Squabbling with your partner over whose turn it is to take out the garbage is one thing. But when it comes to tenant vs landlord responsibilities, unfortunately, things can be a little less cut and dried. In fact, one of the most common tribunal disputes is about responsibilities of both parties for utility payments. Since it appears to be such a widespread issue, let’s take a look at what you can do to avoid a potentially messy (and costly) rental situation.
This can be a bit of grey area. Firstly, you should discuss with your property manager the legal obligations of what you can and can’t charge the tenant. There are many considerations which affect these responsibilities, including dwelling type and council laws. Also, landlord responsibilities can depend on the set up of the property in relation to metering. For example, in Queensland, a qualified tradesperson must certify a home as water efficient before you can charge the tenant for 100% of the water usage. But generally, the tenant is responsible for water, gas, electricity and telecommunication costs.
Repairs and maintenance
As an investment property owner, landlords must accept that things need fixing or replacing from time to time. And as such, it’s important to factor these costs into your budget. There are two types of repairs, which according to legislation, are the landlord’s responsibility: routine repairs, and urgent repairs. Urgent repairs require the landlord or property manager to act immediately, and can include:
- A burst water service or serious water leak
- A blocked or broken toilet
- Serious roof leak
- Gas leak
- Dangerous electrical fault
- Flooding or serious flood damage
- Serious storm, fire, or impact damage
- Failure or breakdown of gas, electricity or water supply
- Failure or breakdown of essential service or hot water, cooking or heating appliance
- A fault or damage that makes property unsafe or insecure
- A fault or damage likely to injure a person, damage property, or unduly inconvenience the tenant
- A serious fault in a staircase, lift or other common area that unduly inconveniences the tenant in gaining access to or using the property.
All other repairs are classed as routine, such as loose fixtures, or faulty air-conditioners or garage remotes. If a landlord doesn’t attend to urgent repairs in an appropriate time frame, it may result in compensation awarded to the tenant for failure to provide functional amenities that were included in the lease agreement. Ignoring landlord responsibilities could end up costing more in compensation than the initial cost of repairs, so it’s worthwhile getting them done efficiently and in a timely manner. Any other repairs that are at fault of the tenant are the tenant’s responsibility to fix and pay for.
The delegation of internal property maintenance is pretty straightforward. During a tenancy, landlord responsibilities include keeping the premises in a reasonable state of repair and in compliance with building, health and safety laws. They are responsible for plumbing, stove and oven, and air-conditioner, unless the tenant has intentionally or neglectfully damaged them.
There are a number of factors which determine external property maintenance responsibilities. Basically, it’s the tenant’s job to care for the garden. This includes weeding, pruning and keeping the lawn healthy and tidy. The landlord or property manager must be informed if the tenant notices a water leak or obvious damage to gutters etc. otherwise the tenant could be liable for costs. Unless the tenancy agreement states otherwise, landlord responsibilities include tree lopping, cutting back overhanging branches, maintaining firebreaks and garden reticulation systems. If the property has a pool or spa, the tenant must keep it clean and properly treated, while it’s the landlord’s job to ensure that it’s secure, child safe and complies with pool safety standards. Before the tenant moves in, the landlord should make sure the pool water is clean and chemically balanced, and the equipment is fully functional.
The tenancy agreement should include information about what to do in an emergency. It should also provide contact details for either the landlord or property manager, and how to contact them after hours. If there is a specific contractor who carries out certain repairs ie. plumber or electrician, it could be helpful to provide their details also.
The best way to avoid any confusion is to thoroughly read the contract. Responsibilities can change depending on the property, so it’s important not to assume all lease agreements are the same. But if there is ever any uncertainty, it’s always best to check with the property manager first. The only stupid question is the one you didn’t ask!