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Tenant vs Landlord responsibilities

By Emma Smith

Squabbling with your partner over whose turn it is to take out the garbage is one thing. But when it comes to Tenant vs Landlord responsibilities, unfortunately, things can be a little less cut and dry. In fact, one of the most common tribunal disputes is about responsibilities of both parties for utility payments. Since it appears to be such a widespread issue, below are a few ideas you can do to avoid a potentially messy rental situation.

Utility Bills
This can be a grey area. Firstly, you should discuss with your property manger the legal obligations of what you can and can’t charge the tenant. There are many considerations which affect these responsibilities, including dwelling type and council laws. Also, landlord responsibilities can depend on the set up of the property in relation to metering (water is most common).
For example, in Victoria you can only charge the tenant for the physical water usage if your investment property is individually metered. Another is properties with bottled gas, a landlord is responsible to pay for the hire of the bottles, yet the tenant pays for the gas that fills them up.

Repairs and Maintenance
As an investment property owner, landlords must accept that things need fixing or replacing from time to time. And as such, it’s important to factor these costs into your budget. There are two types of repairs, which according to legislation, are the landlord’s responsibility: routine (non urgent) repairs, and urgent repairs. Urgent repairs require the landlord or property manager to act immediately, and can include:

.   a burst water service
.   a blocked or broken toilet system
.   a serious roof leak
.   a gas leak
.   a dangerous electrical fault
.   flooding or serious flood damage
.   serious storm or fire damage
.   a failure or breakdown of an essential service or appliance provided for hot water, water, cooking, heating and laundering
.   a failure or breakdown of the gas, electricity or water supply
.   any fault or damage in the premises that makes the premises unsafe
.   a serious fault in a lift or staircase

All other repairs are classed as non urgent or routine, such as loose fixtures or tired or faulty garage remotes. If a landlord doesn’t attend to urgent repairs in an appropriate time frame, it may result in compensation awarded to the tenant for failure to provide functional amenities that were included in the lease agreement. Ignoring landlord responsibilities could end up costing more in compensation that the initial cost of repairs, so it’s worthwhile getting them done efficiently and in a timely manner. Any other repairs that are at fault of the tenant are the tenant’s responsibility to fix and pay for.

Maintenance Inside
The delegation of internal property maintenance is pretty straightforward. During a tenancy, landlord responsibilities include keeping the premises in a reasonable state of repair and in compliance with building, health and safety laws. They are responsible for plumbing, stove and oven, and air-conditioner, unless the tenant has intentionally or neglectfully damaged them.

Maintenance Outside
There are a number of factors which determine external property maintenance responsibilities. Basically, it’s the tenant’s job to care for the garden. This includes weeding, pruning and keeping the lawn healthy and tidy. The landlord or property manager must be informed if the tenant notices a water leak or obvious damage to gutters etc otherwise the tenant could be liable for costs. Unless the tenancy agreement states otherwise, landlord responsibilities include tree lopping, cutting back overhanging branches or high hedges, maintaining firebreaks and garden reticulation systems. If the property has a pool or spa, the tenant must keep it clean and properly treated, while it’s the landlord’s job to ensure that it is secure, child safe and complies with pool safety regulations. Before the tenant moves in, the landlord should make sure the pool water is clean and chemically balanced, and the equipment is fully functional.

Emergency Information
The tenancy agreement should include information about what to do in an emergency. It should also provide contact details for either the landlord or property manager, and how to contact them or tradespeople after hours.
The best way to avoid any confusion is to thoroughly read the contract. Responsibilities can change depending on the property, so it’s important not to assume all lease agreements are the same. But if there is ever an uncertainty, it’s always best to check with the property manager first.

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