When you move into a property, the landlord is required to provide it in good clean condition so that you can start living in the property. The condition of the property is relative to the age and style of the property and how much you are paying in rent.
It is unreasonable to expect that the landlord will attend to every minor problem or imperfection in the property, but the landlord is obliged to provide to arrange for any necessary or urgent repairs required. These include repairs for:
- blocked or broken plumbing, eg. burst water pipes or blocked toilet;
- physical damage to the property causing compromised living conditions eg. serious roof leaks, broken windows or flooding;
- failure of services for water, gas, or electricity, and
- faults or damage to the property rendering it unsafe or not secure eg. gas leaks, fire damage or broken locks.
If you need repairs carried out or safety concerns addressed (eg. broken or loose locks), first refer to the lease document to see what protocol or conditions have been agreed. Keep a written record of all discussions, costs and actions for possible future reference, and follow these general guidelines:
- Speak to the landlord or property manager about the repair needed, its urgency and what you think needs doing by when.
- The landlord may arrange for the problem to be fixed or it is possible that the landlord or property manager authorises you to arrange repairs and then be reimbursed by the landlord. You must first speak to the landlord or property manager before spending money on repairs, and note that repairs must be deemed urgent or necessary for safe and secure living in the property.
- Make your own record of what was agreed.
- Allow access to get the repair or problem fixed.
- If the matter is not being addressed or resolved adequately within a reasonable time-frame, you should follow up with the landlord or property manager and write a letter if necessary explaining your concerns.
If this does not help, you can approach the relevant Tribunal in your state for an order to complete the work and provide for the premises to be maintained in good, safe and secure condition. It will be your responsibility to prove that the premises are unsafe or unsecured. It is always best to fully communicate and discuss the process with your property manager before exercising any third party actions.
In the event of extensive damage, such as storm damage, whereby the premises become uninhabitable, either party can give notice to cancel the lease or you can move out whilst repairs are undertaken. If you move out for good, the rent payments normally stop on the day you have moved out or can’t inhabit the premises and any advance payments are generally refunded to you. If you move out temporarily, the rent may be waived or reduced for the period you have not been in the premises or for the degree of inconvenience, subject to the terms of the lease or as agreed between you and the landlord at the time.
In the event of serious damage and you have moved out temporarily, a lot of communication is recommended between you and the landlord or property manager as there will be need for documentation of damage, repairs, delays and tradespeople accessing the property for longer periods.
It is the responsibility of the landlord to have serviced and maintain fixed appliances such as gas and water heaters in good condition. Do not attempt your own or unauthorised repairs to fixed appliances, water heaters, gas appliances or electrical faults. Discuss these issues with the landlord and obtain professional service.
During times of repair or dispute, do not stop paying rent unless agreed in writing by the landlord or if it is a term of the lease. The act of not paying rent will breach the terms of your lease agreement, resulting in possible termination.