WHEN it comes to a tenancy, it can sometimes be a little confusing as to who is responsible for what when it comes to property repairs and maintenance.
Essentially, a property owner or manager is responsible for the property’s overall condition and keeping it fit for the tenant to live in.
While the tenant is responsible for keeping the property clean and free from damage.
But what happens when it comes to repairs and yard maintenance, mould or smoke alarms?
We take a look at the Residential Tenancies Authority’s recommendations to clear these questions up.
According to the RTA, the property owner or manager is responsible for any routine or emergency repairs that are not the result of damage (other than general wear and tear) by the tenant.
If the tenant or their guest damages the property, then they are responsible for paying for the repairs.
The RTA suggests the tenant advise the property owner/manager of any damage or emergency repairs required and must not arrange emergency repairs or try to do repairs themselves without written permission.
2. Routine repairs
When it comes to routine repairs, the RTA advises the tenant to inform the property owner/manager in writing of the required repairs.
The property owner/manager must then carry out or organise a third party such as a property maintenance company to carry out the repairs in a reasonable time frame and complying with the entry rules.
Time frames can vary depending on the type of repairs and whether tradespeople are required and their availability.
If routine repairs are not organised and carried out within a reasonable time frame the RTA says a tenant can issue a breach notice to the property manager/owner giving them five days to fix the problem.
For ongoing disputes, the RTA’s dispute resolution centre may be able to provide assistance but the RTA advises tenants to never stop paying rent in this situation as non-payment of rent is a breach of the tenancy agreement.
Once routine repairs have been organised, they must be carried out complying with the entry rules.
3. Emergency repairs
The RTA considers emergency repairs to be:
- A gas leak
- Serious roof leak
- Flooding or serious flood damage
- Burst water service
- Serious water leak
- Blocked or broken toilet
- Dangerous electrical fault
- Serious storm, fire or impact damage
- Failure or break down of utility supply: gas, electricity, water
- Failure or break down of essential service or appliance on the property for hot water, cooking or heating
- Fault or damage likely to injure a person
- Fault or damage likely damage property
- Fault or damage likely to unduly inconvenience a tenant
- A serious fault in a staircase or other common area of the property unduly inconveniences a tenant in gaining access to, or using, the property
Any repairs not on this list are considered routine repairs.
In the event of needing an emergency repair dealt with, the RTA advises tenants to contact the property owner/manager or nominated repairer (listed on the tenancy agreement), preferably in writing.
4. Yard maintenance
Any arrangements about yard maintenance including garden, lawn and tree care should be listed in the tenancy agreement and their condition record in the entry and exit condition reports, says the RTA.
But generally, when it comes to mowing, edging and weeding, the tenant is responsible for this yard work.
For work such as tree lopping, pruning or hedging, which is not carried out as regularly and likely to require someone with specialist knowledge and equipment, the RTA suggests this is usually the responsibility of the property owner/manager.
Who is responsible for fallen branches depends on the circumstances. The tenant may be responsible for clearing small, manageable branches while larger branches that may require specialist equipment may be the property owner/manager’s responsibility as may be any damage caused by fallen branches.
When it comes to yard maintenance and observing local council water restrictions, the RTA says the tenant may not be held responsible for plants, lawn or other trees that may die due to complying with these local laws.
If an external property maintenance company is contracted by the property owner/manager to cover yard maintenance, this should be listed on the tenancy agreement.
How mould appears in the first place can help decide who is responsible for cleaning it.
As soon as a tenant becomes aware of a mould issue the RTA says they should notify the property owner/manager.
If the mould is the result of a problem with the property, it is likely the property owner/manager’s responsibility to clean it and make necessary repairs.
Any mould and damaged caused by the tenant is the responsibility of the tenant.
6. Light bulbs
In the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act the supply and replacement of light bulbs are not specified.
The RTA recommends any arrangement about lightbulbs be included in the special terms of the tenancy agreement but generally, the property owner/manager may be responsible for maintaining any specialised bulbs and the tenant for replacing everyday bulbs.
For any bulbs that require a specialist with knowledge or equipment, it may be the property owner/manager’s responsibility.
7. Smoke alarms
It is the responsibility of property owners/managers to ensure rental premised meet all health and safety requirements.
With regards to the installation and maintenance of smoke alarms at domestic dwellings, the Fire and Emergency Services (Domestic Smoke Alarms) Amendment Act 2016 (Qld) introduced on 1 January 2017, imposes additional obligations on property owners/managers.
According to the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, landlords are responsible for the installation of smoke alarms that comply with new Smoke Alarm legislation.
Under the legislation, “any existing smoke alarms manufactured more than 10 years ago, as well as any smoke alarms that do not operate when tested must be replaced with photoelectric smoke alarms that comply with Australian Standard 3786–2014. All smoke alarms should be interconnected within the dwelling”.
The QFES says the property owner/manager must test and clean each smoke alarm within 30 days of the start of a tenancy.
During the tenancy in a domestic dwelling, the RTA says a tenant must test and clean each smoke alarm, at least once every 12 months, replace any flat or nearly flat batteries, advise the property owner/manager of any issues with the smoke alarms and not remove a smoke alarm or battery other than to replace it, nor do anything to reduce the alarm’s effectiveness such as painting over or covering it.
Under the legislation, the rollout of interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms is happening over 10 years with three specific periods.
From January 1, 2017 interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms are required in all new dwellings and substantially renovated dwellings (this applies to building applications submitted from 1 January 2017).
From January 1, 2022 interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms are required in all domestic dwellings leased and sold and from January 1, 2027 interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms are required in all other domestic dwellings.
If you have questions concerning the new smoke alarm legislation, email SmokeAlarms@qfes.qld.gov.au.
8. Pool and maintenance
Pool safety laws apply to the property owner and tenant and the Department of Housing and Public Works can be contacted for more information.
But according to the RTA, a licenced pool safety inspector must inspect and issue a pool safety certificate to pool owners and this certificate should be included in the tenancy agreement.
A tenant may consider it a breach of the property owner’s duty to comply with all health and safety laws if a certificate has not been obtained.
The condition of the pool should be reported on the entry condition report also.
During a tenancy, maintenance of the pool should be covered in the tenancy agreement’s special terms.
Generally, it is the tenant responsible for everyday and regular maintenance with the property owner/manager providing instructions on how to do so, the RTA says.
Any pool maintenance done by an external company contracted by the property owner/manager should be included in the tenancy agreement and the tenant cannot be required to enter into a maintenance contract or use a particular maintenance company for service.
For more information on property maintenance and repairs during a tenancy, see the RTA website.