Consumer Watch: What tenants need to know about their rights when it comes to unexpected rental damage

Candice EvansGeraldton Guardian
Tenants should be across their rights when it comes to unexpected damage to rental properties.
Camera IconTenants should be across their rights when it comes to unexpected damage to rental properties. Credit: Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

There’s no place like home, so when unexpected damage occurs to a rental property, it’s important for tenants to be across their rights and know that they can come to us when issues aren’t fixed in a reasonable time.

Regardless of whether damage to a rental property occurs because of wild weather or a structural issue, the landlord is legally responsible for necessary repairs and maintenance to bring the property back to a liveable condition.

Consumer Protection recently became aware of a family who had been living under a tarpaulin for three weeks after part of their rental property’s ceiling collapsed, and we are helping the parties reach an agreement.

Issues that could damage the property or cause someone harm or undue hardship require landlords and property managers to initiate repairs within 48 hours.

For damage to essential services, like water, gas, electricity or sewerage, the time limit is 24 hours.

If damage to the property has reduced the facilities available, tenants may be entitled to a rent reduction.

If no action is taken, the tenant may serve a notice for the repairs to be carried out as soon as practicable, or they may directly employ a suitably qualified repairer to carry out the works to a minimum standard, with the landlord being required to reimburse them for the costs. Should the landlord fail to cover these costs, the tenant can apply to the Magistrate’s Court for an order.

For this reason, tenants should keep receipts and a record of contact with the landlord.

We know travelling conmen target storm-damaged areas, so tenants and landlords should avoid employing tradespeople who contact them out of the blue offering to complete work at cheap rates.

We have more information about how to spot the signs of a possible ceiling collapse, as well as further guidance on managing urgent repairs on our website at commerce.wa.gov.au/consumer-protection/urgent-repairs-rental- home.

Tenants who believe their landlord or agent has failed to initiate repairs in a reasonable time should contact Consumer Protection on consumer@dmirs.wa.gov.au or by calling 1300 30 40 54.

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