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Property maintenance and repairs are a leading cause for disagreements and disputes between landlords and tenants (and not a lot of fun for the property manager in the middle).
Why? Because more often than not, there’s a fair degree of confusion on who is responsible for what.
The tenant says mowing the lawn is the landlords’ responsibility, but the landlord says it’s the tenants’ responsibility.
As a result, 25% of owners we spoke to said that rental property maintenance is one of their biggest challenges.
So, we’re going to try to break it down for you: who is responsible for the maintenance of your rental property?
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
What maintenance is the landlord responsible for?
As easy as it would be to hand over the keys and leave your tenant in charge of maintenance in your property, you have certain landlord maintenance responsibilities and duties you must carry out.
First and foremost, prior to the start of a new tenancy, you need to ensure your property complies with the minimum standards and health and safety laws. This includes making sure your property is:
- Structurally sound
- Safe and secure
- Fit to live in
- Fitted with smoke alarms that are in correct working order
Subsequently, you are responsible for making any structural or utility-related repairs. Because in doing so, you’re making sure your property continues to comply with all health and safety laws, while keeping it in a reasonable state of repair. For example:
- Repairing roofs, ceilings, flooring
- Electrical wiring
- Gas appliances
- Pipes and drains
While landlords are responsible for pipes and drains, if it is a clear fault of the tenant, such as, flushing napkins or sanitary products down the toilet and clogging the drains, the tenant is liable for repairs.
And when it comes to maintenance, although not a legal requirement, it’s in the best interest of both landlord and tenant to complete an Entry Condition Report following a thorough inspection of the property.
It provides a complete record of your property, including all contents and the state it’s in prior to the tenant moving in. This can later help identify different types of damage and who is responsible for repairs – without playing the blame game.
Besides, replacing an entire plumbing system can cost you up to $20,000, so by laying down the groundwork early on, you will hopefully avoid finding yourself $20,000 out of pocket.
What maintenance is the tenant responsible for?
Every tenant wants to live in a safe, well-maintained property, and although it’s a landlord’s responsibility to ensure this, effort is typically shared with the tenant too.
It probably goes without saying, but one of the most important maintenance responsibilities for the tenant is maintaining a clean home. Lack of cleanliness is not only a form of neglect but can result in unsanitary conditions that may negatively affect health or safety.
Along with this, there are numerous ways tenants can help reduce maintenance issues by being respectful of the property, for example:
- No intentional neglect or silly behaviour in the property
- Removing any rubbish build up to reduce the risk of a fire hazard
- Opening windows and doors frequently to prevent mould build up
Normal wear and tear in a property is to be expected, but if there is damage or neglect to the property by the tenant, they are responsible.
Similarly, one of the simplest responsibilities for a tenant is to report any maintenance issues to the landlord or property manager as soon as possible, and organise property maintenance services. If they do not, they may be held liable for further damage for failing to report issues as soon as they were discovered.
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Is outdoor maintenance a tenant or landlord responsibility?
When determining who is responsible for repairs and maintenance of the premises, outdoor maintenance tends to be overlooked.
Generally, the tenancy agreement states different types of maintenance and who is responsible, however not all agreements address outdoor maintenance responsibility, so it can be quite a grey area.
Lawn and garden maintenance
Gardens can be a bit of a headache for landlords, especially if it’s not maintained and you later discover the weeds are ten feet high.
And more often than not, there does tend to be some uncertainty on who is responsible for it.
So, let’s get into the weeds of it - are tenants responsible for garden maintenance, or is it the landlord’s responsibility for maintenance?
Unless the tenancy agreement says otherwise, tenants are usually responsible for:
- Mowing and edging the lawns
- Pruning large bushes
Basically, tenants are in charge of ensuring the garden is maintained to the same degree it was when they moved in.
On the flip side, landlords are also somewhat responsible.
Landlords are responsible for things, such as;
- Providing hoses and sprinklers
- Maintaining the reticulation system
- Cleaning gutters and tree lopping
- Cutting back overhanging branches (such as those near power lines)
It’s easy to see how uncertainty may arise. For example, at what point does a tree need lopping instead of pruning?
To achieve a proper lawn and garden care, the responsibilities and expectations of both the landlord and tenant need to be clearly laid out, early on in the rental agreement, to avoid any future disagreements.
Hiring a gardener
If your tenant is unable to carry out their garden maintenance responsibilities, due to disabilities or other factors, you can look into installing an irrigation system or hiring a gardener.
A gardener can get quite pricey if maintenance isn’t kept on top of it, so it’s important to factor that in. For example:
- NSW can range from $60/hr to $500/hr
- QLD can range from $50/hr to $300/hr
- VIC can range from $45 to $300/hr
So to avoid these costs, if your tenant is unable to carry out their duties, it’s important to communicate with them early on to see how viable it is to hire a gardener, or otherwise invest in some low-cost garden ideas.
The closer we get to summer; pool maintenance becomes more of a priority as we get ready for the swimming season.
Similarly to garden maintenance, responsibilities for pool maintenance are generally split between landlord and tenant.
To start off with, prior to tenant move-in, the landlord is responsible for:
- Making sure the water is clean
- Making sure the water is chemically balanced
- Ensuring the pool and equipment have been serviced
- Ensure the pool has been inspected by an accredited and licensed pool safety inspector and issued with a pool safety certificate
Whereas on the other hand, the tenant is responsible for
- Day-to-day maintenance and cleaning
- Cleaning the filter
- Maintaining the chemical balance of the water (including buying pool chemicals)
- Removing leaves to stop the drains from blocking
If the pool starts to discolour due to unbalanced chemical levels, it’s the tenant’s responsibility to fix this.
However, if the pump is broken and it’s not being seen to (by the landlord) in a timely manner, then the landlord is responsible.
Most owners want a hassle free approach to property management, but when it comes to maintenance, understanding their responsibilities is crucial because of legal and financial backlash. From a tenants perspective it can result in eviction, financial strain and poor rental history.
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How to make it easy for your tenant to report maintenance issues
As much of a logistical headache maintenance and repairs are for you as a landlord, they are equally as stressful for your tenants.
A staggering 68% of Australians who rent are concerned that a request for repairs could mean a rent increase and 44% are concerned that it could get them evicted from their homes, so they are frequently left undealt with.
Having a healthy landlord-tenant relationship can contribute to the success of your property, because the happier your tenants are, the longer they will stay, and the happier you will be as a result.
Even if the maintenance issue can’t be fixed right away, tenants appreciate acknowledgement and responsiveness to let them know something will be done about it.
Here at :Different, reporting maintenance issues is made a breeze with our owners app and tenants app, where issues can be reported and seen too quickly while being able to track the status of the repair at the same time.
Better yet, 90% of messages are answered within 12 hours, giving both landlords and tenants constant peace of mind.
The bottom line is, while landlords are generally responsible for the majority of repairs, any accidental, malicious, or deliberate damage by the tenant or failure to report any issues is the tenant’s responsibility.
When it comes to rental property maintenance, duties and responsibilities should be clearly outlined in the tenancy agreement prior to tenant move in.
If there are any disputes as to who is responsible, the outcome will usually be dictated by what’s in the tenancy agreement - so it’s vital you have clauses that clearly state what the tenant is responsible for and vice versa.
If there is nothing about gardens or pools in the tenancy agreement, you will not be able to claim for damages and it will be your responsibility.
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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.