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6 Top Things You Need To Know About Your Tenancy Repair Rights

Jake Knight
Landlord hasn’t fixed your air-con since last Summer? Or have you got a leaky roof and that spot of mould in the corner of your walls is growing? When it comes to maintenance around your home, knowing your tenants rights for repairs is key!
So, that’s why Anika Legal's tenancy repair expert, Jake Knight, in collaboration with Anika Legal lawyers, have broken down the six tips for renters who need their home repaired in Victoria.

Update: If you're unsure how to get repairs done during COVID-19 lockdown, we've got some advice for you here.

1: Who’s responsible?

When something has broken or stopped working in your home, and it comes to knowing who’s responsible – the landlord or the agent – this can definitely be a chicken or an egg situation. The short answer? They’re both responsible. Once you notice something’s amiss, contact your agent in writing as soon as you can. (It’s their job to respond promptly, so if they haven’t gotten back to you within two business days, forward the email or give them a call.)

From there, it’s up to the landlord to determine if the damage is urgent or non-urgent, as there’s certainly a difference between a leaking tap and a busted pipe! From here, the landlord may assess the cause of the damage, and if they believe you’ve caused it, they can ask you to pay for the repair.

* Skip to question three to check out what’s classified as urgent and non-urgent.

2: Getting the damaged repaired

So, you’ve raised the issue of that leaking tap with your agent and landlord, and you’re waiting… and waiting. In an ideal situation, they’ll fix it as soon as possible, but this isn’t always the case!

To escalate the issue; you have options. You can send them a formal letter, either written by yourself or issued by a lawyer, requesting for the repair to be carried out.

If your repair is urgent, and your landlord isn’t responding (say with the case of that busted pipe), you can always apply for a repair order at VCAT to get the issue resolved, or fix it yourself and request reimbursement within 14 days.

Anika Legal provides a free service which helps tenants get their home fixed. If you’ve tried to contact your landlord and your home still isn’t fixed, start your case today.

Everyone deserves to live in a safe, defect-free home.

3: Urgent versus non-urgent

Need to know the difference? Here’s a handy go-to list of all the things that are considered to be urgent repairs (everything outside of this is considered to be non-urgent):

  • Broken 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 the landlord or agent, such as hot water, water, cooking, heating, or laundering and/or failure or breakdown of the gas, electricity or water supply
  • An appliance, fitting or fixture that is not working properly and could cause a substantial amount of water to be wasted
  • Any fault or damage on the premises that makes the premises unsafe
  • A serious fault in a lift or staircase

If you’re still unsure of whether you have an urgent or non-urgent repair on your hands, tell us more about the problem and we’ll tell you which it is!

Knowing what is an urgent or a non-urgent repair can be confusing at the best of times!

4: Take photos and have everything in writing from the get-go!

Our biggest top-tip if there ever was one. If there’s something that needs fixing in your house, take photos and get everything in writing. From your first email to your second… and third! Did you have a chat over the phone with your agent or landlord? Send a follow-up email in writing about what you discussed. In short: document it all.

Even though you have the right to a home in good repair, requesting for something to be fixed may annoy your landlord – we totally disagree with this, but sadly this can happen.

If in the hopefully unlikely case your landlord gives you a notice to vacate or threatens to raise your rates simply because you made a repair request, you can apply to VCAT to have the notice to vacate dismissed. Remember: your landlord is not entitled to evict you or raise your rates simply because you have asked for repairs to be performed. It’s for this very reason that we strongly recommend always having everything documented!

Taking photo's and documenting everything is crucial for tenants.

5: Can I stop paying rent until my home is repaired?

Nope! If you stop paying rent and you become at least 14 days in arrears, your landlord can begin the eviction process by issuing you with a notice to vacate – which can require you to leave the property within 14 days! So, even if the bathroom’s flooded, the window’s cracked or there’s a flock of birds taking up residence in your roof, always pay your rent!

6: When to go to VCAT (and, also: what is VCAT?)

First things first: is your repair urgent or non-urgent?

For all non-urgent repairs, contact your landlord in writing and with photos, wait, and then follow up. If you haven’t heard back from your landlord in 14 days, we recommend applying for a Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) inspector to come to your home and assess the non-urgent repair. From there, the CAV inspector can make a binding order to your landlord to repair that leaking tap.

For urgent repairs, contact your landlord in writing and with photos, wait, and then follow up. If you haven’t heard back from them in 48 hours, then it’s time to take the matter further!

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) is much like a court that hears and decides urgent disputes between tenants and landlords. The main difference between VCAT and a court, however, is you don’t need to hire a lawyer to represent you – you can speak for yourself at VCAT! In fact, most tenants represent themselves when attending VCAT.

The application fee for VCAT is $63.70, or free for Health Care Card holders; however, if you need to go to VCAT, we can apply to have this fee waived. We can also provide you on a detailed guide on how to represent yourself at VCAT.

Whether it’s small or big, a dripping kitchen tap or a flooded bathroom, knowing your renters rights is information every tenant should access to, right? If you’re stuck, and you need further help assessing what’s urgent or non-urgent, contacting your landlord or preparing your case for VCAT, we’re here to help!

Need something repaired? Our free legal service can help.

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