Factsheet 06: Repairs and maintenance


PDF Factsheet 06 [PDF]

As a tenant you have rights under the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 and Residential Tenancies Regulation 2010. This factsheet explains the law in NSW about repairs and maintenance for rented premises.

Your obligations

Under the terms of the standard residential tenancy agreement, you agree:

  • to keep the premises ‘reasonably’ clean
  • to tell the landlord about any damage to the premises as soon as possible
  • to leave the premises as near as possible to the condition they were in at the start of the tenancy, except for ‘fair wear and tear’
  • not to damage or permit damage to the premises deliberately or negligently – you are responsible for damage by anyone who is on the premises with your consent
  • not to add or remove any fixtures or do any renovations, alterations or additions to the premises without the landlord’s written consent (unless permitted under the tenancy agreement).

If you do not meet these obligations, the landlord may apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) for order/s that you comply with your tenancy agreement, to end your tenancy or for compensation.

The landlord’s obligations

The landlord agrees:

  • to provide the premises ‘reasonably’ clean and fit to live in
  • to provide and maintain the premises in ‘reasonable’ repair – even if the landlord/agent told you about disrepair at the premises before you moved in.

‘Reasonable’ repair depends on the age of the premises, the amount of rent you pay and the prospective life of the premises.

The landlord is not required to fix any disrepair that you cause. However, they must try to limit their losses if they want to later claim compensation. Contact your local Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service for advice about this.

Urgent repairs

Urgent repairs means any work needed to repair any of the following:

  • a burst water service
  • a broken or malfunctioning appliance, fitting or fixture causing a substantial waste of water
  • 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
  • a failure or breakdown of any essential service for hot water, cooking, heating, cooling or laundering
  • any fault or damage that makes the premises unsafe or insecure.

Getting urgent repairs done

Tell the landlord/agent – in writing if possible – about what needs fixing. Follow up any conversations with a letter. Keep a copy of the letter and a record of any conversations as evidence that you told the landlord/agent.

If the landlord/agent cannot be contacted or is unwilling to do the urgent repairs, you can arrange for them to be done. You must be able to show that:

  • the problem was not your fault
  • you made a ‘reasonable’ attempt to contact the landlord/agent
  • you gave the landlord/agent a ‘reasonable’ chance to do the repairs
  • the repairs were carried out by a repair person named in your tenancy agreement (if possible) or by a licensed or qualified tradesperson.

You must give the landlord/agent written notice about the repairs, costs and copies of receipts. The landlord must pay you for any reasonable costs up to $1,000 within 14 days of your notice.

If the landlord does not pay, apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal within 3 months for an order that they do so.

If you cannot afford to pay for urgent repairs, apply to the tribunal for an urgent hearing for the repairs to be done. You can also apply for a rent reduction until the repairs are done. See ‘Applying to the tribunal’ below.

Getting other repairs done

Tell the landlord/agent in writing what needs repairing and by when – give a clear deadline. Keep a copy of the letter and a record of any conversations as evidence that you told the landlord/agent.

If you deal with an agent, you can also:

  • write details of the problem in the agency’s complaint book
  • contact the principal of the agency
  • contact your landlord directly.

Undertaking repairs yourself

You must have the landlord’s prior consent before undertaking non-urgent repairs. Ask the landlord to pay you for any costs. Get their consent and agreement to pay in writing.

If the landlord does not do repairs

  • Keep paying your rent. A rent strike is a breach of your tenancy agreement. The landlord may take action to end your tenancy.
  • Apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal for order/s – see below.

Applying to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal

You can apply for one or more of the following orders:

  1. that the landlord do the repairs you have specified
  2. that the landlord compensate you for losses you suffered because they did not do the repairs
  3. that all or part of the rent is paid to the tribunal until the repairs are done
  4. that the rent is reduced for the period that the premises are/were in disrepair.

For (a), (b) and (c) you must apply within 3 months of the landlord failing to meet your deadline for repairs. For (d) apply at any time before the end of the tenancy.

See Factsheet 11: NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal and contact your local Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service for help to make an application.

Orders for repairs

You must be able to show that:

  • the premises were not in reasonable repair
  • you told the landlord/agent about the need for the repairs (e.g. you wrote to them) or they ought to have reasonably known about it (e.g. they inspected the premises)
  • the landlord/agent did not make a reasonable effort to have the repairs done (they ‘failed to act with reasonable diligence’).

Compensation

You can apply for an order that the landlord compensate you for ‘economic loss’. For example:

  • You had to spend money on take-away food because the landlord failed to fix the stove.
  • Your belongings are destroyed or damaged because the landlord failed to fix a leaking roof.

You may also apply for an order that the landlord compensate you for physical inconvenience you have suffered. Before you include this in your application, discuss your case with your local Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service.

You must be able to show that your loss was caused by the landlord’s failure to repair.

The tribunal may not order compensation if you did not try to limit your loss (e.g. limiting water damage to your furniture by moving it from under a leak).

The tribunal can order up to $15,000 compensation.

Rent paid to tribunal

The tribunal will often only consider this order when the landlord has not complied with a previous repairs order. You may include it in your application anyway.

Rent reduction

The tribunal may make an order that the rent is, or was, excessive due to a reduction or withdrawal by the landlord of any goods, services or facilities provided with the premises.

For example: The landlord fails to repair a broken-down hot-water system. Apply for an order that the rent was excessive for the time you were without hot water.

If the tribunal finds the rent excessive, it will make an excessive rent order. It will specify:

  • the amount that the rent must not exceed
  • the day from which this maximum rent applies – for a period of up to of 12 months.

See Factsheet 04: Rent increases for how to prepare an excessive-rent case.

January 2014

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Further help

The information in this factsheet:
• is intended as guide to the law and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice
• applies to people who live in, or are affected by, the law as it applies in New South Wales, Australia.
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