When leasing a property in Australia, the responsibility is on owners to make sure the property meets the standards of their State's Tenancies Act and properties should be fit for habitation and in a state of reasonable repair1.
The tenant is meant to be provided with premises that are rented to them in a reasonable state of cleanliness and fit to live in, which is why it may be ideal for landlords to schedule maintenance and repairs right before the tenancy begins2. We recommend landlords should make sure the locks are intact, and doors are secure3. The tenant must look after the property by keeping it clean and free from damage; however, the landlord should also expect "fair wear and tear", which is normal deterioration from daily use4.
1. Help, it's an emergency!
A tenant must notify the landlord or managing agent of the need for an emergency repair, but if they cannot be contacted, the tenant can contact a nominated repairer, depending on the state regulations that apply, who may be listed on the tenancy agreement5. As a landlord or managing agent, it is important that nominated repairers - such as plumbers, electricians, locksmiths, glaziers, appliance repair people and general handypersons - are available and known to the tenant, in the event of an emergency. These details should also be provided to your property manager.
The general rule is that the hotter a property market is, the more properties go to auction - real estate agents know that increased buyer competition can drive prices higher. However, in a cooling market, auctions can also be the opportunity to nab a bargain, particularly if a property has been on the market for a while and the vendor is keen to sell.
Emergency situations that might require nominated repairers include:
- a serious water leak
- a blocked toilet
- a serious roof leak
- a gas leak
- a dangerous electrical fault
- serious flood damage
- serious storm, fire or impact damage
- breakdown of the gas, electricity or water supply
- no hot water, cooking or heating
- any damage that makes the property unsafe or insecure
- damage which could injure a person
- a serious fault in a staircase or lift that restricts a tenant from gaining access5
2. Drains and gutters
If a drain or gutter becomes blocked it is usually the landlord's responsibility to clear and/or repair. If a blockage has been caused by something a tenant has done, the tenant may be liable for the cost of repairs. The responsibilities for tenants and landlords which are required by law may vary in each state. If a landlord is responsible for all the maintenance or upkeep of the structure of the property there is a good argument that this includes a responsibility to maintain gutters and drains.
It is important that both the tenant and landlord are aware of their responsibilities and a list of who is responsible for what maintenance should be included in any rental agreement.
3. Smoke detectors
The landlord must install smoke alarms and test and replace flat batteries within 30 days before the tenancy begins6. The tenant is advised to test and clean each alarm every year and replace the batteries.
The property should be in a clean and safe state when the lease is signed, so look for signs of pest droppings and mention these in the property condition report that is completed at the start of a new tenancy agreement. Who pays for pest control depends on when the infestation occurred? If pests move in because of a tenant's uncleanliness, the tenant may be liable to the landlord. As a landlord, you or your property agent should check if the previous tenants had cats or dogs, as fleas may not appear for a couple of months. In NSW, the landlord pays to remove possums, termites, and birds7.
5. Who mows the lawn?
Tenants may be required to look after mowing, edging and weeding, but this should be specified in the tenancy agreement8. Any plants, hedges or lawns that need specialist upkeep - and tree lopping - are usually the landlord's responsibility. The tenant is not responsible if plants or lawns die due to compliance with any government imposed water restrictions. The state of lawns and gardens should be included on the property condition report and maintained to the same standard by the party specified in the tenancy agreement.
Tenancy laws can differ in each state, so check the Residential Tenancies legislation applicable to the state your property is located in.
This article was written by Allianz Australia Insurance Limited ABN 15 000 122 850 AFSL No 234708 (“Allianz”), not Qudos Bank ABN 53 087 650 557 AFSL/Australian Credit Licence 238305 (“Qudos Bank”). Any advice contained in this article is given by Allianz, not Qudos Bank, and is general in nature and does not take account of your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Because of that, you should, before acting on the advice, consider its appropriateness to your circumstances.
Qudos Bank arranges landlord insurance as agent for Allianz. Qudos Bank receives an 18% commission on this insurance as a percentage of the premium paid for each policy. See our Financial Services Guide or ask us for more details. Policy terms, conditions, limits and exclusions apply. Before making a decision, please consider the Product Disclosure Statement or to have the PDS sent out to you, call us on 1300 747 747.
1. Tenants' Rights Manual, State Library New South Wales, Information about the law in NSW: Health and safety, viewed on August 17, 2018.
2. Tenants Union of NSW, Residential Tenancies Act, Factsheet 01, viewed on 17 August, 2018.
3. Government of Western Australia, Department of Commerce, Rental property security standards, viewed on 17 August, 2018.
4. NSW Fair Trading, 5 November, ‘Getting your bond back’, viewed on 17 August, 2018.
5. Residential Tenancies Authority, Queensland,'Emergency repairs', viewed on 17 August, 2018.
6. Residential Tenancies Authority, Queensland, 'Smoke alarms', viewed on 17 August, 2018.
7. NSW Office of Fair Trading, 'Pests and vermin', viewed on 17 August, 2018.
8. Residential Tenancies Authority, Queensland, 'Lawns, trees and gardens', viewed on 23 August, 2018.
Published October 2019