When leasing a property in Australia, the onus 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 repair[i].
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 begins[ii]. We recommend landlords should make sure the locks are intact, and doors are secure[iii]. 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 use[iv].
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 agreement[v]. 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.
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 access[v]
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.
The landlord must install smoke alarms and test and replace flat batteries within 30 days before the tenancy begins[vi]. 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 birds[vii].
Who mows the lawn?
Tenants may be required to look after mowing, edging and weeding, but this should be specified in the tenancy agreement[viii]. 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.
[i] Tenants’ Rights Manual, State Library New South Wales, Information about the law in NSW: Health and safety, https://legalanswers.sl.nsw.gov.au/tenants-rights-manual-practical-guide-renting-nsw/about-residential-tenancies-act, viewed on August 17 2018
[ii] Tenants Union of NSW, Residential Tenancies Act, Factsheet 01,
https://files.tenants.org.au/factsheets/fs01.pdf#page=1, viewed on August 17 2018
[iii] Government of Western Australia, Department of Commerce, Rental property security standards,
http://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/consumer-protection/rental-property-security-standards, viewed on August 17 2018
[iv] NSW Fair Trading, ‘Getting your bond back,’ 5 November,
https://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/housing-and-property/renting/ending-a-tenancy/getting-your-bond-back, viewed on August 17 2018
[v] Residential Tenancies Authority, Queensland, ‘Emergency repairs’, https://www.rta.qld.gov.au/Renting/During-a-tenancy/Maintenance-and-repairs/Who-is-responsible-for-repairs, viewed on August 17 2018
[vi] Residential Tenancies Authority, Queensland, ‘Smoke alarms’,
https://www.rta.qld.gov.au/Renting/During-a-tenancy/Maintenance-and-repairs/Smoke-alarms, viewed on August 17 2018
[vii] NSW Office of Fair Trading, ‘Pests and vermin’,
http://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/ftw/Tenants_and_home_owners/Renting_a_home/During_a_tenancy/Pests_and_vermin.page, viewed on August 17 2018
[viii] Residential Tenancies Authority, Queensland, ‘Lawns, trees and gardens’, viewed 8 April 2015,
https://www.rta.qld.gov.au/Renting/During-a-tenancy/Maintenance-and-repairs/Lawns-gardens-and-trees, viewed on August 17 2018