Emergency repairs relate to situations where immediate action is required to resolve a problem that could lead to damage to the property, human injury or make the property unliveable.
There are a variety of situations that are considered to be an “emergency”, the specifics of which are usually outlined in the legislation covering each respective states tenancy laws; in Queensland, for example, they are listed in the Residential Tenancy Act.
What constitutes an emergency?
These may differ from state to state, but generally some of these include:
• A burst water service
• A blocked or broken toilet
• A serious roof leak
• A gas leak
• A dangerous electrical fault
• Flooding or serious flood damage
• Serious storm, fire or impact damage
• A failure or breakdown of the gas, electricity or water supply to the premises
• A failure or breakdown of an essential service or appliance on the premise for hot water, cooking or heating
• A fault or damage that is likely to cause injury, undue inconvenience or makes the premises unsafe or insecure
If your property is managed by a professional property manager, they will have a policy in place for handling emergency repairs that is well defined and that tenants understand at the beginning of their tenancy.
If you are managing the property yourself, you need to ensure that you clearly understand what your obligations are, so that you are able to explain to the tenant what their obligations are, and what needs to happen in the event of an emergency repair.
In an emergency situation, there are specific rules that determine what a tenant can and can’t do. While specific legislation varies from state to state, generally speaking, if a tenant is unable to get in contact with the emergency repairer, they will have a maximum amount that they can spend in arranging for the repair of the item. As an indication, in Queensland this is two weeks rent. They must also use a suitably qualified person to carry out the repairs.
They can then pay the invoice themselves and seek reimbursement from the owner, or they can have the contractor invoice the owner directly (unless pre-arranged, some contractors may not do this). If the situation was a genuine emergency, the owner is required to reimburse the tenant or pay the invoice to the contractor within a specified time period.
If the owner does not pay the invoice or reimburse the tenant within the required time frame, the tenant can make an urgent application to the small claims tribunal for an order to be made for the owner to pay the costs.
Claiming expenses on insurance
In some circumstances you may be able to claim the cost of damage from an emergency repair through your landlord insurance policy.
Here’s an example: There is a storm and your property has a serious leak in the roof resulting in water leaking onto the floor coverings soaking them through. While insurance might not cover the cost to repair the roof, you may be able to claim damage to carpets and/or the replacement of carpets. It is important to ensure you hold adequate insurance cover to incorporate scenarios such as this.
Generally speaking, you can overcome most difficulties with emergency repairs by ensuring your property is managed properly either professionally or by yourself as well as by clearly outlining the tenants responsibilities and your expectations at the beginning of the tenancy. As always, an up to date accurately completed tenancy agreement between owner and tenant is essential.
Chris Rolls is the managing director of Rental Express, Brisbane’s largest specialist property management company with nearly $1bn worth of property under management on behalf of investors. Visit: www.rentalexpress.com.au
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