The real story: 4 of the biggest rental property maintenance issues
As the owner of a rental property – or even several rental properties – you’re no doubt already aware of common rental problems like missed rent payments or long vacancy periods. But you also need to be wary of maintenance issues, which can put a strain on your relationship with tenants if they are not resolved quickly.
When it comes to owning a rental property, urgent maintenance issues must be resolved quickly. Not only because the legislation says so, but also for the benefit of the tenant, and so costs don’t get out of hand for you. So what are some of the biggest rental property maintenance issues? And, most importantly, how can you solve them – or even avoid them entirely?
Your tenants’ rights for maintenance and repairs
In your tenancy agreement, there will be legal distinctions between what is considered urgent (or emergency) maintenance, and what is less urgent. A loose handle on a wardrobe or Venetian blind that’s stuck a, for example, are non-urgent problems that you are expected to have repaired to a reasonable state, in a reasonable timeframe.
However, its urgent repairs – described as issues that pose a significant or immediate threat, or likely to cause severe inconvenience – like broken toilets or electrical faults, that you will need to resolve as soon as possible. Heating and cooling are also deemed to be an urgent repair under the Residential Tenancies Act.
Here are some of the biggest rental maintenance issues to be aware of.
- No hot water or gas
Hot water is essential to a basic standard of living, so it’s considered an urgent problem in New South Wales if there is a broken hot water system or no gas for heating purposes.
It’s the tenant’s responsibility to contact you immediately about the need for a repair, and the responsibility then falls to you as the landlord to resolve the issue. If your tenant can’t get hold of you within a reasonable period of time, they are entitled to pay for the repairs themselves and then get you to repay the bill.
According to NSW Fair Trading, tenants can get landlords to repay them within 14 days for any urgent repair bills if:
- The job is less than $1,000.
- The tenant did not cause the damage.
- They gave you or your real estate agent a reasonable opportunity to fix the problem.
- They have a receipt and written report of the problem from a qualified tradesperson.
- Broken appliances
While in most instances a broken appliance – such as a dishwasher or washing machine – is considered a minor rental maintenance problem, it’s important to take care of any fixes professionally.
It’s recommended that you avoid going for the DIY approach if looking to repair the appliance without replacing it. Substandard workmanship can create bigger issues such as injury to yourself or even damage to your tenant’s belongings. If the appliance needs repairing, sometimes a cheap replacement will end up costing you more in the long run.
- Gas leak
If your tenant contacts you because they smell gas, it’s important to start the resolution process immediately. Gas leaks are more common than you might think and are highly dangerous, so it’s crucial that you call in the professionals to rectify the issue straight away.
To avoid gas leaks becoming a problem in your properties, you need to ensure all gas appliances are appropriately approved by an accredited certifier of NSW Fair Trading and that it is marked with an Australian recognised certification label. Also, make sure any older appliances are still in serviceable condition.
An experienced property manager will have in place a documented resolution process, from receiving the tenant’s request to determine the urgency of the issue, making plans for repairs, and notifying the tenant when you or a hired professional will be entering the premises to fix the problem.
- Damage caused by tenants
There’s a difference between general wear and tear from ordinary everyday use, and accidental or intentional damage. General wear and tear include things like curtains fading, scuffed floors, and slightly worn carpet over time. It is the landlord’s problem and a natural part of owning a property.
However, if your tenant – or a guest of theirs – causes property damage, you are not responsible for covering the cost of any necessary repairs.
In many cases the damage caused may have been an accident. So if you are otherwise happy with your tenant occupying your property, you may wish to arrange the repairs yourself and then charge them a reasonable repair fee.
While certainly in the minority, some landlords do encounter destructive and unruly tenants who may cause serious and intentional damage to your property. This type of malicious damage is rare, but can be dealt with through a tribunal, or claimed under your landlord’s insurance.
A good property manager will thoroughly vet your tenants upfront to ensure they don’t have a track record of this behaviour, carry out regular inspections to nip any problems in the bud, and know how to deal with any claims for damage to your property through the correct channels.
Taking the hassle out of property management
Hiring an experienced property manager from a team of real estate experts can take the headache out of dealing with rental property maintenance issues. They already understand the most common rental maintenance issues, and how to fix them, so you can rest easy knowing your property is in safe hands.
Contact Di Jones Real Estate to find out more about our property management services across Sydney and the Southern Highlands.