The rental world can be complex, especially when it comes to the tenant and landlord relationship. One of the most common disputes between tenants and landlords is repairs. Both sides have rules and regulations to help achieve a fair outcome when it comes to upkeep and maintenance, although they aren’t always straight-forward to manage!
If you’ve recently become a tenant, it’s best to understand your rights and responsibilities and the correct process of putting forward a repair claim.
Who is Responsible for Repairs?
This is a common question that can often be confusing for both tenants and landlords. According to the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, Landlords are responsible for all manners of urgent and non-urgent repairs. It is the landlord’s responsibility to fix and pay for general wear and tear repairs, along with any damage caused by natural disasters, for instance, a roof that has been damaged by a fallen tree.
However, tenants are responsible for any accidental or malicious damage done to the property during the time of the lease, which the landlord is in their right to ask you to pay for. Accidental damage could be as little as a red wine stain on a carpet whereas malicious damage could be nails hammered into a wall without the landlord’s permission. Any damage you cause needs to be reported to the property manager or landlord immediately.
Non-urgent repairs are considered things like a broken appliance that comes with the property or something that is not working to its full potential such as a dishwasher but does not classify as ‘urgent.’
To arrange non-urgent repairs, notify the landlord or real estate agent in writing, advising them what needs to be repaired. It is best to do this in writing to keep everything documented for your records in case a dispute escalates. The landlord then has a responsibility to address and fix non-urgent repairs within 14 days of being notified.
Urgent repairs are classified as any fault or damage in the property that make the place unsafe or insecure such as a burst pipe, electrical fault or gas leak. These repairs must be addressed and fixed immediately by the landlord. Again, it is necessary to notify your landlord or real estate agent about urgent repairs in writing.
If urgent repairs are not taken care of in a timely manner or you cannot get hold of your landlord, you can arrange for the repairs to be carried out yourself for up to $1800. In this scenario, it’s very important you keep all of your receipts and records so you have no issues with your landlord reimbursing you. After you have made repair arrangements, your landlord has 14 days to pay from the date they received notice.
If you cannot afford the repairs out of your own pocket, you can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for an order that enforces the landlord to carry out the repairs.
In no circumstances should you withhold rent from your landlord or use your rent money to carry out repairs. If you get 14 days behind in your rent, the landlord can serve you with a 14 day Notice to Vacate.
If you’re having trouble with your landlord, you should always first try to negotiate an agreement. If informal negotiations fail, it’s best to seek professional legal advice to discuss your options if you need to take further action.
At Le Brun & Associates we aim for fair outcomes through mediation and negotiation before a dispute escalates to litigation. If you need advice or more information on your tenant rights or a rental dispute, we can discuss your needs during a free 30 minute consultation. Contact us here to find out more.