Keeping On Top Of Maintenance And Repairs
Across Australia, the responsibility of the upkeep of a rental property varies from state to state. Victoria’s legislation provides that a leased property must be maintained and kept in good repair by the landlord.
Maintenance comes in many forms, from issues as minor as a door handle replacement to larger-scale considerations like making sure that heating and cooling units are in working order and balconies are safe.
General maintenance and urgent repairs
All repairs can be categorised into two types: general maintenance (non-urgent) or urgent repairs (which must be attended too within 24 hours).
If a tenant or resident requests urgent repairs, the landlord must respond immediately. All repairs are the landlord’s responsibility, except in the instance where a tenant or resident causes the damage, then it is the tenant's responsibility to arrange or pay for the damage to be fixed.
Set procedures must be followed when dealing with urgent or non-urgent repairs. Tenants and residents must continue to pay rent even when they are waiting for repairs to be carried out.
It is important for the landlord and tenant to communicate all information regarding repairs in writing, and to keep copies for future reference.
In Victoria, there is also an urgent maintenance list which authorises tenants to organise a qualified tradesman (normally the agents provide a list to tenants with their preferred trades contact details) to attend and repair an emergency issue (to the value of$1800.00).
These items are listed below:
- burst water service
- blocked or broken toilet system
- serious roof leak
- gas leak
- dangerous electrical fault
- flooding or serious flood damage
- serious storm or fire damage
- failure or breakdown of any essential service or appliance provided by a landlord or agent for hot water, water, cooking, heating, or laundering
- failure or breakdown of the gas, electricity or water supply
- any fault or damage in the premises that makes the premises unsafe or insecure
- an appliance, fitting or fixture that is not working properly and causes a substantial amount of water to be wasted
- a serious fault in a lift or staircase.
What is the process?
If an owner fails to attend to an urgent repair a tenant can issue a 14-day notice to rectify. If the owner still refuses to take action, then the matter will be heard at VCAT.
Non-urgent repairs must be put in writing also to the owner/property manager. Once this email is received by the property manager, the property manager then has the due diligence and responsibility to let the owner of the property know ASAP that there is an issue.
Some owners might approve a limit of $500.00 which means that the property manager has the authority to have work attended to if it falls under this price range. In my experience, however, 90% of owners would like to know first prior to work being organised.
A quote will then be sourced for the repair or a rough indication of the price will be given to the owner for their consideration.
Once again if the owner refuses to action these maintenance items the tenant can issue a 14-day notice for non-urgent repairs, therefore the owner must action otherwise it can end up in VCAT.
Keeping on top of maintenance is key
It is very important to maintain an investment property as issues arise. If problems are left for a long period of time the property will deteriorate and repair costs can increase.
By also maintaining a property it shows prospective renters that the rental is well looked after and generally in most instances, your tenants will look after your property too. Also, a highly sought after property will potentially earn you more rental income.
A recent example
A client owned a unit that became available for lease. The property manager advised that the property needed new paint, carpet, blinds and updated kitchen cupboards prior to leasing in order to tenant the property quickly.
The landlord was not interested in going down this road and wanted to lease the unit “as is”.
After 72 scheduled open for inspections, no applications were received on the property. After 3 months without a tenant, the landlord finally agreed to go ahead with the refurb at a cost of $10k.
Once the work was carried out, the unit leased after the first open for a higher rental. If the landlord had presented the property in good repair in the first instance, they would not have missed out on 3 months of rental income.
A win-win situation
It is critical that you keep your property well maintained and tidy. Not only will your property lease faster, but your tenants will also be more likely to look after your investment. It also prevents your property from detreating and causing greater financial strain in the long run – not to mention most repairs are tax-deductible.