Rental law changes - Repair orders and more

24 Oct 2022

In this episode, we’ll be specifically focusing on the tenancy law changes around the introduction of repair orders and other amendments.

Transcript

Host – Belinda Heit – Communication and Education – RTA  

Guest – Taylor Dean – Housing and Legislation Implementation – RTA 

Host: Welcome to the Talking Tenancies podcast. Brought to you by the Residential Tenancies Authority, I'm your host, Belinda Heit. Join me as we explore everything you need to know about renting in Queensland with experts from the RTA and industry. We're here to help make renting work for everyone. 

Queensland tenancy laws are changing from 1 October 2022. The new laws provide tenants, property managers and owners with a greater number of reasons to end a tenancy; introduces a framework for negotiating renting with pets; repair orders; as well as a few other amendments. 

In this episode, we will be specifically focusing on the tenancy law changes around the introduction of repair orders and other amendments. Today's expert from the RTA is Taylor Dean, welcome Taylor.  

Guest: Hello.  

Host: Now can you tell us about your role at the RTA? 

Guest: Yeah, absolutely. So I'm a Quality and Training Officer at the RTA. I've worked in our Customer Experience team in the call centre and dispute resolution services. I regularly train RTA staff in tenancy legislation and RTA processes. I am also a part of the project team responsible for the implementation of new tenancy laws to ensure our staff are well-informed on the updated legislation to help our customers. 

Host: Excellent. Now, as we know, Queensland tenancy laws have changed from 1 October 2022 and we are focusing today on the introduction of repair orders, changes to emergency repairs, and other amendments. First and foremost, how should a tenant go about getting repairs done? 

Guest: Well, the first step should be to identify the issue and notify the property manager or owner about the issue and need for repairs, and this could be done by way of a phone call or an e-mail. If the initial discussion doesn't resolve the issue, you may want to formalise the discussion by issuing a breach notice.  

The next step would be for the property owner or manager to organise a trades person and address the repairs in a timely manner. Remember, they would need to access the rental property—so this is where good communication between parties and following the entry rules under the legislation is absolutely essential. 

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Host: Absolutely. So, if that is how we should have repairs addressed, what is a repair order and how does that help? 

Guest: So, a repair order provides an additional pathway for tenants to have unactioned repairs in the rental property addressed. Say, for example, if a tenant has notified their property owner or manager of a necessary repair, and formalised it by issuing a breach notice, but the repair still hasn't been addressed in a reasonable timeframe, the tenant then has the option to apply for a repair order from the Tribunal to make sure that the property owner or manager undertakes the repairs within a specific time frame. 

A repair order from the Tribunal may outline things like: what is or isn't to be repaired; a due date by which the repairs should be carried out; who's to arrange for the repairs to be completed; and other details that the Tribunal considers relevant. The repair order is attached to the rental property, not a tenancy, so even if the tenants change or there is a new tenancy agreement in place at the rental property, the repair order will still remain until it is complied with. The property owner or manager will have the responsibility to disclose any applicable repair orders to new tenants, and the same goes for if the property is sold to a new owner. 

Tenants can apply for a repair order for both routine and emergency repairs that are unactioned. Slightly different processes apply, but you can refer to our repair orders fact sheet available on the RTA website for more information. 

Host: So, help me out here, Taylor. To refresh our knowledge, can you briefly tell us what an emergency repair is and what a routine repair is

Guest: Yes, absolutely. So, Queensland tenancy laws clearly outline what is considered an emergency repair. The list is quite extensive, but mostly based on maintaining the safety and security of the property and the occupants. I'll give you a few examples. An emergency repair could be for a burst water service or serious water leak; a serious roof leak; a gas leak or a dangerous electrical fault; a breakdown in an essential service or appliance for hot water, cooking and heating; a fault or damage that makes the premises unsafe, insecure, or is likely to injure a person; or a serious storm, fire, or impact damage. I would encourage you to visit our website to see a full list of what is considered an emergency repair under tenancy laws.  

Now anything else that is not on that list or an emergency repair under the legislation would be a routine repair. Usually these are more minor repairs like a dripping tap; a non-functioning stove top element; or a loose cupboard hinge. Remember, safety and security a person living in the rental property should always be the priority. 

Host: So, what happens if the repair order is not complied with? 

Guest: The RTA will be aware of repair orders that are issued by the Tribunal, including related time extensions granted to the property owner or manager to carry out the repairs and comply with the order. Penalty provisions apply for non-compliance of a repair order. 

Host: So, as a tenant, what are the other amendments that tenants, property owners and managers should be aware of? 

Guest: One of the main changes involves the entry condition report, a very important document at the start of the tenancy. This report records the condition of the rental property and is relied upon by both the tenant and owner or managing agent if there is a dispute at the end of the tenancy regarding the property’s condition. Prior to the 1st of October 2022, tenants had three days to return a signed copy of the entry condition report at the start of the tenancy. However, as of the 1st of October 2022, with the new changes, the tenant will have seven days to return the entry condition report.  

Other changes relate to repairs and includes that the property owner or manager must include the name and contact details of a nominated repairer on the tenancy agreement. This is so that the tenant knows who to contact in the case of an emergency repair. The change of emergency repair costs that the tenant can authorise and seek reimbursement was equivalent to two weeks rent. However, as of the 1st of October 2022, this is increased to up to four weeks rent. This is if the tenant is unable to contact the owner or managing agent or the nominated repair person on the agreement. 

Also, for property managers, there is a new section that allows a managing agent to authorise emergency repairs costs up to the equivalent of four weeks rent on behalf of the owner/client and have it paid from the rent collected before funds are dispersed to the owner. The property owner or manager will also need to disclose on the tenancy agreement if there is a repair order that is outstanding. 

Host: So, with the introduction of repair orders and the other amendments around repairs, what are the key points to keep in mind? 

Guest: The new laws on repair orders cover emergency repairs and routine repairs. The RTA recommends both tenants and property managers or owners keep lines of communication open with each other when it comes to repairs and maintenance, and ensure they are dealt with in a timely manner. There is a process regarding repair orders and our repair orders fact sheet on the RTA website has more information to help you understand this process. It's also important to know and learn your updated tenancy rights and responsibilities with the other amendments, included changes to the timeframe on the return of the entry condition report, as well as emergency repairs. 

Host: So, what information will be available to find around repairs and repair orders on the RTA website? 

Guest: Well, we've got a short animated video that talks about these changes on repairs, as well as a webinar and quick guides with more detail to help you gain a better understanding. We also have a repair orders fact sheet that provides details on what we spoke about today.  

Our website also has information on what routine and emergency repairs are under the law and how you should go about getting them addressed, so I definitely encourage you to take some time to read through. 

Host: Wow, yes, we have so much more information on our website. So jump on rta.qld.gov.au and thanks Taylor for helping us to get a better understanding around the new repair orders that have been introduced and the other amendments on repairs that have taken effect from 1 October 2022. 

Thank you for listening to the Talking Tenancies podcast. For more information about the Residential Tenancies Authority, visit rta.qld.gov.au. 

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