Rental Property Maintenance Laws Explained For Property Investors

Published 02 September 2021 by Team :Different

During the course of being a landlord, the odds are, you’re going to have to tend to maintenance and repair duties quite a few times.

But it can get a bit overwhelming trying to remember each state’s specific rules on your rights and responsibilities when it comes to rental property maintenance. So to help you avoid an unpleasant trip to the Tribunal, we’ll help you get acquainted with your state’s laws and how to meet them.

Whether it be something minor like fixing a leaking tap or having to repair broken appliances, chances are, things are always going to get broken or need repairing (unintentionally or otherwise).

And whether you’re a first-time buyer or multi-owner, it’s easy to get caught up in the complex web of rental property maintenance laws and legislation.

So, to take some burden off you, we’ve created a comprehensive guide to make sure you’re always in compliance when it comes to maintenance rules and regulations.

What are the minimum standards of a rental property?

When leasing properties in Australia, landlords have a duty to ensure their property meets the standards of their states’ Tenancies Act to make sure it’s fit to live in.

Basically what we’re saying is, it’s not exactly legal to rent out a dilapidated, run down property.

The minimum standards all rental properties must meet on or before the day the tenant moves in, include

  • Having adequate ventilation
  • Being structurally sound and weatherproof
  • Being supplied with electricity or gas
  • Having a water supply for hot and cold water (including adequate plumbing and drainage)

You know, the minimum things we’d all expect when living somewhere.

Standards can slightly differ from state to state, so it’s important to understand your responsibilities in your respective state.

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Breakdown of landlord responsibilities for property maintenance

‘A stitch in time saves nine’ as the old saying goes, and it applies to your property as much as it does your favourite clothing.

In other words, if you fix a problem early enough, there will be far fewer problems in the future – and a lot less expense and hassle on your part.

When it comes to house maintenance, there are two kinds of repairs:

  • Routine preventative repairs
  • Emergency repairs

Although the names are pretty self-explanatory, it’s important to understand the difference between the two, so we’ve broken it down further for you.

Routine preventative repairs

In short, routine preventative repairs are an essential part of rental property maintenance as it’s a great way for safety checks, regular cleaning, and repairs or general maintenance of the property.

Examples of preventative maintenance include:

  • Checking and testing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Checking for leaks or water damage
  • Checking bathrooms for any mould build-up
  • Assessing electrical appliances and wiring

These can all be done during routine property inspections where any potential damage can be prevented from getting any worse.

Subsequently, they are a great way to keep your financial costs down.

There’s a 50% rule that suggests maintenance costs may amount to approximately 50% of your rental property income. So, you can imagine how high that number will increase if preventative repairs aren’t carried out.

Emergency repairs

Emergency repairs on the other hand are a bit more pressing, as they are, yes, emergencies.

They typically happen when you least expect it, so if your rental property requires emergency maintenance, it is your tenants’ responsibility to inform you or your property manager as soon as possible.

This includes things like:

  • A gas leak
  • A burst pipe
  • Leaking or flooding
  • A fault or damage likely to injure a tenant or guest
  • A dangerous electrical fault

If the maintenance doesn’t immediately harm the tenant’s health or safety, all other repairs are considered routine repairs.

Keep in mind, before completing any repairs, you must provide adequate notice to enter the property. If you don’t – you can be sued by the tenant or fined by the state. So, it’s best you don’t find yourself in that position.

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Minimum entry notice by state

Reason for entry

NSW

QLD

VIC

- 7 days written notice (up to 4 times a year) for routine inspections
- 48 hours for repairs and maintenance

- 7 days written notice (up to 4 times a year) for routine inspections

- 24 hours for repairs and maintenance

- 7 days written notice (twice a year, but not for the first 3 months. Once a year if it’s a long term lease) for routine inspections

- 24 hours for repairs and maintenance

Landlords must not interfere with the tenant's peace or privacy (known in the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2018 as ‘quiet enjoyment) or they may land themselves in some serious legal trouble.

In New South Wales or Queensland, you may enter the premises without notice in the event of an emergency to tend to a repair.

But with that being said, Victoria is the one state where landlords are still required to give 24-hours’ notice to enter the property, even in an emergency.

How to avoid making a trip to the Tribunal?

