You’ve got an emergency and you can’t get hold of your property manager or landlord… what do you do? Firstly, is the repair urgent? The Consumer Affairs website lists certain situations as urgent repairs, such as:
- burst water service eg. a pipe has burst and is flooding the house.
- blocked or broken toilet system eg. your toilet is blocked and unable to be used.
- serious roof leak eg. water has started leaking through the ceiling after a storm.
- gas leak eg. you can smell gas in the house, gas leaks can cause unconsciousness and death for people/animals from lack of oxygen. An odour is added to gas to alert people about leaking gas in the property.
- dangerous electrical fault eg. one of the powerpoints in the house burnt and had flames.
- flooding or serious flood damage eg. either from a storm, flood or burst water pipe.
- serious storm or fire damage eg. serious being where there are holes in the roof, you’re unable to use the kitchen after a fire.
- failure or breakdown of any essential service or appliance provided by a landlord or agent for hot water, water, cooking, heating, or laundering eg. anything that involves sewage, hygiene or being able to live.
- failure or breakdown of the gas, electricity or water supply eg. the utilities to the house.
- any fault or damage in the premises that makes the premises unsafe or insecure eg. the house has moved on its foundations and the front door is unable to be closed and deadlocked, thereby voiding your renters contents insurance and putting your belongings and safety at risk.
- an appliance, fitting or fixture that is not working properly and causes a substantial amount of water to be wasted eg. a burst pipe in the garden resulting in high water bills and flooding.
- a serious fault in a lift or staircase eg. you are unable to get up and down stairs to your apartment if you have a disability or injury.
Any of the above are considered urgent repairs. Most property managers will include with the lease a list of tradespeople such as plumbers, electricians, handymen etc that you can contact directly in this situation, so keep that list handy just in case you need it in an emergency!
If you cannot get hold of your property manager, landlord or any of the tradespeople on your emergency contact list, you can personally authorise repairs up to the amount of $1800. You must keep all receipts from the repairers and proof of your attempts to make contact to arrange the repairs through your property manager or landlord. The landlord has to pay you back the cost of the repairs within fourteen days of receiving your written notice, copies of receipts and proof of attempts of contact. The notice for this can be downloaded from the Repairs page on the Victorian Consumers website, half way down the page.
If the repairs are over $1800 and you can’t get in contact with or there’s an issue with your landlord or property manager, you can apply to VCAT for a repair order. You can do this via this page on the VCAT website. VCAT will hear your case within two business days, so make sure you have all your receipts, paperwork to prove attempts at contact etc ready to go. VCAT can order your landlord or property manager to do the repairs on your behalf.
The same if you organise the repairs and your landlord refuses to reimburse you, you can apply to VCAT and they will hear the matter within 2 business days and make a ruling on your behalf. You must continue to pay rent on your property while waiting for repairs to be done. You can also apply for the rent to be paid into VCAT’s Rent Special Account while the matter is sorted out.
Be aware that if your actions caused or contributed to the damage eg. using too much toilet paper and blocking the toilet, causing flooding, you may be responsible for costsome or all of the cost of the repairs.