The information in this Fact Sheet is not legal advice. It is intended as a general guide only. It applies only to legislation current in the state of Victoria, Australia. For information regarding a specific tenancy problem, phone the Tenants Union Advice Line on (03) 9416 2577. The Tenants Union accepts no responsibility for actions based on this information, nor for actions based on electronic translations of this information.
Landlords have a duty under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 to ensure that the premises they rent out are in a reasonably clean condition at the start of the tenancy, and that they maintain the premises in good repair. This also applies to common areas owned or controlled by the landlord.
If your home needs repairs, you should follow the procedures set out in the Act. The Act provides two different repairs procedures; one for urgent repairs and one for general repairs.
The landlord must carry out urgent repairs immediately. When you start your tenancy, the landlord or their agent must provide you with a telephone number that you can use in case of urgent repairs.
Urgent repairs are specifically defined under the Act as:
a burst water service
a blocked or broken toilet
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 any essential service or appliance provided for hot water, water, cooking, heating or doing laundry
a failure or breakdown in any appliance or fitting supplied by the landlord that will result in a substantial amount of water being wasted
a serious fault in a lift or staircase
any fault or damage that makes the premises unsafe or not secure
If you need urgent repairs, you don't have to serve a written notice on the landlord but you must attempt to contact the landlord or agent to fix the problem before you arrange for the repairs to be done yourself. Keep a record of what steps you took to get the landlord or agent to carry out the repairs (eg a list of phone calls, times and dates).
If you can't reach the landlord or agent or they fail to respond immediately,you can make your own arrangements to have the repairs done-up to the cost of$1000. Serve the landlord with a Notice to Landlord, describing what repairs were done and how much they cost. Attach a copy of the receipt or invoice. The landlord must repay you within 14 days of receiving the notice. Keep in mind that if you arrange for urgent repairs to be done and the cost is more than$1000, the landlord is only liable for up to $1000.
Do not withhold your rent from the landlord or use your rent money to carry out repairs. If you get 14 days behind in your rent, the landlord can serve you with a 14-day Notice to Vacate.
If you can't afford to pay for urgent repairs yourself or if the repairs will cost more than $1000, you can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for an order that the landlord carry out the repairs. The Tribunal must hear applications for urgent repairs within 2 business days. See the Victorian Civil & Administrative Tribunal Fact Sheet for more information, or contact the Tenants Union or another tenant advice service.
You can ask the Tribunal to allow you to pay your Rent into the Rent Special Account, which is operated by the Tribunal. This means that instead of paying rent to the landlord, you pay your rent to the Tribunal. It allows you to keep paying rent so you don't fall into arrears but the landlord can't access your money until the repairs are completed.
If a repair doesn't fit into one of the categories defined as 'urgent', you should not arrange to have it done yourself unless the landlord has agreed to pay for it in writing.
For all non-urgent repairs, you should use the Notice to Landlord form,listing the repairs that need to be done and stating that you require them to be done within 14 days or you will seek compensation (see Compensation below).
Make sure that the form is addressed to the landlord and not the estate agent, although it can be sent to the landlord care of the agent's address. (If you are a public tenant, your landlord is the Director of Housing.) Give a copy to the landlord or agent in person, or send it by certified or registered mail.Make sure you keep a copy.
If the landlord hasn't carried out the repairs within 14 days of receiving the notice, or hasn't done the repairs to a satisfactory standard, you should write to Consumer Affairs Victoria to request an inspection (see Sample letter provided below).
An inspector will contact you to arrange a time to inspect the property. They may also contact the landlord or agent and try to negotiate for the repairs to be done. The inspector will then write a report describing the repairs needed and provide you with a copy.
Once you have a copy of the report, you can apply to the Tribunal for a hearing. You must apply within 60 days (previously 28 days) of receiving the report. However, if you don't receive a copy of the report within 90 days, you can apply to the Tribunal without it. Attach a copy of your Notice to Landlord and the inspector's report to your application. The Tribunal can order the landlord to carry out the repairs and order that you be able to pay your rent into the Rent Special Account.
See the Victorian Civil & Administrative Tribunal Fact Sheet for more information or contact the Tenants Union or another tenant advice service.
You may be entitled to compensation if you suffer inconvenience and/or loss or damage to your goods because:
the landlord failed to carry out urgent repairs immediately
the landlord failed to carry out general repairs within 14 days
the landlord was in breach of their duty to maintain the premises in good repair
See the Claiming Compensation Fact Sheet for more information.
Damage by tenants
If repairs are needed because you or someone you invited to your home caused damage, you may have to pay for the repairs to be done and you may have to organise them yourself. The landlord or agent can serve you with a Breach of Duty notice requiring you to repair the damage within 14 days. If you don't,they can organise for the repairs to be done and send you a further notice stating how much the repairs cost and that you are required to pay.
If you still don't pay, the landlord or agent can apply to the Tribunal for an order that you pay. They must prove that you are responsible for the damage and you can attend the Tribunal hearing to present your side of the story. Until the landlord gets an order from the Tribunal that you must pay, you are not liable to pay for repairs. If you receive a notice saying you must pay for repairs, contact the Tenants Union or another tenant advice service.
Sample letter to Consumer Affairs Victoria
(your telephone number)
The Director Consumer Affairs Victoria
GPO Box 123A
Dear Sir or Madam,
REQUEST FOR INSPECTION OF RENTED PREMISES AND REPORT REGARDING REPAIRS
Landlord: (name and address of the offending landlord)
Premises: (address of the rented property)
On (insert date) I notified my landlord that certain non-urgent repairs are needed. I enclose a copy of the notice I sent to the landlord.
I request that you investigate the landlord's failure to carry out the repairs. I can be contacted on the telephone number provided above, on the following days and times:
(list of suitable days)
(list of suitable times)
For more information contact the Tenants Union Advice Line on (03) 9416 2577.