Darwin Property Blog
Posted on 04 October, 2018 in Tips , Tenants , Apartment Living

Top Tenant Tips: What to Do When You Break Something

Top Tenant Tips: What to Do When You Break Something

As careful as you may be if you rent a furnished unit, it is an absolute given at some point, you or one of your guests is going to break something. Your lease agreement should have set out when you are liable for damage and when your landlord must pay for repairs. You should familiarise yourself with those provisions, so you know exactly what you need to do if there is damage to your apartment. Keeping reading to learn about the basics.

Basic Rental Property Repair Rules

When it comes to who is responsible for repair costs, the rules are straightforward.

  • If the damage results from wear and tear over time, it is the landlord's responsibility.
  • If the damage is due to you or one of your guests, it is the tenant's responsibility.

Here are some examples of wear and tear damage caused by time and regular, daily use:

  • Matted carpets
  • Faded curtains
  • Worn linoleum
  • Lightly scuffed hardwood floor
  • Yellowed or faded paint
  • Loose wallpaper
  • Corroded pipes

If the corrosion in the pipe leads to the pipe bursting, the landlord is responsible for paying for its repair or replacement. The following are examples of damage that are tenant responsibilities because they are typically caused by accidents or aggressive living:

  • Stains or burns in the carpets
  • Torn curtains
  • Large holes or stains on the walls

If you break or damage the pipe we referred to above – by accidentally striking it with a hammer while trying to fix something close to it, for example – you are the one who must pay for the repair or replacement.

What to Do When You Break Something

When you break something, remain calm, but don't ignore it. You should follow these steps next:

  • Check your lease agreement. Your lease agreement with your landlord should clearly set out your respective responsibilities in the event repairs are necessary. Most standard form lease agreements include time frames for urgent and non-urgent repairs, as well as the procedures to follow when you need repairs.
  • Address damage or problems due to normal wear and tear. In this case, it's the landlord's responsibility even if you knew about it before you moved into the apartment.
  • Ask your landlord to repair damage or perform maintenance. You typically make the request with a Request for Repairs form. The landlord will have to give you notice to enter your premises to carry out the repair at least 48 hours in advance unless you have made other arrangements.
  • Contact your landlord immediately if you urgently need repairs. Many leases have a list of an approved plumber, electrician and technicians to call for emergency repairs if the landlord is not available. It is important for you to contact service providers on this approved list but it must only be in an emergency situation. If you call someone else, your landlord may not reimburse you for any payments you have made. The landlord doesn't have to give notice to you to enter your apartment in an emergency or for emergency repairs.

What Happens if the Landlord Doesn't Fix Something in a Reasonable Time?

If you have requested a repair and the landlord does not undertake the repair within the timeframes set out in your lease agreement, you could:

  • Contact Consumer Affairs and ask for advice.
  • Make an application to your local Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a legal order to: 
    • Have your landlord make the repairs.
    • Request compensation for hiring repairers.
    • End the tenancy depending on the severity of the situation.
  • Hire someone to come in and carry out emergency or urgent repairs, then remit an invoice from the authorised repairer.

How a Property Manager Can Help

Landlords and tenants sometimes have difficulties communicating, whether it's a question of conflicting schedules or personalities. Property Managers can facilitate timely repairs by organising repair and maintenance visits. They also keep on top of issues, so they don't grow into problems requiring extensive repairs. If your landlord uses a property management firm, you can get advice or ask questions about repairs from them. 

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