Rental properties require a lot of maintenance to ensure they remain fit to reside in. Both the landlord and the tenant have a responsibility to maintain the property, whether residential or commercial.
Guest post – Tom Watermark, Watermark Plumbing
Before the start of a tenancy, it is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure the property is in a safe state of repair and that it is suitable for tenants to move in. However, from the moment the Residential Tenancy Agreement has been signed and the tenant is moved into the property, the responsibility of maintaining the property is shared. The requirements around who will take responsibility for the issues that may arise during the tenancy term – and the rights of each party – should be laid out in the Tenancy Agreement.
During the lease term, it is the responsibility of the tenant to take good care of the property and maintain functional aspects. This includes being diligent in preventing issues from arising. For example, with regards to plumbing, the tenant should keep the property clean and be sure to not flush or wash things down drains that could cause blockages.
Emergency plumbing problems
While the responsibility of plumbing maintenance lies at the feet of the tenant, in the case of an emergency the landlord should be called to take action. However, in the case of an emergency, if the tenant calls the landlord to send a plumber, and the plumber then reports the issue was caused by tenant negligence (i.e. hair has blocked the drain), it would be the tenant’s responsibility to pay for the problem.
An example of emergency plumbing problems:
- Broken or blocked toilet systems
- Burst water pipes
- Broken hot water heater
- Leaking tap
The Tenancy Agreement will include contact information in case of an emergency, including phone numbers, agent numbers and numbers of emergency plumbers.
Maintenance versus repairs
Disputes can arise between tenants and landlords when it is unclear whether attention to the premises falls under ’maintenance’ or ’repair’.
’Maintenance’ generally refers to fixing things on the premises that are seen to delay wear and tear and are not urgent, whereas ‘repairs’ refer to something that is broken or damaged and needs to be fixed promptly. The former is often not covered by the landlord during the term of lease, whereas the latter is, but this is dependent on the terms outlined in the Tenancy Agreement.
The landlord is also generally responsible for maintaining and paying for structural aspects of the property – foundations, roof, walls, but not decorative features such as carpeting.
Overall, it is the responsibility of the tenant to keep the property clean and in working order during the term of lease, but it is the responsibility of the landlord to ensure the property is safe and fit for a tenant to reside in. Therefore, if you are renting a property and there is a major plumbing problem that is not your fault, the responsibility lies wholly with your landlord.