “I was paying a Property Manager to look after my property, so it’s not my responsibility – it’s theirs!”, has proven not to fly well with the courts. Therefore, as a landlord you need to remain proactive in ensuring your property is kept in the appropriate condition required by law. This could involve keeping in regular contact with your Property Manager and asking for updates and/or photographs of your property to ensure it is up to standard.
Urgent repairs are defined by the RTA as including any work needed to repair any of the following:
- A failure of the gas, electricity or water supply.
- A failure or breakdown of any essential service for cooking, heating, hot water, laundering or cooling.
- Any fault or damage that makes the premises unsafe or insecure.
- Serious damage caused by a natural disaster.
Examples of urgent repairs include:
- A burst water pipe
- A blocked or broken toilet
- A gas leak
- Serious fire or storm damage
- A serious roof leak
- An appliance or fixture, such as a tap, that is broken and causing a substantial loss of water.
The usual protocol for an urgent repair is for the tenant to immediately notify the landlord or Property Manager about the damage – in writing if possible. If the landlord cannot be contacted or is unwilling to do the urgent repairs, the Property Manager and/or the tenant has the right to arrange for the repairs to be done. It is strongly advised that no more than $1,000 is spent on the repairs, as the landlord is only required to pay reasonable costs up to a maximum of $1,000.
The landlord will be obliged to pay within 14 days of the tenant and/or Property Manager’s notice, so long as the tenant is able to show that:
- He/she was not at fault for the damage;
- ‘Reasonable’ attempts were made to contact the landlord and/or Property Manager;
- The Landlord and/or Property Manager were given a ‘reasonable’ chance to do the repairs; and
- The repairs were carried out by a repair person named in the tenancy agreement (if possible) or by a licensed or qualified tradesperson.
Further, the tenant must provide written notice of the repairs, costs and copies of receipts. If the landlord refuses to pay, the tenant can apply to NCAT for an order that they do so.
Need help with your Rental Property?
If you are looking for an experienced Property Manager for your investment property or would like any further information about your rental, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Vogue Real Estate