The relationship between landlords and tenants can be turbulent, especially regarding property repairs and maintenance.

Landlords have a duty of care to their tenants, just as tenants must ensure they do not damage the premises deliberately or negligently. So, the responsibilities are ultimately shared. 

According to the 2017 Australian Rental Market Report, 21% of all problems experienced by renters are plumbing-related, so this is certainly an area that warrants closer attention. 

But, before you start blaming a tenant for a burst pipe or clogged drain, take a closer look at your Residential Tenancy Agreement, which should lay out the responsibilities of both parties. 

If your agreement is vague on plumbing repairs, it's best to seek further information from your state's governing body or the local tenancies act. We've also summed up the essentials below. 

Landlord Plumbing Responsibilities 

According to the Government of South Australia, it's the landlord's responsibility to ensure that the property and its amenities are in reasonable working condition at all times. This includes plumbing. So, blocked toilets, leaking taps, and hot water faults must all be repaired. This is even the case if a tenant knew about a problem before moving in.

The reasonable condition of amenities is based on the property's age and the rent price paid by the tenant.

A landlord is not required to provide repairs for non-essential amenities if clearly stated in the tenancy agreement. A broken gas heater, for example, can remain broken so long as the home has other suitable heating options.

Be careful with essentials as failure to provide plumbing repairs can result in a home being registered as substandard as outlined in the Housing Improvement Regulations Act 2017.

When it is time for repairs, a landlord must give the tenant at least 48 hours' notice before entering the property unless it's to deal with an emergency.

Emergency plumbing repairs can include burst pipes and severe water leaks, blocked toilets, gas leaks, hot water system repairs, serious roof leaks, flooding, and significant weather damage.

Non-emergency repairs include small leaks and slow draining sinks.

A licensed professional must complete the plumbing work. A landlord cannot look to complete trade work themselves or use a handyman to reduce repair costs.

Failure to repair a plumbing problem in a reasonable time may break the conditions of the lease agreement and result in the property being classed as substandard.

It's always a good idea to add all repairs completed during the tenancy to the condition report so that both parties have an up-to-date record for when it's time to end the lease and return the bond.

Tenant Plumbing Responsibilities  

Maintenance responsibilities are shared, so it's up to the tenant to ensure all plumbing and amenities are kept clean and treated well.

While the landlord manages repairs, the tenant must cover the costs if the damage is caused intentionally or through negligence.

So, kitchen sink blockages caused by food scraps or bathroom blockages caused by discarded hair are a tenant's responsibility, as are toilet blockages caused by items that should not be flushed - tampons, condoms, chewing gum, children's toys, etc.

If a repair is urgent, a tenant must make every effort to report it immediately to the real estate agent or landlord of a private rental.

Hopefully, the real estate agent or landlord provides a list of contacts authorised to deal with emergencies, including plumbing repairs.

NSW Fair Trading states that tenant options include arranging their own qualified plumber to carry out emergency repairs if the agent or landlord cannot be reached. This is also acceptable if reported repairs are not completed in a reasonable time.

The cap on urgent repairs is reportedly $1,000. Passing the receipt to the appropriate party can get them to reimburse the costs, but they are not required to pay over $1,000 without prior approval.

A tenant cannot complete the repairs themselves to save time or money, and this is not an acceptable excuse for reducing or stopping rental payments. If a tenant stops paying rent, they are breaking the lease which could result in the agreement being terminated.

A tenant must also seek the landlord's consent in writing before taking on non-urgent repairs or making cosmetic alterations to the home or property.

So, when it comes to the plumbing repairs of a rental property, the onus is on the landlord to ensure the plumbing is in reasonable working order throughout the term of the lease. After that, it's the tenant's responsibility to take care of the amenities and report any faults as soon as possible.

This article was supplied by Book a Plumber Online