Q. “I own a rental property, and I’ve had one problem after another with my tenants. My property manager is constantly reporting loose stair rails, keys stuck in locks and an oven that isn’t getting hot enough and I’ve had enough. My tenants seem to be impractical and needless complainers. Must I keep footing the bill for what I sometimes see as their ineptitude?”
A. It is important to ensure that your rental property is maintained to an acceptable level of repair, taking into account the age of the property and the rent that is being charged. It is your responsibility to maintain the property at the same level of repair as when the tenants moved in. However, you aren’t required to make improvements just because a tenant requests it. As an example, if a tenant moved into your property and the exterior of the house hadn’t been painted for some time, you wouldn’t be required to paint it. However, if the paint deterioration lead to the roof leaking, you would be required to fix the leak.
As a rule of thumb, any request for repairs must be carried out if it affects the safety of the tenant or it is required in order to return the property to the same state it was in when the tenant first rented the property.
In the case of an oven that doesn’t work, a stair rail that has come loose or a key that gets stuck in a lock, these are all legitimate repairs.
Repairs and maintenance are a part of owning a residential investment property. To minimise the inconvenience, however, a good property manager should be able to carry out minor repairs and maintenance without your permission. As a property investor, you have better things to do than to approve minor repairs and investigate quotes. Different tenants will have different expectations. While some tenants may not be concerned about a particular problem and not report it, another tenant may want to have the same problem repaired.
The tenant constantly asking you to fix things may be annoying, but keep in mind that tenants who are mindful of having minor issues fixed tend to look after rental properties better. Tenants who don’t care about minor maintenance issues often don’t care about the overall upkeep of your property. Always bear this in mind before getting upset with your tenants.
Having said that, you should be aware that you are well within your rights to pass the cost of an invoice or repair onto a tenant if they have caused the damage to the property. And if you do find yourself in a situation where tenants are making unreasonable demands, you can always say no or ask them to leave (without grounds) at the end of their tenancy.
Margaret Lomas is the founder of Destiny Financial Solutions and is a qualified financial advisor and the author of five best-selling property investment books. In 2006, she was Telstra NSW Businesswoman of the Year. Visit: www.destiny.net.au
John Brodie is the founder of Vim Sustainability, which provides architects, developers and owners with cost-effective strategies to improve sustainability in the built environment. Visit: www.vim.net.au
Chris Rolls is the managing director of Rental Express, Brisbane’slargest specialist propertymanagement company with nearly $1bn worth of property under management on behalfof investors. Visit: www.rentalexpress.com.au
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