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Property repairs—who’s responsible?

19 November, 2014 / Category: Blog

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When it comes to rental properties, both landlords as well as their tenant(s) hold responsibilities when it comes to maintenance. But who is accountable for wear and tear? And who pays for more serious damage? Infolio have put together an outline of who is liable for what, as well as the procedures each party should follow to arrange for maintenance and repairs.

General repairs and maintenance

At the commencement of the tenancy, the landlord must make sure that the place offered for rent is reasonably clean and fit to live in. It is then the landlord’s responsibility to maintain the home in a reasonable state of repair during the occupancy. The Residential Tenancies Act distinguishes between urgent and non-urgent repairs. Both are the landlord’s responsibility except for cases where the tenant has caused the damage through carelessness or malice. As a courtesy, all general maintenance should be addressed within fourteen days. However, in instances where quotes are required repairs could take longer, as there are numerous people to coordinate—tenants, tradies, and at times body corporates.

Malicious damage

In instances where the tenant is directly responsible for any damage caused, they are then liable for the cost of the repair and/or replacement. For instance, if a window breaks after a tenant throws a cricket ball through its surface, they’ll have to flip the bill for the glazier. However, if a window breaks due to structural cracks in its frame, the landlord is responsible for mending the wear and tear. Tenants should be mindful that the landlord is not required by law to fix any disrepair caused by their own carelessness or malice.

Landlord’s insurance

If a tenant is responsible for fixing the damage, they are well within their rights to request said repairs be managed through the landlord’s own insurance. In these instances, the tenant would then elect to pay the excess on the bill, where the excess is cheaper than the repair itself. In Australia, landlord insurance policies generally cover standard perils such as fires, storms and floods etc., as well as any malicious damage caused by tenant(s).

The landlord’s responsibilities

As a general rule, a landlord has a responsibility to maintain a property to the standard in which the tenant accepted it. For example, if the property features laminate cupboards and the laminate is lifting due to age, the landlord should, in theory, have this attended to before the situation worsens. However, in some cases such a minor surface issue may not bother the current tenant. But regardless of their level of concern, the occupant should always report these cases of wear and tear, in order to give their landlord a fair chance to uphold their maintenance obligations.

The tenant’s responsibilities

Under a Victorian tenancy agreement it is the tenant’s duty to report any maintenance as soon as it becomes evident. This is important for all renters to remember, as they may be held liable for costs where maintenance is not reported, and thus worsened as a result of any delay. While renting, the tenant’s responsibilities are as follows:

  • To ensure that care is taken to avoid damaging the premises.
  • To give notice to the landlord of any damage to the premises as soon as practicable.
  • To keep the premises in a reasonably clean condition during the period of agreement.

Matters of urgency 

It is a landlord’s responsibility to address any urgent maintenance as soon as it is reported. Though state laws can differ, emergency repairs usually consider the following:

  • Serious roof leaks
  • Blocked or broken toilet system
  • Gas leaks
  • Burst water services
  • Serious storm, fire or impact damage
  • Dangerous electrical faults
  • Flooding or serious flood damage
  • Failure or breakdown of essential services or appliances on the premises for hot water, cooking, and heating. E.g. disruption of gas or water supply.

A more comprehensive list of what is considered urgent can be found on our website, as well as the CAV website.

Regardless of the nature of the repair, and of who might be to blame, it’s important for landlords and tenants alike to be aware of their maintenance obligations. If both parties are conscious of their responsibilities before the lease begins, the property can be better taken care of longer term. This will result in a more enduring investment for the landlord, and a more comfortable home for the tenant(s).

Sincerely yours,


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