Host: Belinda Heit – Communication and Education – RTA
Guest: Kimberley Galumalemana – Learning and Organisational Development – 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.
A managing party is responsible for ensuring the property is fit to live in and in a good state of repair. A tenant is responsible for notifying their managing party in a timely manner if repairs are needed. Today's expert from the RTA is Kimberley Galumalemana, Senior Quality and Training Officer in Learning and Organisational Development, but she's also acting with us at the moment in Communication and Education. Welcome, Kimmy!
Guest: Oh, thank you. I'm very excited.
Host: Thanks for joining us. Now can you tell us about your role at the RTA and what you're responsible for?
Guest: So my role at the RTA is as a Senior Quality and Training Officer, so I work with the frontline staff. We work on, essentially, bettering their skills, improving their skills, so that they can provide the best possible customer experience.
Host: Yes, and you're also the voice of our webinars currently.
Guest: I am!
Host: So if you've checked any of those out, jump on our website and you'll be able to see Kimmy at her finest. Now, Kimmy, with tenants’ obligations around repairs, today we're going to talk about everything to do with your rights on repairs. So, when we look at a tenant’s obligations around maintaining a property, what are they?
Guest: Well, essentially the tenant's obligation is to keep the property clean. So the tenant must not also maliciously damage the property or allow someone else to maliciously damage the premises. A tenant has an obligation to report any damage as soon as they're aware of it. Now, this includes any damage caused by the tenants themselves. Now the owner or managing party should arrange the repair, but it is important to understand that the tenant may be asked to compensate the owner for that damage.
If there's any unnecessary delays in the notification with regards to the damage, or the damage is beyond repair, or will cost more as a result of the delay, the tenant may also be liable for those costs. We do recommend that tenants have their own contents insurance.
Host: Absolutely. So, what are the property manager or owner's obligations around maintaining a property?
Guest: OK. So just like the tenant, the owner or the landlord has their obligations generally as well. So the landlord must comply with all health and safety laws and ensure their property is safe, livable and in a good state of repair. The landlord should fix all emergency repairs as soon as possible, and all routine repairs within a reasonable timeframe. Now if there is an emergency repair, the landlord should also reimburse the tenant for money the tenant may spend on those repairs, but there are particular conditions around that. So, it's really important that everybody does their research and understands what the legislation states with relation to emergency repairs.
Now, while it's not mandatory, it is a good idea for landlords to maybe show or give instructions to the tenant about how to deal with the management of the property. So, for example, you know, ensuring the tenant knows how to turn off the fuse box, or the gas, or how to work out the hot water system. These are, as I said, a guide. And it just helps in those emergency type situations as well.
Host: Yeah, and that's really handy to know, Kimmy, because I know I've been in a situation where I had a pipe burst in a bathroom and it started to flood and luckily I knew where the water was and how to turn it off, and I think that actually saved a lot of damage to that property. So, I think just being aware of where those essential services are is really critical. So, when it comes to repairs, there's two kinds. So, we have routine and emergency. Let's start with routine repairs. What is defined as routine repairs and how do we go about arranging them?
Guest: OK. So certainly it's always best to inform the property manager or owner of the required repairs in writing, and come to an agreement with them on what would be a reasonable time frame to fix the repair. So, you know, a shout out to say, “Hey look I've noticed this, this that and the other, this is impacting me in this way. When do you think this could be rectified?” So having those conversations and determining the impact and the timeframe it may take. Now timeframes for repairs does vary depending on the circumstances, so this could be even just the availability of tradespeople, we know air conditioning units, you know, are in demand in summer and it's very difficult. So, the availability of tradespeople is something that comes into play there and the type of repairs needed.
The tenant should not ever carry out repairs without written permission. That's really, really important. You know, their safety is paramount and the property manager owner must carry out repairs, as we said, within a reasonable timeframe and comply with the entry rules, of course, entry is a big one as well.
Host: Yeah, so you're mentioning a lot there about reasonable timeframes. What if the managing party doesn't carry out repairs within a reasonable timeframe? What can the tenant do?
