Landlords and tenants’ responsibilities
It is the landlord’s obligation to ensure that the premises and ancillary property are in a reasonable state of repair at the beginning of the tenancy and the landlord must maintain the premises and ancillary property in a reasonable state of repair (having regard to their age, character and prospective life) during the period of the tenancy.
This does not apply to repairs that the tenant knew were required at the start of the tenancy and agreed, in writing, to waive the right to have those particular repairs made. The tenant must notify the landlord orally or in writing that repairs are required. Notification should be given as soon as practicable after the tenant becomes aware that repairs are needed.
If the landlord requests the tenant to put the notification of repairs required in writing, the tenant will not be taken to have given notice unless it is given to the landlord in writing. This is important for the following sections.
The landlord can nominate repairers
A landlord may nominate specific repairers to be used for various types of repairs. This can be stated in the tenancy agreement or by written notice to the tenant. Where there is a nominated repairer the tenant can only use this repairer if the tenant is permitted under section 60 of the Act to have repairs carried out (see previous section on repairs). To have repairs completed by a person who isn’t the nominated repairer the tenant must be able to show:
- that they couldn’t engage the nominated repairer to complete the repairs in a reasonable time; and
- they obtained quotes from two other repairers and have chosen the lowest quotation.
If the repairer with the lowest quote isn’t available to make the repairs within a reasonable time another repairer may be engaged.
When the tenant can arrange repairs
The provisions of the Act that permit the tenant to arrange repairs can be complex. It is recommended a tenant seek advice from the Tenants Advice Service, a legal practitioner or Consumer Affairs before arranging to carry out repairs under these provisions.
Under certain circumstances the Act allows a tenant to arrange to have the premises or ancillary property repaired and seek reimbursement from the landlord.
This can only occur:
- when the premises are uninhabitable or the premises and ancillary property are unsafe; or
- if the repairs are not made there is a reasonable possibility of damage occurring to the premises or ancillary property; or
- that the premises or ancillary property are likely to become unsafe, uninhabitable and insecure.
The tenant must first notify the landlord in writing that repairs are required. If within 7 business days of being given written notice the landlord has either not made the repairs, or notified the tenant of arrangements made to carry out the repairs, the tenant may have the repairs carried out subject to certain conditions.
If the landlord notifies the tenant of arrangements made to carry out the repairs, but the repairs have not been made within 21 days of the tenant’s original notice to the landlord that the repairs are required, the tenant can have the repairs carried out.
If the tenant is permitted to make repairs under these provisions and the landlord has nominated a particular repairer for that type of repair, the tenant must take all reasonable steps to engage the nominated repairer to make the permitted repairs. The tenant can only claim costs that are less than or equal to 2 weeks rent.
To claim the cost of the repairs from the landlord the tenant must notify the landlord of the costs and provide appropriate documentation to prove the costs of repairs. The tenant may request the landlord to:
- pay the cost directly to the repairer;
- reimburse the costs; or
- deduct the costs from the rent.
There are a number of repairs that are considered emergency repairs, these include work needed to repair:
- a water service that provides water to the premises that has burst;
- a blocked or broken lavatory system on the premises;
- a serious roof leak;
- a gas leak;
- a dangerous electrical fault;
- flooding or serious flood damage;
- serious storm, fire or impact damage;
- a failure or breakdown of the gas, electricity or water supply to the premises;
- a failure or breakdown of an essential service or appliance on the premises for water or cooking;
- a fault or damage that makes the premises unsafe or insecure;
- a fault or damage that is likely to injury a person, damage property or unduly inconvenience a resident of premises; or
- a serious fault in a staircase or lift or other area of premises that unduly inconveniences a resident in gaining access to or using the premises.
A tenant must notify the landlord in writing that emergency repairs are required.
If within 5 business days of giving written notice to the landlord that emergency repairs are required, the landlord has either:
- not made the repairs; or
- not notified the tenant of arrangements made to carry out the repairs, the tenant may apply to the Commissioner for an order that the repairs be carried out.
If the landlord does notify the tenant of arrangements made to carry out the repairs, but the repairs have not been carried out within 14 days of the tenant giving notice to the landlord that the repairs are required, the tenant may apply to the Commissioner for an order that the repairs be carried out.