How you can get your landlord to repair your home during COVID-19

By Nico Lim | Wed 9th June '21

As a tenant, getting repairs done can be tricky - especially during a pandemic! Here’s what you need to know about handling rental repairs during the lockdown in Victoria.

The Residential Tenancies Act divides repairs into urgent and non-urgent. You should seek advice about whether a repair is urgent or non-urgent as the procedures are different and are affected differently by lockdown rules.

Update from 24.10.20 - Tradespeople can now do non-urgent repairs provided they have a “Covid-safe” workplan. As a tenant, you can request non-urgent repairs to be done, but there may be a backlog of jobs, so may need to be patient.

Urgent repairs during COVID-19 lockdown

  • Urgent repairs can and must be performed during Victoria’s Coronavirus lockdown.
  • You can request urgent repairs in writing. Give the landlord (via their agent) 2 days to respond. If you need help with this letter, click here – our free online legal service is happy to help!
  • Urgent repairs should be completed immediately. Some leases allow you to contact a tradesperson directly and spend up to an authorised amount. You should read your lease and seek advice before engaging a tradesperson yourself.

  • If your landlord doesn’t respond to a request for urgent repairs, you can also apply to VCAT (“the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal”). VCAT must list your application within 2 business days of receiving it. They will order the landlord to undertake the repairs.
  • Tradespeople can come to your property during lockdown to undertake urgent work.
  • VCAT are hearing urgent cases (only) during the COVID lockdown.

Non-urgent repairs during COVID-19 lockdown

  • We strongly advise you not to try to fix non-urgent matters yourself despite the frustrations you might have with the current situation – you may be liable for any damage you do to the property.

  • With non-urgent repairs, the ordinary rule is a landlord has 14 days from being given notice to undertake repairs. We can help write to your landlord/agent on your behalf.

  • Once the 14 days have expired, you can contact Consumer Affairs (CAV) to report on the non-urgent repairs. They will take photos and recommend action – this is very useful if the landlord remains reluctant to do the repairs. After this, an application can then be made to VCAT. (However, VCAT are not hearing non-urgent cases at the moment due to the pandemic. This includes non-urgent repairs matters.)

  • Some patience and understanding is needed in regard to non-urgent repairs at the moment. When restrictions are lifted, the ordinary rules will apply, but there are likely to be delays in getting tradespeople and having matters listed at VCAT due to the backlog of cases.

And remember:

  • A landlord’s failure to repair is not grounds to break a lease.

  • Tenants can be compensated for a landlord’s failure to repair but should seek advice about this. Compensation payments are usually below what people expect.

  • Knowing your repairs rights as a tenant can make a world of difference. For some top tips on tenancy repairs rights, click here.

Need something repaired? Our free legal service can help.