Tenants and maintenance

I’m renting, that means I have no responsibility for maintenance, right?

So you moved into your new rental home and are thrilled with the fact that you don’t have to deal with organising any maintenance on the property. You can just sit back and relax and leave everything to the owner. Well, not exactly. I’m not sure about the last property you rented but neither the owner, nor the property manager is psychic. We don’t always know what is and isn’t working at the property at any given time. This is why the routine inspections are so important! When conducting a routine inspection the property manager is not wanting to get ideas on the latest home accessories or interior design tips, they are actually looking beyond the contents of the property to the bones of the home. A well trained property manager will be able to highlight some issues before they become a major problem for the owner and the tenant.

The tenant also has an important part to play in the upkeep of the property. A tenant must advise the landlord or property manager of any maintenance which occurs as soon as practicable otherwise the onus of repair may fall onto them. This is outlined in Section 38 and 43 of the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA).

For example let me tell you about David and Joe, two different tenants living in two different homes. They both work Monday to Friday 9 to 5 and they both rent through an agency. David comes home on Monday evening to find a small patch of water on the kitchen floor. He inspects the ceiling and there looks to be a small bead of water on the ceiling. On Tuesday morning he takes some time to call his Property Manager. They have someone to inspect the roof on Wednesday and find a couple of tiles have slipped, they repair this immediately and David is happy that the problem has been fixed. Joe comes back on the Monday to find the same problem however he decides that he is too busy to call the Property Manager and waits until the next routine inspection, which is three weeks away for them to see. Upon the next routine inspection the Property Manager sees the very large mouldy stain on the kitchen ceiling and a small note from Joe which reads ‘Kitchen ceiling has been a problem for a few weeks’. In this instance there are several tiles which have slipped and there is now also necessary repair to the internal ceiling due to high amounts of water which have leaked.

I will leave it up to the reader to determine who has informed the Property Manager as soon as practicable. (By the way, it’s David)

Also, whilst at routine inspections is unlikely that the Property Manager will be able to test every appliance, power socket, and water taps at the property any underlying issues which are not clear to the naked eye must also be reported to the Property Manager as soon as possible.

It is important for tenants to know their responsibility in this process so that they are not liable for any issues which may result in deductions from their security bond.

Protecting your contents.

Whilst we’re on the topic, let’s just say this leak happened in the lounge and some water fell on Joe’s brand new 50” TV. Due to water damage this is no longer working and therefore the owner must refund Joe for his loss right? No, Wrong! (Incorrect Buzzer Sounds). The lessor has a responsibility to maintain the property in reasonable condition in respect for its age and character as set out in Section 42 of the RTA. It doesn’t state anywhere in the Act that the owner is responsible for ensuring the tenants items are protected. When a tenant leaves, so does their possessions therefore a tenant must view these as though they were in their own home and must protect them in the same way through contents insurance. It is important to consider the scenarios of when a tenant’s contents insurance may come into play. Below are just a few examples.

  • There is a break-in at the property and tenant’s possessions are stolen
  • There is a large roof leak which causes water damage to tenant’s possessions
  • An electrical device causes tenant’s possessions to short circuit.

A tenant should protect their own items. Just because you are now in a rental property this does not mean that you can be careless with your possessions!