HOW DO I ASK FOR REPAIRS FOR MY RENTAL PROPERTY?
While tenants are responsible for routine upkeep (things like cleaning, replacing light bulbs and watering the garden), landlords are responsible for ensuring a premises is in ‘’a reasonable state of repair’’.
This means that landlords are responsible for repairing and maintaining a premises to make sure it is fit to be lived in. What is meant by a ‘’reasonable state of repair’’ depends on the age of the premises and the amount of rent you have to pay as tenant.
What constitutes an urgent repair?
There are two types of repairs: non-urgent and urgent.
Non-urgent repairs mean any minor damage to the premises that does not need to be fixed right away. For example, a broken cupboard or a cracked window.
Urgent repairs are more serious things that need be fixed immediately. According to the Tenant’s Union of NSW, this includes any work needed to repair the following:
- a failure or breakdown of the gas, electricity or water supply (such as a burst water pipe or gas leak)
- a failure or breakdown of any essential service for hot water, cooking, heating, cooling or laundry (such as a broken tap or toilet)
- a fault or damage that makes the premises unsafe or insecure (such as a broken front door lock)
- serious damage from a natural disaster (such as a roof leak caused by a storm).
As a tenant, you must notify your agent or landlord about any urgent repairs that need to be done straight away. It is their responsibility to have these problems fixed as soon as possible.
What if a landlord does not have an urgent repair made straight away?
If you contact a landlord or agent about an urgent repair and they do not arrange to have it fixed in a reasonable timeframe, you can arrange for a tradesperson to fix the problem and pay for it yourself.
You can have your costs reimbursed by the landlord within 14 days provided that:
- the repair work is carried out by a licensed or qualified tradesperson (if possible you should select a tradesperson provided in your tenancy agreement)
- the work costs less than $1,000
- the problem was not your fault
- you gave the landlord or agent a reasonable opportunity to fix the problem
- you provide the landlord or agent with written notice about the repairs, costs and copies of the receipt.
If you cannot afford to pay for the repairs, you can apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT). NCAT can make an order (a legal direction) for the landlord to pay for the urgent repairs.
What can I do about non-urgent repairs?
Tell your landlord or agent in writing what non-urgent work needs to be done and by when – give them a clear deadline. Keep a copy of the letter and a record of any conversations as evidence.
Do not arrange or pay to have non-urgent repairs done yourself, unless your agent or landlord first agrees to pay for it in writing.
If you cannot reach an agreement with your agent or landlord about a non-urgent repair, you can apply to NCAT for an order to have the repairs done. You can also apply for a rent reduction until the repairs are done.
Can I stop paying rent if repairs are not done quickly?
No, even when repairs are not undertaken promptly you should never stop paying the rent. This would constitute a breach of your tenancy agreement and the landlord may take steps to terminate it.