Don’t let floods and natural disasters catch you off guard. The Real Estate Institute of Western Australia (REIWA) has essential advice for tenants and landlords whose properties are at risk.

Communication and swift action are crucial in these situations. Stay informed and be prepared with the information you need in case of a disaster.

How do I stand on right of entry?

Your landlord and property manager have the right to enter your rental property in case of emergency or if the tenancy has ended due to severe property damage.

However, if you (the tenant) continue to reside in the property after the emergency, your landlord or property manager must obtain your consent before entering the dwelling.

My house is destroyed or unfit to live in.

If your rental property becomes uninhabitable due to destruction or poor living conditions, you should ask your landlord to terminate the tenancy.

However, it is worth noting that your landlord is not responsible for providing alternative living arrangements.

In case of uncertainty about the property’s habitability, local government officials can decide based on factors such as sanitation, access to necessary amenities, and potential health or safety hazards

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My house is damaged but still fit to live in.

If your rental property is damaged but still suitable for living, your landlord is responsible for repairing any damage caused by a natural disaster.

However, you must inform your landlord or property manager as soon as possible.

You do not have the right to terminate the tenancy if you continue living in the damaged property. In the case of a fixed-term tenancy, you may need to negotiate an early termination with your landlord.

Your landlord can charge rent until the property is re-rented or the original agreement ends. If you’re on a periodic tenancy, you’re only required to give 21 days’ notice before terminating the tenancy agreement.

What happens with repairs and maintenance after a disaster?

If you choose to continue living in the rental property, your landlord or property manager must arrange repairs once they are notified of the damage. Landlords have specific time frames to make repairs:

  • Within 24 hours for essential services like electricity, gas, water supply (including hot water), fridge function (if provided with the property), and sewerage, septic tank, or other waste-water management.
  • Within 48 hours for other urgent repairs that may cause damage to the property, injury or undue hardship to the tenant.
  • As soon as possible for non-urgent repairs.

If you’re unable to contact the landlord or property manager or if they fail to make necessary repairs after being notified, you have the right to arrange for minimum urgent repairs using a qualified professional.

The cost of these repairs will be covered by the landlord later. It is important to ensure that the tradesperson hired to conduct the repairs is licensed and legally operating. Unfortunately, some unlicensed tradespeople may take advantage of areas affected by natural disasters.

If your landlord refuses or fails to make non-urgent repairs, you may serve them with a breach notice. If your landlord still fails to make the repairs, you can take further action through the Magistrates Court.

It’s important to remember you’re still responsible for paying rent, even if there is a disagreement about maintenance or repairs. Your landlord has the right to end the tenancy if rent is not paid.

Please note that natural disasters may cause delays in repairs and maintenance work. It’s also important to know that special trading laws may apply during emergency situations declared by the Commonwealth or state government.

Utilities and services

In case of disconnection due to a natural disaster, landlords are responsible for fixing the damage and restoring supply. The utility provider should be able to estimate when the service will be restored.

How about rent reductions?

If specific amenities of the rental property, such as a shed or a pool, are destroyed, you may request a reduction in rent. If your landlord is unwilling to agree to the reduction, the matter may be taken to the Magistrate Court.

Emergency accommodation

A variety of organisations offer crisis and emergency services such as temporary housing, food assistance, legal support, counselling, and suicide prevention.