Landlord to maintain premises – Supreme Court Ruling

A recent landmark supreme court ruling has sent ripples through the real estate world and has ramifications for properties that are not kept in good order.  Section 68 of the residential tenancy act states that it is the landlords obligation to maintain the premises in good repair.

In the past, there has been a consensus that if a tenant has viewed the property prior to moving in, that it is what it is and that’s how they accepted it.  This is no longer the case.  The supreme court ruling which can be found here but the gist of the ruling is as follows;

Tenant viewed a property and lived in the rental from 2008 –  2013, near the end of the tenancy, the tenant applied to VCAT for $50pw in comp (over $14,000) because throughout the tenancy, and prior to moving in, there were holes in walls, holes in the ceiling and floor, mould, rats and flooding issues…  The original hearing was awarded in favour of the owner as the tenant had not filed the appropriate maintenance requests or breaches – however, this was appealed  and as heard in the Supreme Court – it has now been interpreted that a landlord must maintain the premises in good repair – regardless of how it was when a tenant inspected it and, they are obligated to ensure it is in good repair more so than simply waiting for the appropriate maintenance notice from the tenant.

How does this affect a good landlord?  It doesn’t.  Good landlords look after their investments and ensure that everything is in good working order.  Good real estate agents inspect the property every 6 months (first one at 3 months into the tenancy) and with those inspections general maintenance is identified and acted upon accordingly.

For those that are the stereotypical slum lord, this is where the legislation interpretation will affect potential outcomes.  Here are some of the excuses I’ve heard over the years that certainly will no longer fly;

  • They inspected it like that so I don’t have to fix it.
  • I’m going to make that hole a feature of the wall (Rather than fix it)
  • They have a split system, I don’t need to fix the wall heater.
  • I lived in the property like that, so I don’t need to fix it

For those of you in the industry, have you got any good excuses?  Let me know in the comments section so we can all have a laugh.


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