Landlords have a duty under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 to make sure that the properties they rent out are kept in good repair. This also applies to common areas owned or managed by the landlord.
If your rental property needs repairs, you should follow the steps set out in the Residential Tenancies Act 1997. The Act provides two different repairs procedures; one for urgent repairs and another for non-urgent or general repairs.
The landlord must carry out urgent repairs immediately (ie within 2-3 days). At the start of your tenancy, the landlord or real estate agent must provide you with a telephone number you can reach them on in case of urgent repairs.
If you need urgent repairs, you don’t have to notify the landlord in writing but you must try to contact the landlord or agent before making your own arrangements for repairs to be carried out. Keep a record of the steps you took to get the landlord or agent to carry out the repairs (eg a list of phone calls, times and dates).
If you can’t reach the landlord or agent or they don’t respond immediately, you can make your own arrangements to have the repairs done—up to the cost of $1800 (including GST). To get the money back, send a Notice to Landlord, describing the repairs that were done and how much they cost, and attach a copy of the repair receipt or invoice. The landlord must repay you within 14 days of receiving the notice. However keep in mind that if you arrange for urgent repairs to be done and the cost is more than $1800 (including GST), the landlord is only liable for up to $1800.
If you can’t afford to pay for urgent repairs yourself, or if the repairs will cost more than $1800, you can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for an order that the landlord has to carry out the repairs. The Tribunal must hear applications for urgent repairs within 2 business days.
Do not withhold your rent from the landlord or use your rent money to carry out repairs. If you get 14 days behind in your rent, the landlord can serve you with a 14-day Notice to Vacate.
If a repair doesn’t fit into one of the categories defined as ‘urgent’, you should not arrange to have it done yourself unless the landlord has agreed in writing to pay for it. There are 3 steps in the non-urgent repairs process:
List any general repairs that are needed on a Notice to Landlord form. This notice informs the landlord that all the items you have listed must be repaired within 14 days.
Make sure that the form is addressed to the landlord and not to the real estate agent, although it can be sent to the landlord care of the agent’s address. (If you are a public tenant, your landlord is the Director of Housing.)
Give a copy to the landlord or agent and keep a copy for yourself.
You can send the notice by regular mail or email (if the landlord or agent has agreed to you giving notices by email) but we recommend that you use registered mail or deliver it in person so you can prove that they received it. Keep your mail receipt. If you send the notice by email, you should make sure it is to the email address nominated by the landlord or real estate agent and if possible request a read receipt.
If you plan to seek compensation from the landlord, you should send a Breach of Duty Notice at the same time.
If the landlord hasn’t carried out the repairs within 14 days of receiving the notice, or hasn’t had the repairs done to a satisfactory standard, you should write to Consumer Affairs Victoria to request an inspection. (You can download a ‘Request for Repairs Inspection or Rent Assessment’ form from www.consumer.vic.gov.au.)
An inspector will contact you to arrange a time to inspect the property. After the inspection they may contact the landlord or agent and try negotiating for the repairs to be done. The inspector will also write a report describing the repairs that are needed and provide you with a copy.
Once you have a copy of the inspector’s report, you can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a hearing. You must apply within 60 days of receiving the report, but if you don’t receive a copy within 90 days you can apply to the Tribunal without it. Attach a copy of the inspector’s report to your Tribunal application. The Tribunal can order that the landlord carry out the repairs.
If the landlord fails to carry out the repairs you can apply to the Tribunal to pay your rent into the Rent Special Account until the repairs have been completed. This applies to both urgent and non-urgent repairs. Usually the Tribunal will only make an order for payment to the Rent Special Account when the landlord has failed to comply with a Tribunal order to do repairs.
If repairs are needed because you or someone that you invited to your home caused damage, you may have to pay for the repairs and you may have to organise them yourself. The landlord or agent can serve you with a Breach of Duty or ‘repair notice’ requiring you to repair the damage within 14 days. If you don’t, they can arrange for the repairs to be done and send you a further notice that states how much the repairs cost and that you have to pay.
If you still don’t pay, the landlord can apply to the Tribunal for an order that you do so. It is up to the landlord to prove that you are responsible for the damage and you can go to the Tribunal hearing to present your side of the story. If you receive a repair notice, contact the Tenants Union.
If you need additional information or assistance, please contact us.