Did you know that there is a legal differentiation between urgent (emergency) repairs and those which are not urgent? The difference is important as it determines the action which can be taken by a tenant in the instance of repairs being required.

What are the tenant’s responsibilities when it comes to repairs and maintenance in a rental property?

As a tenant, if you notice that something in the property fails to work as it should or otherwise needs repair, you should contact your property manager or landlord as soon as possible.

Even in instances where you think you could live with the issue, your property manager or landlord should be informed so they can investigate and take action if needed as soon as possible. If a tenant fails to do this, he or she could be held responsible for expenses relating to the repair.

The landlord is responsible for ensuring the property is kept in a reasonable state of repair given the age of the property and the rent being paid. Of course, they must also comply with building, health and safety laws. However, the landlord is not obligated to fix every issue brought to their attention.

As a tenant, unless agreed otherwise, you are responsible for such tasks as replacing light bulbs, changing smoke detector batteries, cleaning windows, dusting, removing cobwebs and routine garden maintenance such as watering, mowing and weeding.

Can tenants arrange to complete repairs themselves?

Here is an important reason for understanding the distinction between an urgent repair and a non-urgent repair. A tenant cannot arrange for non-urgent repairs to be completed – by themselves or a third party – unless the landlord or property manager has agreed.

This of course implies that urgent repairs may be undertaken by the tenant without prior agreement, however there are conditions around the ability to do so (covered below).

First, we must have clarity around what is considered and urgent rather than a non-urgent repair.

What is considered an urgent repair in a rental property?

Urgent repairs are clearly defined by Fair Trading NSW as:

  • a burst water service or a serious water service leak
  • a blocked or broken toilet
  • a serious roof leak
  • a gas leak
  • a dangerous electrical fault
  • flooding or serious flood damage
  • serious storm or fire damage
  • a failure or breakdown of the gas, electricity or water supply to the premises
  • a failure or breakdown of the hot water service
  • a failure or breakdown of the stove or oven
  • a failure or breakdown of a heater or air-conditioner
  • a fault or damage which makes the premises unsafe or insecure
What do I do if I have an urgent repair and I am renting?

Your property manager or landlord should be notified immediately. They must then arrange for repair to be completed as soon as possible.

If you are unable to reach your property manager or landlord, check your tenancy agreement which may contain details of nominated tradespeople to contact in the event of an emergency.

If you are then unable to contact the nominated tradesperson, or they are unable to complete the urgent repair in a reasonable timeframe, you may be able to arrange for the work to be done and reimbursed by the landlord (up to $1,000). However, in order to arrange the urgent repair yourself, you must be able to show that:

  • you contacted your property manager or landlord about the problem or made a reasonable attempt to do so
  • you gave your property manager or landlord a reasonable opportunity to get the repairs done
  • the need for the urgent repair was not your fault
  • repairs were carried out by a licensed tradesperson

In this instance, you must also provide your property manager or landlord written details of the repair and all receipts for the work completed. You are then entitled to reimbursement within 14 days of your written details being provided.

Carnelian Property Management is a family-owned business offering expert rental property management across Newcastle and Lake Macquarie. Their highly accessible and personal approach has delighted Newcastle and Lake Macquarie property investors since 2011.