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Communtity Law Manual | Tenancy & housing | Repairs and maintenance

Living in your house or flat: Rights and obligations

Repairs and maintenance

What repairs and maintenance am I responsible for as tenant?

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, ss 40, 41, 45

You, the tenant, are responsible for fixing any damage you’ve caused, whether deliberately or carelessly, and any damage you’ve allowed someone else to cause. You’ll also be held responsible for anything done by friends or others who you allow to be at your place. The law assumes that if someone is at your place they’re there with your permission, unless you prove you did everything reasonable to stop them being there.

You’re not responsible for damage that happens through normal use over time – called “fair wear and tear”. For example, if the carpet in the hallway starts to develop holes just through normal use, you don’t have to replace it.

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, s 40(4)

If your landlord takes you to the Tenancy Tribunal to get you to pay for repairs, the landlord will have to show it’s more likely than not that the damage happened during the tenancy and that it’s not just fair wear and tear. If the landlord does show this, then you’ll have to satisfy the Tribunal the damage wasn’t caused deliberately or carelessly.

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, s 40(1)(ca); Residential Tenancies (Smoke Alarms and Insulation) Regulations 2016, regs 9, 10

Your landlord has to provide smoke alarms, but you’re responsible for replacing the batteries.

What repair and maintenance work does my landlord have to do?

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, ss 40, 41, 45

The landlord is responsible for any repairs and maintenance needed because of fair wear and tear (that is, from normal use over time) and for any damage that you the tenant aren’t responsible for – storm damage, for example. They have a legal obligation to keep the place in a reasonable state of repair, and they also have to comply with all building requirements and health and safety requirements.

You have to let the landlord know as soon as possible if you find any damage to the property or if repairs are needed. If the repair that’s needed is serious and urgent, or is a safety or health risk, and the damage isn’t your fault, you can get the repairs done and claim the cost back from the landlord. But you have to make a reasonable attempt to contact the landlord first. You can’t deduct the cost of repairs from the rent unless you have the landlord’s permission or an order from the Tenancy Tribunal.

You can take any disagreements about repairs to the free mediation service provided by Tenancy Services. If you can’t reach an agreement there, the Tenancy Tribunal can make an order for repair work to be done, or paid for, or both (see “Problems with your landlord: What you can do” in this chapter).

Case: Tenancy Tribunal 4081393

Your landlord is responsible for keeping the outside of the building clean, provided that the reason that it’s dirty is because of normal factors like dust and dirt being carried by the wind.

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