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How changes to the Residential Tenancies Act will affect investors – Part 3

Wednesday, 7th Aug 2013

Repairs

With a new set of laws governing renting in Western Australia, property investors need to be aware of their rights and obligations. This month we discuss two important areas, routine inspections and urgent repairs.

Routine inspections

Under the new laws, only 4 routine inspections are permitted in a 12 month period. It’s therefore important to decide in advance when these inspections should take place.

The purpose of routine inspections is to take note of any maintenance that is required and ensure the tenant is looking after the property. One of the reasons inspections should be ‘routine’ and regular is that they can help determine what is ‘fair wear and tear’ and what is ‘damage’.

The scheduling of routine inspections is an area that has become a little more rigid. A reasonable effort must be made to negotiate with the tenant a suitable day and time for the inspection. The Residential Tenancies Act actually defines what a reasonable time is: between 8am and 6pm on a weekday, between 9am and 5pm on a Saturday, or at any other time agreed between the parties.

Negotiating a date and time with the tenant must happen before notice of entry is given. When a notice of inspection is sent, it will need to specify whether the inspection will be before or after 12 noon, though providing a more accurate time is recommended.

How much notice must be given? For a routine inspection, there is a minimum of seven days and maximum of 14 days written notice required.

Urgent repairs

Dealing with urgent repairs is a common area of dispute between owners and tenants, partly because different people often have different definitions of what is ‘urgent’. The Act tries to clarify this area by providing suitable definitions.

So, what is an urgent repair?  Firstly, urgent repairs are those that are necessary to supply or restore an essential service. Essential services include things like gas, electricity, water, and sewerage. Importantly, the supply of hot water, often an area of debate, is considered an essential service.

Urgent repairs aren’t limited to those involving essential services. Urgent repairs also include any repairs that are necessary to avoid exposing a person to injury, causing property damage, or causing the tenant undue hardship or inconvenience. Clearly, there is still a lot of scope for interpretation with these definitions.

What is the owner’s responsibility? Upon being notified by the tenant, the owner (or property manager) must make contact within 24 hours with a suitable repairer to attend to the repair if it involves an essential service. For other urgent repairs, contact must be made with a repairer within 48 hours. The repair doesn’t have to be completed within this time, but it must be made as soon as practicable. It is also the owner’s responsibility to follow up with the repairer to ensure that the repairs are carried out as soon as possible.

The tenant’s responsibility is to inform the owner or property manager about the need for urgent repairs as soon as possible. Failure to do so could result in the tenant being liable if the problem causes damage to the property.

In the case when a tenant cannot get into contact with the owner or property manager, or the repair is not carried out promptly, the tenant can arrange the repairs themselves but only to the minimum extent necessary and using a suitably qualified repairer. The tenant would then be reimbursed as soon as possible for any reasonable expenses incurred in relation to arranging for the repairs and paying for the repairs.