What classifies as an emergency in a rental property and what to do about it?

With wild weather lashing Sydney and other parts of New South Wales today and fires ravaging parts of central Queensland it is a timely reminder to reassess who is responsible for what in a rental property.

In general terms, the following rules apply:

Before a tenant moves into a property, it is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure it is in a state of good repair. First and foremost, the property must be safe, clean and fit for tenancy.

Any repair work required during the tenancy is the responsibility of the landlord, while keeping the property clean and hygienic is the tenant’s responsibility.

The exact responsibilities of both parties are clearly specified in the Tenancy Agreement, so it is vital that both parties read and understand their obligations before signing the Agreement.

So with Mother Nature wreaking havoc in parts of the country, let’s take a look at what classifies as an emergency repair.

While laws differ from state to state, emergency repairs include:

  • Burst water services
  • Flooding or serious flood damage
  • Serious storm, fire or impact damage
  • Serious roof leaks
  • Gas leaks
  • Electrical faults
  • Blocked or broken toilet systems
  • Failure or breakdown of essential services or other faults/damage that make the premises unsafe or uninhabitable.

What should a tenant do in an emergency?

By law, the Tenancy Agreement must include information about who to contact in an emergency, both within and after business hours. Maintenance Manager can replicate your emergency procedure so that the process is automated. Some Agreements may also include the contact details of specific tradespeople for different emergency situations.

If the tenant pays for emergency repairs, the landlord is required to reimburse them within a reasonable timeframe (the exact timeframe varies from state to state but normally it would be within 14 days). This should be clearly outlined in the Tenancy Agreement.

If the property is destroyed or becomes totally or partially uninhabitable, tenants have the right to come to a mutual agreement with their landlord to end the tenancy. Check the Department of Fair Trading website in your state or territory for the local rules that apply.

Prevention is always better than the cure

Of all the reports in the media relating to property in Australia in the period from December 2016 to May 2017, 10% were reports about accidents in the home. Most of those accidents could have been avoided with the right risk mitigation strategies in place.

The bottom line is this – every tenant has a right to feel safe at home.

PropertySafe is a leading residential property safety inspection service across Australia and New Zealand. By suggesting that your landlords invest in a PropertySafe inspection report conducted by certified inspectors, potential risks in their property are assessed and documented. Each report contains an action list with specific recommendations on the areas that need to be addressed.

Of approximately 40,000 rental properties inspected nationally by PropertySafe inspectors since 2013, 76.7% had at least one major safety hazard that has the potential to cause severe injury, illness or death. In those cases, the risks were brought to the attention of the property owners who had the foresight to invest in a safety inspection report.

Let’s say inspectors find that faulty gutters and downpipes present a hazard for flooding in the event of heavy rain. Being aware of this issue allows landlords to address the problem before major damage can be done due to storms and heavy rain. It also protects you and your agency against the potential risk of litigation.

If you are in an area affected by today’s weather events and natural disaster, we are sure you wish your landlords had invested in and acted on a PropertySafe inspection report sooner. Prevention is always better than the cure. Head to the PropertySafe website for property managers to learn more.

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