Guest: Yeah look, you know, we say this so much here at the RTA. The first step is always self-resolution. So we say first, have that conversation. So, you know, come back to that conversation and say, “Hey look, it appears that the timeframe that I was expecting, you know, hasn't been met. Is there something, you know, that I that I need to know in terms of has there been a hold-up with the tradespeople?” or what have you. So really finding out why the agent hasn't been able to carry out those repairs and that will guide your conversations further. So, first step, always self-resolution, making sure you've spoken to the other party and explained how you're feeling.
Now if, as a tenant, you can't negotiate a reasonable timeframe for the repair, and sometimes it may be that you know you see things differently and that's OK and self-resolution has failed, you could send them a notice to remedy breach. Now this is giving them, the managing party, seven days to fix the issue. So, you're more so formalising that. And you're following the legislation, the way that you should go about things under the legislation.
You could also apply to dispute resolution through the RTA by filling out a tenancy dispute resolution request form. So, you might issue the notice to remedy breach and then as it gets closer to that timeframe you may decide then, if you feel that that breach isn't going to be remedied, then you contact the RTA and complete that dispute request form.
Now the RTA does offer this free dispute resolution service, which is where tenants and properties or managing owners may want to come together with an independent third party, impartial third party, when they can't self-resolve a disagreement over the repair. So examples of when you might want to use the dispute resolution service could be if a routine repair is not made within that timeframe, that reasonable time frame, or what you deemed to be reasonable, because reasonable isn't defined under the Act—that might be a reason why you might come through to dispute resolution.
It could be that, you know, the tenant may be seeking reimbursement for issues or relating to the repair. So, the tenant may not have been reimbursed for an emergency repair, or there’s a disagreement around compensation. It may also be a disagreement we mentioned earlier about damage and the cause of damage and the tenants’ obligations. There may also be a disagreement over who should actually pay for the repair as well.
Host: Umm, right. So, if we look at the other side of the coin and look at emergencies, then what is defined as an emergency repair?
Guest: OK, so this is actually defined in the Act, which is great, we know it’s there, we can see it. So, examples of emergency repairs include a burst water pipe or a serious leak. You said yourself, you've actually had this happen to you. Blocked toilet or broken toilet, a serious roof leak, so it goes into specifics. A serious roof leak, gas leak, dangerous electrical fault, serious storm, fire, impact of flood or damage, a failure or breakdown of the gas, electricity, water supply, or of any essential appliance on the property used for hot water, cooking, or heating. A fault or damage that makes the property unsafe or insecure. Or a serious fault in a staircase, lift or other common area of the property that unduly inconveniences the tenant in gaining access to or using that actual property.
Host: Yeah, so those would be total emergencies in those cases. So how can a tenant arrange for an emergency repair to be done?
Guest: So, all of these conversations really should be had up front. And a lot of this information is captured on the tenancy agreement. So that's first of all, you know, really looking and checking in back on what was discussed in the beginning of the tenancy is important, but realistically the tenant should be contacting the property manager or owner. You know, if it's within business hours or what have you, contacting them. Or alternatively, the nominated repairer as listed on that tenancy agreement—contact them about the problem. It's a good idea also to put the request or the issue in writing just so you've got it there. We know that email trails and notifications are always good to have them there if you're needing to draw on those again.
Host: Yeah. So what if the nominated repairer that the agent or managing party has nominated is not available and I can't get a hold of the property manager owner? What do I do then?
Guest: Certainly, you know, common sense needs to prevail here. It's called an emergency for a reason. If you believe that it really does constitute an emergency repair, it's unsafe, you're being unduly inconvenienced in your access to the property, you know, certainly to mitigating loss. So, we all have an obligation like you said earlier, if you didn't switch off the water main, the damage could have been a lot higher for the owner and the inconvenience to the tenant if there were major repairs that would have been needed to be made at the property. So certainly, if you can't get hold of them, it is an option to hold off taking action until you have the authority to speak to somebody. If you can't get in contact with them, you can make the repair yourself, so you could use a different trades person. If you can't get in contact with the nominated repairer, you could use a tradesperson. And this is in the instance where you believe that the repairs or the Band-Aid fix is going to cost less than two weeks rent. That's really important, that is outlined there in the legislation.
