At some point in your rental history you will need to have repairs done to your home. There are rules in NSW about what is your responsibility to fix and maintain, and what is the landlord’s responsibility.

If your home is covered by a lease agreement your landlord must provide you with a home that is “reasonably” clean, fit for you to live in, and in reasonable repair. You should be given a Condition Report when you start your lease showing what damage already exists. It is a good idea to take photos of any damage to the property when you move in. Email these photos to the landlord, so that you cannot be blamed for them when you move out. Similarly, just before you move out take photos of things like the walls, the floors, cupboards, windows, oven, etc., and email them to the landlord. This will also ensure a fair Condition Report will be given when you move out. These photos will save you money by protecting your bond.

You have a responsibility to keep the home clean and in good repair. That means that if something breaks you need to tell the landlord as soon as possible. For example, if the hot water system breaks the landlord will need to have it fixed. If you break a window you will need to pay to have it fixed. Generally speaking, you will need to use an appropriately qualified person to make the repair, so contact the landlord or real estate agent who is managing the property and ask them who you should use. If you “fix it” yourself and damage the property in some way, you will be liable for that cost.

Some repairs are considered urgent. This includes anything that makes the home unsafe (e.g. locks, fire hazards), and any damage from a natural disaster (e.g. storm damage). Repairs to gas, electricity, water supply, hot water, cooking and heating would all be considered urgent. Mould is a common problem in the Inner West. You must do whatever you can to reduce the occurrence of mould. For example, use the exhaust fan, open a window when having a shower, or wipe mould prone areas with white vinegar. You should report any mould to the landlord as soon as you notice it.

When asking your landlord to make repairs always do so in writing, e.g. by email, so that you have a clear time stamped record of what you asked for and when. This is useful if the landlord disputes the repair. If a landlord refuses to make an urgent repair you can organise to have that done yourself provided you spend less than $1,000. Where possible use a tradesperson that they recommended through your lease. Of course, you’ll need to keep receipts. You should then send these to the landlord or real estate agent, but bear in mind that you may need to chase the landlord for that money through the NSW Consumer and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT).

In some situations, you can ask for a reduction in rent due to a repair. To discuss your specific circumstances talk to an SRC caseworker. Email your query to help@src.usyd.edu.au or phone 9660 5222 to make an appointment.