When does a routine property maintenance become an emergency repair?

OCTOBER 20, 2020

When does a routine property maintenance become an emergency repair?

As a tenant, it’s important to understand the difference between a routine fix and an emergency repair. 

A routine repair for a rental property might include the patching and painting of walls or the upkeep of tap hardware and washers. The replacement of broken fixtures and fittings or maintenance work to keep a timber deck, windowsills, cupboards, and doors in good working order are also routine fixes.

Likewise, the resealing and regrouting of showers and shower tiles are routine maintenance actions a landlord can address within a reasonable timeframe. 

A routine fix escalates to an emergency repair usually when the fault or problem has a direct impact on your health, safety or living conditions. It is also the responsibility of the tenant to report a maintenance issue to avoid it becoming an urgent repair or a safety issue.

An urgent repair, for example, might include correcting a water or gas leak, roof damage or a faulty door lock, which impacts your home security. Other faults or problems regarded as emergencies include:

  • A hot water system that is not heating or is blocked
  • A blocked sewage system, including a blocked or broken toilet
  • A serious breakdown in the property’s heating
  • A dangerous electrical fault
  • Storm damage, such as a fallen tree, causing danger to you and your fellow tenants
  • Major failure to the cooking facilities such as stoves or ovens,

Your landlord is legally obliged to carry out an emergency repair under the conditions outlined in the Tenancy Act in your state or territory. Also, in some jurisdictions such as Queensland and NSW, tenants are permitted to commission a tradesperson to fix the emergency problem if the landlord is unresponsive or slow to act. Indeed, tradespeople for specific problems may even be nominated in the agreement. 

However, if you pay for urgent repairs, you must provide all receipts to your property manager. The landlord must pay you back within a designated time. In Queensland, for example, payment terms are seven days. In NSW, the terms are 14 days, although, the urgent repairs must not exceed $1,000. Over this limit, and NSW tenants need landlord approval.  

However, if you take it upon yourself to engage a tradesperson and are found to be at fault, the emergency repair will most likely be at your cost and not the landlord

Finally, please note that some routine repairs can turn into an emergency if they are not attended to in a timely manner. For example, if loose tiles aren’t fixed, they can turn into water leaks or even fall on you, or your guests. A faulty lock if not fixed could result in you being locked out of the house while securing wonky balustrades could save lives

For more information about the difference between a routine and urgent repair, contact your Raine & Horne property manager.