So, in this case, the tenant may have to pay for the repairs and then keep the receipts, so they can then be reimbursed. And the landlord must reimburse, I think we mentioned this earlier, they must reimburse the tenant for emergency repairs within seven days.
Host: Right, OK, cool. So, if we look at another scenario. Say I'm a property manager or owner, if my tenant has asked for a repair, what do I need to do to notify them that a trades person is coming over?
Guest: Once again, it's really important to have these conversations up front and talk about, you know, what has the tenant got going on? Are they going to be home? You know, those types of things. Entry can be mutual, so you can mutually agree on a time that's not specified in the legislation. So, if it's a routine repair, speak to the tenants and agree on a suitable time for the trades person to come in and fix. So of course, if you can't get in contact with them, you may need to issue that entry notice and you should always put things in writing anyway. Confirm the names and the details of the tradesperson with the tenant, especially if it's a new trades person that you're using. Definitely confirming with them, “I have Joe from ABC coming today.” Just so they're aware and that's important for the tenant's security within the home. And if it's a routine repair, there are different entry timeframes. Generally, it's 24 hours for routine inspections, but be sure to check the legislation. Both sides, as I said, should always stay in communication. And if things change, letting each other know if the tradesperson doesn't arrive, or if for some reason the tradesperson can't make it, and you're aware of that as the owner or the managing party, letting the tenant know in case they were sticking around for that entry to occur as well.
Host: Yeah, there's nothing worse, is there? You're waiting for a tradie and they don't show up.
Guest: Yeah, absolutely. So really keeping those communications lines open and, if you are the tenant in that, letting the agent because the agent may not be aware and therefore the repair has not been rectified.
Host: Yeah, exactly. So, what if the damage to the property is so extensive that it's unsafe and unfit to live in?
Guest: So, the managing party and tenant may mutually agree to end a tenancy agreement. So you can mutually agree to end a tenancy. Alternatively, the tenancy agreement does not necessarily end—and also bear in mind the circumstances surrounding a tenant having to find somewhere else to live. Even if it's a case of it could be repaired over a length of time, what's going to occur in those situations in terms of where is the tenant going to live in that time? Will the tenancy pick back up or do you need to end the tenancy, sort the situation in the interim and then the tenancy could you know, a new tenancy could be created? So really fleshing out that situation and trying to agree on how, and if, and when, the tenancy should end, and agreeing what is unsafe or what is unfit to live in. Coming together and determining that together.
Host: Yeah, so really just minimizing that loss for all parties, really, isn't it?
Guest: Absolutely, yeah absolutely. And certainly, you know, it is important to note that the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal is available for tenancy disputes. The legislation stipulates the types of applications that go to Tribunal, there's situations that are warranted urgent—they’re outlined in the legislation. And the Tribunal is there for you if your self-resolution strategies or within dispute resolution, you're unable to resolve the matter and you need somebody to make a decision for you.
Host: Yeah. So to wrap it up, Kimmy, whether it's a routine or an emergency repair, communication is the key.
Host: And we’ve got to keep everyone informed to avoid those disagreements and further property damage, and I think this is a bit of a theme that’s coming through every episode of this podcast, is communication is the key when it comes to renting a property in Queensland.
Guest: Absolutely, you know the legislation is, in most cases, not specific. So, what else do you have? So, you only have communication, you know, between each other, negotiation and compromise.
Host: Yeah, absolutely. Well, thank you so much, Kimmy, for getting us up to speed on repairs.
Guest: Not a problem.
Host: If you want to find out more, head to our website rta.qld.gov.au. Thank you for listening to the Talking Tenancies podcast. For more information about the Residential Tenancies Authority, visit rta.qld.gov.au.