The Residential Tenancies Act 1997 distinguishes between urgent and non-urgent repairs.
The rental provider (formerly landlord) or agent must respond immediately if a renter requests urgent repairs. This applies whether the rental agreement was signed before or after the new rental laws started. These Urgent repairs are:
- burst water service
- blocked or broken toilet system
- serious roof leak
- gas leak
- dangerous electrical fault
- flooding or serious flood damage
- serious storm or fire damage
- failure or breakdown of any essential service or appliance provided by the rental provider for hot water, water, cooking, heating, or laundering
- failure or breakdown of a cooling appliance or service provided by the rental provider
- failure or breakdown of the gas, electricity or water supply
- failure or breakdown of any safety related device including a smoke alarm or pool fence
- any fault or damage that makes the property unsafe or insecure, such as a pest infestation or the presence of mould or damp caused by or related to the building structure
- an appliance, fitting or fixture that is not working properly and causes a substantial amount of water to be wasted
- a serious fault in a lift or staircase
- a failure to comply with the rental minimum standards, which apply to new rental agreements signed from 29 March 2021 and fixed term tenancies that roll over into period agreements from 29 March 2021.
The Director Consumer Affairs Victoria has published guidelines on when urgent repairs should be completed. VCAT will use these guidelines when deciding disputes about urgent repairs. You can download the Urgent repairs guidelines here.
For all other repairs, follow the non-urgent repairs process:
- The renter should request the repair in writing by email, letter or a Notice to rental provider of rented premises (Word, 1.9MB).
- Gather all necessary information for the non-urgent repair, to prevent delays and potential disputes.
- Maintain communication with the rental provider. Record (in writing or electronically) all contact with them in case there are questions over your responsibility to advise them or your authority to undertake repairs.
If a rental provider (owner) wants to do their own repairs to the property:
- they must give the renter the required notice and keep them informed
- ensure the rental provider is aware of their legal obligations regarding notice and entering a property
- remind rental providers that repairs must be done by a suitably qualified person and that certain repairs can only be done by licensed tradespeople. For example, electrical, gas or swimming pool repairs
- all repairs should be of an acceptable standard.
Non-urgent repairs must be carried out within 14 days of the renter notifying the rental provider. Renters can apply directly to VCAT if repairs are not carried out.
If a rental provider (owner) says ‘no’ to a renter’s request for a non-urgent repair
Make sure the rental provider is aware of the consequences of their decision. If they refuse to carry out non-urgent repairs, the renter may ask us to inspect the property or make an application to the VCAT for an order that the repair be carried out. The rental provider may be liable for additional expenses, such as a fee for the property manager attending the VCAT hearing and compensation to the renter.
Replacement of items
Sometimes items in rental properties need to be replaced - for example, an oven or heater. An identical replacement is not always an option and an alternative item may need to be installed.
The owner does not have to replace an item in a rental property with an identical item - for example, if the same product is available in a different brand.
However, the replacement item must have the same energy efficiency rating, or a higher rating, than the item being replaced.
Before the rental provider decides on a replacement, the property manager should inform them of possible consequences if the replacement item significantly increases running costs for a renter. For example, if a gas heater is replaced with an electric heater, there may be a significant increase in running costs.
It is important for the rental provider or property manager to communicate with the renter about the proposed replacement and any additional running costs. This could prevent a dispute being taken to VCAT.
Replacement appliances, fittings and fixtures must meet minimum standards and efficiency ratings. For more information, view Efficiency standards for replacement appliances and fixtures and Minimum standards for rental properties.
New obligations for gas and electrical safety checks
Rental providers who
- enter into a new rental agreement on or after 29 March 2021; or
- have a fixed term agreement of more than 5 years which rolls over into a periodic tenancy after on or after 29 March 2021
must have a gas and electrical safety check conducted every 2 years by a licensed or registered gas fitter or a licensed or registered electrician. A copy of the most recent safety check must be provided to the renter within 7 days after a written request from the renter.
The Residential Tenancies Regulations 2021 prescribe other safety-related activities which clarify the safety maintenance obligations for renters and rental providers under a rental agreement.
For further information on a rental providers obligations to maintain gas and electrical safety in the rented premises see Gas and electrical safety