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What are the landlord’s maintenance responsibilities?

By Claire Briggs

Both tenants and landlords have a responsibility to keep a rental property in good condition – but it can be a bit confusing working out who’s responsible for what. The tenancy agreement can set out the specifics, but here are some general guidelines to give tenants a clear idea of where they stand on keeping the home in good nick.

What’s considered an urgent repair?

While you’re are expected to keep the property clean and undamaged, landlords have an obligation to provide a safe and healthy home when you move in. They’re also expected to maintain the premises and common areas throughout the tenancy, and do any repairs and maintenance tasks as needed.

However, some of these repairs will be more urgent than others. These include, among other things, burst pipes and blocked plumbing, electrical problems, serious leaks in the roof, or any other fault that makes living in the property unsafe.

If anything like this happens, you should alert the landlord, or their property manager, straight away in writing. If they’re unavailable, the tenancy agreement normally contains a list of emergency contacts to get in touch with.

It’s a good idea for landlords to have one prepared when renters move in. This can reduce confusion if an emergency were to pop up further down the line.

How soon do urgent repairs need to be done?

Emergency repairs generally need to be addressed immediately, especially if they’re a hazard. Depending on what’s outlined in the rental agreement, and the cost of the damage, you can normally organise to have repairs done if you don’t get a quick response from the landlord or emergency contact, typically between 24 or 48 hours.

You can then ask the landlord or their agent can then pay you back, or ask the repair person to bill your landlord or agent directly.

There’s a cap on what you can foot the bill for, however, which is set by each state and territory government. For instance, doing repairs on rental real estate in Brisbane, and wider Queensland, can’t exceed the value of 2 weeks rent. In NSW, the line is $1,000, and it is $1,800 in Victoria. Check with your property manager about the peak cost in your area.

How often can a landlord inspect the property?

A landlord can do an inspection every now and again to check the condition of the home, and see what other routine jobs need to be done. However, there is a limit on how often a landlord can drop by for an inspection, depending on the regulations in your state.

For example, landlords in NSW can inspect the home no more than four times a year, and must give at least seven days notice before doing so, according to Fair Trading NSW. On the other hand, houses for rent in South Australia can’t be inspected more than one every four weeks, with seven to 14 days written notice.

In general, these notices need to outline the date and reason for inspection.

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