A landlord or property manager’s nightmare is the 2am phone call from a tenant when a water pipe bursts or the electricity goes off – or the last of the working light bulbs blows! While tenant safety is always a priority, what is considered an emergency for a tenant may be classed as non-urgent repairs by the owner or manager – and similarly landlords may not prioritise issues that really should be treated as an emergency. Particularly over the holiday season, when many offices and utilities are closed, it’s important for tenants and landlords to know the correct procedure in case the unforeseen happens.
The Residential Tenancies Act defines what are urgent (emergency) repairs and those which are not. Urgent repairs include:
- A burst water service or serious water leak or a blocked or broken toilet
- A serious roof leak
- A gas leak or dangerous electrical fault
- Flooding or serious flood damage and serious storm or fire damage
- A failure or breakdown of the gas, electricity or water supply
- A failure or breakdown of the hot water service, the stove or oven, a heater or air-conditioner
- A fault or damage which makes the premises unsafe or unsecure
In the case of urgent repairs, the tenant must notify the landlord or agent immediately, and they must arrange for the repairs to be done as soon as possible. If the landlord or agent cannot be contacted or do not respond, tenants should check their tenancy agreements for nominated tradespeople. Under the law, if emergency repairs are not carried out within a reasonable time, tenants may arrange for the work to be carried out and be reimbursed by the landlord (only up to $1000). This only applies if the work is urgent (as the above list), the need for the repair was not your fault, you attempted to contact the landlord or agent, and you gave them a reasonable opportunity to get the repairs done. Tenants must then give the landlord written notice of the details of the repairs and copies of all receipts for reimbursement.
All other maintenance issues or problems with the property not listed as urgent come under normal maintenance and repair procedures. Therefore, tenants should provide a written request to their landlord or agent (most professional property managers have maintenance forms on their websites) and they will organise the repairs at an appropriate time. Full information about urgent repairs this is available at: https://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/housing-and-property/renting/during-a-tenancy/repairs,-maintenance-and-damage.