If something gets damaged in a rental property, or needs repairing, it’s important to know who’s responsible for fixing and paying for the problem.
Tenants must let the property manager / landlord know if something needs fixing
Tenants must tell the property manager / landlord straight away if they are aware something needs to be repaired or maintained, no matter how it happened or who caused the damage.
What the tenant's not responsible for
The tenant is not responsible for repairs or damage arising from burglaries, natural events (such as storms, floods and earthquakes), or fair wear and tear.
Who's responsible for fixing damage depends on who caused it
Tenants need to tell the property manager / landlord if they know of any damage or need for repairs. If the tenant does not notify the property manager / landlord as soon as possible the landlord may be able to claim some of the costs of repairing the damage from the tenant if it gets worse.
If a landlord or their property manager damages a tenant’s goods, the tenant can ask them to repair those goods, or to pay the cost of replacement or repair.
If a tenant (or their invited guests) intentionally damages the landlord’s property, the tenant must tell the property manager / landlord. The landlord can ask the tenant to repair the damage, or to pay the cost of replacement or repair.
If damage is caused by carelessness and the damage is covered by the landlord’s insurance, the tenant will not be liable for the cost of repairs, unless it was the result of an imprisonable offence. The landlord is responsible for the insurance excess costs and cannot pass these costs on to their tenants.
Regardless of whether the landlord has insurance, tenants are not liable for damage caused by fire, flood, explosion, lightning, storm, earthquake or volcanic activity (fire, flood or explosion are not required to be catastrophic natural events), unless the damage was caused intentionally, was the result of an imprisonable offence or if the tenant or their invited guest caused the insurance moneys that would have been payable to the landlord to be irrecoverable.
Landlords should check their insurance policy documents before discussing compensation for damage with the tenant, as their policy may cover the damage, providing it was not intentional or the result of an imprisonable offence.
If the property manager / landlord and tenant cannot agree whether the tenant is liable for the damage, the landlord can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for the matter to be resolved. Copies of relevant insurance policies, photos of the damage, and receipts or quotes for repair should be included to support the application.
If repairs are urgent
If the state of disrepair is likely to cause injury to people or property, a tenant can have repair work done and ask the landlord to pay them for it. A landlord must also pay the tenant back for any urgent repair work the tenant had to have done, as long as the tenant made reasonable attempts to let the landlord know first.
Fair wear and tear
Fair wear and tear refers to the gradual deterioration of things that are used regularly in a property when people live in it.
A tenant is not responsible for normal fair wear and tear to the property or any chattels provided by the landlord when they use them normally. The tenant is responsible for any intentional or careless damage.
An example of this would be where a stove element wears out from normal cooking. This is fair wear and tear. However, if the stove was being used to heat the kitchen and stopped working properly, this would not be considered normal use.
Examples of what is usually considered fair wear and tear are:
Examples of what is not normally considered fair wear and tear are:
For further information refer to the following link: