Urgent Repairs In Rental Properties: Your Rights And Obligations

All rental properties need maintenance and repairs from time to time.

But for landlords and tenants in Western Australia, not all repairs are created equal.

The WA Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) provides different timeframes and procedures depending on what’s broken and how urgently it needs to be fixed.

We take a look at what you need to know about repairs as a landlord or tenant.

Urgent repairs to essential services

The first thing to understand is that not all urgent repairs need to be treated the same way. The RTA separates urgent repairs to essential services from other urgent repairs.

Under the regulations to the RTA, essential services are defined as:

  • a burst water service
  • gas leaks
  • broken hot water system
  • sewerage leaks, or
  • dangerous electrical faults.

As a landlord, you have 24 hours after the tenant has contacted you to arrange for these essential services to be repaired.

In other words, as a landlord, you don’t necessarily have to fix them within one day but you do have to make an appointment for someone to repair the problem in a reasonable time.

Other urgent repairs

The other category of urgent repairs includes repairs to anything that, if it is not fixed, may cause serious damage to the property, injury to someone, or cause undue hardship or inconvenience to tenants.

For this category, landlords have 48 hours after the tenant has raised the problem to arrange repairs.

Can a tenant repair something themselves?

A tenant can arrange a repair themselves if they can’t contact the landlord within 24 hours for an essential service repair or 48 hours for other urgent repairs. However, they must make sure they only do what’s absolutely necessary.

A tenant can also arrange for something to be repaired if the landlord failed to make sure repairs were carried out as soon as practicable after being notified (i.e. within the 24-hour or 48-hour timeframe).

If a tenant arranges the repair, the landlord must repay the tenant for any reasonable expense they incur. If they don’t, the tenant can go to the Magistrate’s Court to get an order compelling the landlord to pay.

It’s important that the tenant keeps all receipts, as well as a record of trying to contact the landlord.

Who can carry out urgent repairs?

All urgent repairs need to be carried out by a ‘suitable repairer’. That means some suitably qualified, licensed or trained to perform the work – eg, a licensed electrician or licensed plumber.

What about ordinary repairs?

For non-urgent repairs, tenants must notify the landlord (preferably in writing), detailing what needs to be repaired. The landlord then has a reasonable time to have them fixed.
If, when the tenant signed the lease agreement, the landlord disclosed that these broken items weren’t working, they don’t have to arrange for any repairs.

Tenants can go to Consumer Protection if the landlord refuses to make the repairs but they still need to keep paying rent regardless of whether the landlord agrees to fix something or not.

How COVID-19 has affected urgent repairs

When COVID-19 struck, the WA Government recognised that many landlords as well as tenants would be suffering financial hardship. For this reason, it introduced a rule that landlords didn’t have to make ordinary repairs during the ‘emergency period’. This currently ends on 28 March 2021. However, landlords still have to make urgent repairs during this time.

The best plan of attack when it comes to repairs

Repairs may come in different shapes and sizes, and with that, come different rules. But it doesn’t pay to ignore a tenant’s requests for repairs. Not only does it make their lives difficult, it can lower the value of the property and make it appear less appealing.

The best way to always make sure repairs are carried out properly and within time is to use a qualified property manager. After all, we can arrange tradespeople, advise you on your rights and obligations and make sure the relationship between landlord and tenant remains strong.

If you have any questions about urgent repairs contact our team of experienced property managers today.

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