Repairs and maintenance in private rental properties
Landlords and tenants share the responsibility for repairs and maintenance in rental properties. A landlord is usually responsible for replacing consumables like blown light globes and pura tap filters and the tenant is responsible for caring for items such as cleaning air conditioner filters. Landlords are responsible for repairs even if a tenant knew about a problem when they moved in.
When any maintenance or repairs are needed tenants must ask the landlord to fix the problem and can use a request for repairs form. Landlords have an obligation to fix it within a reasonable time frame after being notified, they may be breaking the conditions of an agreement if they are aware of a problem and don't repair it within a reasonable time.
A landlord needs to give the tenant at least 48 hours notice to enter the premises to carry out the repair unless the tenant asks them to come sooner. If the repair is urgent (eg burst water pipe, gas leak etc) you should contact the landlord as soon as possible. The landlord is not required to give notice to the tenant to enter the premises in an emergency.
At the start of an agreement, a landlord must provide the tenant with manufacturers’ manuals or instructions of how to use appliances in the property, like the stove or airconditioner. These appliances must be listed on the tenancy agreement.
A landlord is not entitled to claim costs to repair any damage to a domestic appliance unless the appliance is listed on the tenancy agreement and manuals or instructions were provided to the tenant.
Damage caused by the tenant
The tenant is responsible for replacing or repairing the damage that they cause to the property. This includes:
- damage caused intentionally or through neglect
- damage caused by visitors or other people living at the property.
A tenant must tell the landlord if they have caused damage. If the landlord offers to repair the damage and the tenant agrees, the landlord may charge the tenant a reasonable amount to have the repair carried out ($24.90 an hour for time spent to repair plus the cost of any materials purchased). If the damage is caused by the tenant and not repaired, a landlord can issue a notice to the tenant asking them to fix the problem or the lease agreement will end.
A tenant can't alter or add to a property without the landlord's written consent. This includes installing a strap or brace to a wall to secure furniture like a bookshelf or television.
If a tenant removes something they have added to the property with the landlord's consent, they need to repair or pay for the repair of any damage this may have caused.
A landlord can't unreasonably withhold consent for a tenant to make changes that support services such as digital television and internet access.
Locks and keys
The landlord needs to make sure that the property is secure – eg fixing a lock that sticks. The tenant and the landlord need to agree if locks are to be changed or removed and neither can unreasonably withhold consent.
As long as its reasonable, the tenant can collect a spare key if they aren’t able to access the property, eg – they lost their key. The tenant needs to pay for cutting a new key. No other fees or deposits for using a spare key can be charged by the landlord. However, the landlord can claim reasonable expenses if they need to attend the property to provide access. The landlord cannot refuse access until a fee is paid.
At the start of the tenancy, the tenant should be advised of any fee that could be charged and details should be included in the agreement.
The tenant can apply to SACAT if a landlord:
- requires an excessive fee for entry or replacement keys
- refuses access until a fee is paid
- unreasonably denies the chance to collect a key (for temporary use)
- requires a deposit for the temporary use of a key.
Pests and vermin
As a guide, landlords are responsible for getting rid of the following pests if there is an infestation at the start of the tenancy:
- bees and wasps – and during the tenancy if in a wall cavity
- cockroaches, fleas and spiders
- mice and rats
- snakes – and during the tenancy only if the landlord breaches the agreement, eg by leaving piles of rubbish in the garden.
The tenant is usually responsible if these pests become a problem during the tenancy.
These pests are the responsibility of the landlord:
- white ants
- possums – remove and seal entry points
- birds – remove and seal entry points.
All rental properties must have a working smoke alarm installed. More than one smoke alarm may be needed to provide enough warning. Remember to check that smoke alarms are working during routine inspections.
See Smoke alarms for details about the type of alarm needed for your property.
Serious maintenance problems
If a tenant believes that a property has serious structural damage they can ask for it to be inspected and declared substandard by the Housing Safety Authority.
Housing improvement orders
The landlord must undertake repairs to improve the property if a housing improvement order is issued by the Housing Safety Authority. The landlord isn't required to repair something if it is clearly noted in the tenancy agreement as excluded. If something is not fixed, the tenant can:
- ask for advice from Consumer and Business Services (CBS)
- apply to SACAT for a legal order to have the repairs done, they may ask for compensation or to end the tenancy
- organise to have urgent problems fixed and give the landlord an invoice from an authorised repairer. A licensed professional must do the repairs and provide a report that states the cause of the problem and the work carried out.