The responsibility for plumbing repairs and maintenance is a frequent point of contention between landlords and tenants. But both parties have a part to play during a tenancy. 

Guest post by Watermark Plumbing & Draining

The landlord is responsible for ensuring their property is in a safe state of repair and is suitable for tenants. But once a tenant moves in and signs an agreement, responsibility for maintenance is shared.

The requirements around who will take responsibility for the issues that may arise during the tenancy term – and each person’s rights  – should be laid out in the Residential Tenancy Agreement.

During the lease term, the tenant’s responsibility is to take good care of the property and maintain functional aspects.

This includes being diligent in preventing issues from arising. For example, the tenant should keep the property clean and not flush or wash things down drains that could cause blockages. 

You might also like:
> Rental applications: How long before I’m approved for a property?
Australia’s cheapest (and most expensive) suburbs revealed
Your rental ledger – Why you should be asking for a copy

How to handle emergency plumbing problems

If an emergency occurs at the property, you should call the landlord to take action. But if the tenant contacts 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 in the shower), it would be the tenant’s responsibility to pay for the work.

What is classed as an emergency plumbing problem? 

It can be hard to know what defines a plumbing emergency and what can wait until the following day for attention. Sometimes things can go wrong late at night, and, as a tenant, you need to make a quick decision about who to contact and what to do.

According to the Residential Tenancies Act, emergency repairs can include:

  • A burst water service or serious water service leak
  • Broken or blocked toilet systems
  • A gas leak
  • A serious roof leak
  • Serious storm, fire or impact damage
  • Burst water pipes
  • Flooding
  • Broken water heater

What is classed as a non-emergency repair? 

  • Leaking tap

Your Residential Tenancy Agreement should include contact information in case of an emergency, including phone numbers, agent numbers and numbers for approved emergency plumbers.

You might also like:
Rental applications – What happens after you apply?
How to write a rent reduction letter
Low light plants that will love your home

Plumbing maintenance versus plumbing repairs

Things can get complicated when it’s unclear whether a property problem falls under ‘maintenance’ or ‘repair.’

Generally speaking, ‘maintenance’ refers to fixing things on the property that are seen delay wear and tear and aren’t classed as urgent. Whereas ‘repairs’ typically refer to something that’s broken or damaged and needs to be fixed promptly.

Landlords are generally responsible for maintaining and paying for the property’s structural aspects – things like the roof, foundations and walls, but not decorative features, such as carpeting.

Overall, it’s the tenant’s responsibility to keep the rental property clean and working order during the lease. The landlord is responsible for ensuring the property is safe and fit for a tenant to live in.

At the end of the day, if you’re renting a property and there’s a major plumbing problem that isn’t your fault, the responsibility lies wholly with the landlord.

You might also like:
> The pros and cons of periodic agreements
Landlord rights and responsibilities – final inspection
Documents you need to apply for a rental property in Australia

Watermark Plumbing
Watermark Plumbing & Draining

Watermark Plumbing and Draining is Sydney’s leading plumbing services team, with more than 30 years’ experience. The company was founded in 1997 and today is based in Chatswood, New South Wales, led by Owner and Principal Matt Haggerston. Matt has more than 30 years of hands-on experience working in the industry and has spent his time building and running his own businesses. Their experienced and licensed team specialise in fault finding and diagnostics, water leaks and maintenance.