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Tenants: Can you stop paying rent if repairs aren’t done?
There are steps tenants can take in Tasmania’s capital, Hobart, if a landlord fails to make requested repairs to their rental. But to stop paying rent is not one of them. That is a definite no-no. Baxton Property Management outlines the ways you can seek recourse without making matters worse for yourself.
It is a difficult situation to be in as a tenant, especially if you are happy in the rental and would like to stay there. You know that with Hobart’s current low vacancy rate it won’t be easy to find another rental, and specially one as nice as the one you’re in.
You may also be scared your landlord will retaliate if you push the issue by using eviction, or blacklisting on the National Tenancy Database. Surveys suggest at least half of Australia’s large population of tenants fear it enough to feel repairs aren’t worth the risk. Yet you don’t have to be concerned about blacklisting if you haven’t fallen into arrears on your rent, or breached the tenancy agreement. And in Tasmania, eviction without good reason is not possible on either a fixed term or periodic lease.
Non-urgent repairs are the ones most likely to end in dispute. That’s because they may be inconvenient for tenants, but don’t pose a significant threat to them or the building. The owner may not see them as being as important as tenants do, and therefore not be in a rush to ensure repairs are done.
Emergency repairs are those that cause damage to the property which could become worse and possibly even dangerous, if they aren’t repaired immediately. Urgent ones involve problems that cause essential services like heating, water supply or grey water removal, power or sewerage to stop functioning Or they might affect the use of appliances involved in using services, such as stoves and ovens.
Immediate action is expected in both these categories and should the landlord be unavailable, or fail to respond, you are entitled to get repairs done yourself to a point that restores function. You should preferably use a repairer nominated by the owner. You can then claim the cost of these repairs, which should be repaid within 14 days, or form the basis of another type of dispute.
Options if non-urgent repairs aren’t done
If you didn’t do the damage yourself, you should report the need for repair in writing to the owner or property manager within 7 days of noticing it, and the repairs should be done within 28 days of your notice.
Paying rent into a special account: While you are not legally allowed to stop paying rent, you may, through the Tenancy Tribunal in your state, be given permission to pay your rent into a special account until the repairs are done, or the dispute over them is resolved. This covers you from being considered to be in arrears and therefore breaching the tenancy agreement, and might provide the owner with the incentive necessary to complete the repairs.
Order to carry out repairs: A tenant can apply to the Residential Tenancy Commissioner for an order instructing the owner to do the repairs.
Notice to terminate: If the dispute over repairs cannot be resolved, you may have to consider issuing a notice to terminate. This would be on the grounds that the owner has breached the tenancy agreement by not fulfilling the obligation to maintain the property that’s included in the 1997 Residential Tenancy Act.
Before this notice can be served, the correct process has to have been followed of notifying the owner of the need for the repairs, and giving the owner or the agent the appropriate lead time of 28 days for carrying out the repairs.
Unlike notices to terminate served for other reasons, Tasmanian tenancy laws take those for failure to conduct repairs very seriously. The 14 days given to owners to rectify other issues and make the notice to terminate invalid, does not apply when it revolves around failure to do repairs. However, the tenant must remain in residence until the 14 day notice period stated in the notice is up, or risk carrying extra rent and other costs.
Baxton Property Management in Hobart strives to avoid or settle disputes between its investment property clients, and the tenants who occupy their properties. They also, as part of their property management service, are experienced in handling damage or service functionality reports and repairs to the satisfaction of both parties involved. Find out more about their services on their website.
- Maintenance: Who’s responsible?
- Try it yourself, common maintenance quick fixes
- The importance of your Property Condition Report
We hope you enjoyed this article
The information contained in this article is based on the authors opinion only and is of a general nature which is not indicative of future results or events and does not consider your personal situation or particular needs. Professional advice should always be sought relevant to your circumstances.
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