One of the best perks of renting a property is not having to think about general repairs and maintenance. If something isn’t working, you simply contact your property manager. As a tenant, there is little time wasted in finding solutions and no cost on your part, unless of course the repair is due to your own negligence.
It is however important to understand responsiveness can depend on access to your landlord, and, even for owner-occupiers, the availability of qualified and competent tradespeople. Tradespeople are not always available at the drop of a hat, and in some cases landlords may instruct their property manager to arrange an average of two quotes before approving works to commence.
For owner-occupiers, waiting for tradespeople to turn up can be frustrating, but tenants have the choice of allowing their real estate agency to coordinate the repairs with or without the need to be home.
Rental Property Repairs – Your Rights and Obligations
It’s important to understand what your rights and obligations are when renting, so you can act appropriately, if or when the time comes. The first step with any issue is to contact your property manager.
When a repair isn’t urgent, a maintenance request should be lodged, in writing, with your property manager. This starts the process whereby they contact your landlord so they can consider your request.
In the case of an urgent repair (gas, water or electricity supply faults, safety issues or natural disasters), you must be able to demonstrate you have tried contacting your property manager or their after hours emergency number, before arranging a repair yourself.
The key thing to keep in mind, regardless of the circumstance, is to keep a record of your efforts. This might be in the form of screenshots of text messages, emails copied and pasted together into a document, or smart phone photos of the incident or damage, with time and location settings enabled. This will ensure you have documentation if a path of recourse is required, to recover costs or explain yourself in the event of action against you from the landlord.
Tenant Essentials for Rental Property URGENT Repairs
- Your lease agreement will outline yours and the owner’s responsibilities with regard to maintenance and upkeep of the property. Make sure you are clear on who is responsible for what and act accordingly.
- In the case of urgent repairs, contact your property manager immediately if possible. If they are unavailable, contact the after-hours emergency number (you should have been given one at the start of your tenancy).
- If you don’t get a response within a reasonable time frame (depending on the urgency of the repairs), or if the property manager does not give consent, you can go ahead and arrange repairs yourself, however there is usually a cap on repair costs of approximately $1,000 - depending on tenancy legislation in your state. Check your local Consumer Affairs website. Repair costs over the capped amount may not be reimbursed, especially if the landlord through the property manager has already declined your request.
- If you can pay for the repairs, do so then send an email to the property manager outlining the fault, the type and costs of repairs and a copy of the invoice, to request reimbursement. This must be repaid to you within a fixed time frame, usually 14 days. Again, as tenancy legislation in each state varies, check with your local Consumer Affairs department.
- If you can’t pay for the repairs or have any other issues regarding the resolution of the urgent repair, you can contact your local Civil and Administrative tribunal for support and advice.
Tenant Essentials for Rental Property NON URGENT Repairs
- For non-urgent repairs, contact your property manager in writing and outline the details of the damage or malfunction. Tenants are often supplied with a ‘Rental Repairs Request’ form or a ‘Notice to Landlord’ form at the start of their tenancy, so fill this out and send it to your property manager.
- In the case of wanting to manage the repair yourself, provide an outline of what you intend, details of who will be doing the repairs (make sure they are properly licensed and insured) and tradesperson quotes if relevant.
- Tenants are forbidden to do any unapproved work to the property, which includes adding or removing fittings and fixtures, renovating, or making unauthorised repairs. Check your lease agreement for the specifics.
- Any damage caused by you is your responsibility to fix. You are also responsible for the cost of the repairs. If the property manager is unhappy with the repairs, the Landlord may instruct them to apply for compensation for the damage done to their property by you. With this in mind, it’s useful to keep communication open, use their tradespeople, if suitable, and get approval on any works before they commence.
Your property manager will undoubtedly have a list of preferred tradespeople they call on and they handle things like this every day, so in every case it is better for the property manager to arrange the repairs. That’s one of the reasons why you’re renting after all! It’s also in their best interest to make sure the property is in good working order - not only to retain you as a tenant but to protect and improve the owner’s investment by keeping on top of its maintenance needs.
Each state has an Office of Consumer Affairs, a tenants union and a Civil and Administrative Tribunal that all offer information and support online, so if in doubt check their websites for the most up to date information.