In this edition of The Letterbox, we take a look at getting repairs done in a rented property. We explore your questions on repairs and maintenance and help navigate you through your rights and responsibilities as a tenant, landlord or agent. 

Repairs and maintenance in a rented home

Getting repairs doneWhen it comes to repairs and maintenance of a rented property, it’s helpful to know what to do in common scenarios to meet your obligations and get issues resolved more quickly, whether you’re a tenant, landlord or agent. What should you do if the air conditioner fails? If the oven breaks down, when should it be repaired? Whose responsibility is it to take care of pest control?

These issues and more are addressed below.

Answers to your questions about repairs and maintenance

Q: My landlord is refusing to fix the broken ducted air conditioner in my house as it is too expensive to repair. The landlord has suggested I use the ceiling fans instead, however I rented my house as it came with air conditioning. Is my landlord required to have the ducted air repaired?

A: As the property was advertised with a functional air conditioner, the landlord is required to repair or replace it with a cooling alternative. This does not include the fans that were already provided with the property. Cooling is also considered an urgent repair.

If your landlord cannot afford to repair the ducted air, then you may negotiate with them to either replace the ducted air conditioning with another cooling alternative (such as a split system air conditioner) or offer a rent reduction.

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Q: My tenants moved in 6 months ago and have just contacted me about an infestation of cockroaches in the property. There wasn’t a problem with cockroaches when they moved in. Isn’t it their responsibility to pay for pest control?

A: Typically, if the infestation occurred at the beginning of the tenancy then you, the landlord, are responsible for fumigation. This is part of a landlord's responsibility to provide a reasonably clean property, fit for the tenant to live in.

After this period, the tenant is generally responsible for pest control. Other considerations that inform who is responsible include the history of the property, what is recorded in the condition report and if there were factors beyond the tenant's control, such as a neighbouring property spraying their place, leading to pests entering the tenanted property.

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Q: The oven in my apartment stopped working a month ago. I’ve emailed the agent several times, however no one has gotten back to me about repairs. I ended up contacting an electrician who gave me a report that said the thermostat in the oven needed to be replaced. I paid to get this fixed, can I request reimbursement from the agent for this?

A: Yes. If the agent has not responded to your request for urgent repairs in a reasonable time after you notified them, then you may organise the repair yourself and seek reimbursement.

After the repair has been carried out, write to the agent setting out the details of the repairs and include a copy of the receipt/invoice. You should give them 14 days to reimburse you for the cost.

If you are unable to resolve the problem with the agent, contact Fair Trading for assistance or lodge a complaint online to use Fair Trading’s free tenancy complaint service.

Remember to always put urgent repair requests in writing to the landlord or agent, giving them reasonable time to respond before organising your own repairs.

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Tenancy tales - case study from the Tenancy Complaint Service

Fair Trading received a complaint from a tenant who had been living in a house for three months when they became aware of mould in the property.

The tenant was worried about health issues that might occur from the mould. They contacted their agent to request they break their lease without penalty, however the agent did not agree and advised the tenant that they would have to pay the break fee.

Fair Trading contacted the agent and they agreed to have an inspector come out to assess the mould and write a report on any repairs that were required. The agent also agreed to let the tenant break the lease without penalty, as per their original request.   

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Need more help?

If you can’t find an answer to your question, you’re welcome to call us on 13 32 20. If you have a problem with a tenant, landlord or agent that you can’t resolve, remember you can lodge a complaint online to use our free  tenancy complaint service

Remember, if you are a tenant you must pay your rent, even if you are waiting on repairs to be done. If you are a landlord or agent, you must respond to your tenant’s urgent repair requests quickly.

If you haven't yet, take a look at the Help with tenancy problems video showing how this complaint service works.

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Building or renovating? Lock in major law changes in your plans

Are you a landlord thinking of renovating your property, or perhaps you are currently renting while you build your dream home? New home building laws took effect on January 15 this year so it is an important time to brush up on your rights and responsibilities. There have been changes to licensing, owner-builders, dispute resolution, insurance, and more.

Help your project run smoothly by reading the details and FAQ’s on our Major changes to home building laws page.

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We want to make sure The Letterbox is relevant and interesting. Please send us your comments, suggestions or topics you would like covered: theletterbox@finance.nsw.gov.au

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Tenants Advice and Advocacy Services (TAASs)

Local TAASs provide free information, advice and other assistance to New South Wales tenants. Aboriginal tenants can call their local TAAS, or the Aboriginal TAAS for their area.

Visit the Tenants NSW website to find your local TAAS, or Aboriginal TAAS.

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