Let’s say the air conditioning unit in your rental breaks down. Your tenant submits a maintenance request, but you don’t respond.

Although it’s not an emergency, your tenant is in their right to apply to the Tribunal, by requesting things such as:

  • All or part of the rent is paid to the Tribunal until repairs are done
  • Rent is reduced until repairs have been made
  • That the landlord compensates them for losses suffered because repairs were not completed

As the owner, you should always be diligent with all maintenance requests and repairs – even ones that aren’t emergencies. It should never get to the point where your property isn’t habitable or it’s affecting your tenants’ quality of life.

We aren’t saying to drop everything for a minor repair, but you do need to communicate with your tenant within a reasonable amount of time to let them know it will be seen too.

You also don’t want to end up in the same position as a Brisbane landlord who was fined $4,750 for making his tenants pay for maintenance and repairs and making them responsible for electricity and gas facilities.  

Remember: You will be in breach of your rental agreement if you fail to uphold your end of the deal.

If you find yourself in conflict with your tenant and you need help with mediation, things can be escalated to Consumer Affairs (VIC) or Fair Trading (NSW or QLD) to help landlords and tenants reach an agreement. Typically, when:

  • There is proof there’s been a breach in the tenancy agreement, or
  • The landlord and tenant have tried to fix the problem but were not successful

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Make sure to lodge the bond

In the unlikely event of your tenant not adhering to the rental agreement, or damaging your property, a bond will be your saving grace.

Although it’s not a legal requirement, 94% of landlords choose to collect a bond, and you probably should too.

As for how much you can collect in a bond, laws differ from state to state. 

How much bond can be taken

NSW

QLD

VIC

- Four weeks’ worth of rent for unfurnished properties.

- Six weeks for unfurnished (if rent is less than $250/week)

- No maximum limit if a property is furnished and rent is more than $250/week. Tribunal then decides.

- Four weeks’ worth of rent (if rent is less than $500/week).

- No maximum limit if rent is over $500/week.

- The Tribunal will decide the maximum bond if rent exceeds $500/week.

- weeks’ worth of rent (if rent is less than $350/week).

- No maximum limit if rent is over £350/week.

- The Tribunal will decide the maximum bond if rent exceeds £350/week.

When you do collect the bond, it then becomes a legal requirement to lodge the bond with your state’s Rental Bond Authority.

Two landlords were fined in Western Australia for failing to lodge the bond, a position you don’t want to find yourself in. As a breach of the Residential Tenancies Act, one was fined $10,000, and the other for $4,000.

How :Different helps landlords stay on top of compliance

Staying on top of compliance in your rental property is a mammoth task, especially when regulations are changing all the time.

And we know there’s a lot of jargon when it comes to rental property maintenance laws, which is a big reason as to why 53% of owners who come to us prefer to use a property manager due to compliance concerns.

Here at :Different, we have extensive resources and expertise, helping landlords stay up to date on laws and compliance, even if you have multiple properties in multiple states.

Remember that landlord responsibilities in NSW or QLD, may differ from landlord responsibilities in VIC.

Our complete range of services helps landlords keep their properties fully compliant with transparent and hassle-free maintenance which comes in handy when landlord obligations grow and continue to grow. For example:

  • The 2020 legislation in New South Wales introduced more complex responsibilities regarding new water efficiency standards and smoke alarms
  • Landlords in Queensland are under pressure to increase standards for smoke alarms, requiring major upgrades to most rentals by 2022
  • Victoria recently made significant changes to the Residential Tenancies Act which took effect in March 2021 – also regarding smoke alarm safety and compulsory safety checks for electrical and gas fittings

Ultimately, we keep you up to date and provide exactly what you need based on your state legislation and offer services for all of the above (electrical and gas fittings, water efficiency, and smoke alarms).  

Whether you do the maintenance yourself, use a property manager, or otherwise handle your real estate, keeping on top of maintenance and repairs is a legal, ethical, and financial responsibility for you as a landlord. It’s also a surefire way to keep your tenants happy, resulting in long-lasting, steady income.

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Disclaimer: The views, information, or opinions expressed in this blog post are for general information purposes only and should not be relied upon. We have not taken into account specific situations, facts or circumstances, and no part of this blog post constitutes personal financial, legal, or tax advice to you. You should seek tax advice from your accountant, specific to your situation.

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