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Who is responsible for damage in a tenancy?

Author: When things break or are damaged during a tenancy, it can be tricky to work out who is responsible for rectifying the problem.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are renting and damage has occurred, figuring out who is responsible comes down to two factors; what kind of damage it is and how was it caused?

Intentional or negligent
Any damage that is a result of an intentional act or negligible behaviour on your end is your responsibility.

If you cause damage to the property, you must inform the owner or property manager of this immediately. They will then advise how to proceed with repairs or replacement, both of which you will be expected to pay for.

Third party damage
Any damage caused by a third party not directly connected to you or anyone else living in the premise is the responsibility of the owner to repair or replace.

This would include damage from someone you did not invite into the premises or by an event outside of your control i.e. a break-in, storm damage or traffic accidents.

Your possessions are damaged
In the event your possessions are damaged from a problem within the home, such as the roof collapses or there are water leakages, then you might be able to recoup the cost of these damages from the owner.

The owner is also liable for damages if they damage your possessions while they are inside the home.

Who takes care of urgent repairs?

An urgent repair is required when an essential day-to-day necessity of the home requires immediate fixing or to avoid exposing anyone living in the home to risk or hardship.

If something within the home requires urgent repair, you must inform the owner or property manager as soon as possible. Once they have been informed, they must arrange for repairs within 24 hours for essential services and 48 hours for urgent repairs.*

Essential services include:
◦Gas
◦Electricity
◦Water (including the supply of hot water)
◦A functioning fridge (if supplied)
◦Working sewerage, septics or other waste water treatments

In the event you are unable to reach the owner or property manager, or you contact them and they fail to take action, you are then within your rights to have the minimum repairs carried out by a qualified tradesperson and claim back costs.

These costs must be reasonable and you should be reimbursed as soon as is practical after the repairs are completed.

For more information about where you stand in the case of damage to a rental, read the Renting a home in Western Australia; a tenants guide brochure by the Department of Commerce.

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