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Many people will probably have seen a story on one of those nightly current affair programs exposing the unscrupulous behaviour of a landlord who refuses to comply with their obligations to make the necessary repairs in regards to a rental property. However, allow us to take a moment to make the point that we’re not for one moment suggesting that all landlords are immoral, nor are we saying that all tenants are angelic. There are many shades of grey – but with that being said – landlords do have an obligation to keep the premises in a reasonable state of repair and fit for its designated purpose, which may be an issue that many tenants may experience from time to time.
The obligation to keep the premises in a reasonable state of repair
All States and Territories have laws in place which require lessors (landlords) to keep property in reasonable shape, and using s 72(2) of Queensland’s Residential Tenancies Act 1997 as our example, the landlord at the start of a tenancy must ensure:
the premises and inclusions are clean;
the premises are fit for the tenant to live in;
the premises and inclusions are in good repair;
the lessor is not in breach of a law dealing with issues about health and safety of persons using or entering the premises.
Section 72(3) of the Queensland Act further requires while a tenancy continues, that the lessor:
maintain the premises in a way that remains fit for a person to live in;
must maintain the premises and inclusions in good repair;
ensure any law dealing with issues about health or safety of persons using or entering the premises is complied with;
any common area must be kept clean.
Turning to case law, in the matter of Proudfoot v Hart (1890) 25 QBD, 42, the Queen’s Bench stated that keeping a premises in a reasonable state of repair, such repairs will “… have regard to the age, character and locality of the house, would make it reasonably fit for the occupation of a reasonably minded tenant of the class who would be likely to take it…”
What happens if a repair is urgent and the tenant is required to pay?
There’ll of course be circumstances where repairs are urgently required and there is no choice but for a tenant to arrange for repairs to be made immediately. Looking towards s 72 of Victoria’s Residential Tenancies Act 1997 for example, a tenant may arrange for urgent repairs to be carried out to the rented property if the tenant:
has taken reasonable steps to arrange for the landlord or the landlord’s agent to immediately carry out the repairs; and
is unable to get the landlord or agent to carry out the repairs.
If a tenant does have to use their own money in undertaking any urgent repairs, in New South Wales and Victoria, tenants can be reimbursed for up to $1000 or such other prescribed amount, and within 14 days, must provide written notice to the landlord about the costs associated in organising for the urgent repairs to be undertaken.
This piece is only a general overview of the laws regarding rental properties and if you do need assistance with any tenancy matter, please seek the help of a lawyer who will be able to help