Darwin Community Legal Service

Repairs and Maintenance

The Residential Tenancies Act 1999 (NT) sets out the law about repairs and maintenance for rented premises.

The start of the tenancy

It is a term of every tenancy agreement that at the start of the tenancy the landlord must ensure the rented premises:

  • are in a reasonable state of repair;
  • are habitable;
  • meet all health and safety requirements; and
  • are reasonably clean.

If the landlord fails to ensure this, they are in breach of the tenancy agreement, and you may choose to issue a notice to remedy breach. See the DCLS ‘Termination of tenancy by tenant’ factsheet for more information.

You should note any repairs or cleaning issues on the ingoing condition report if you are provided with one. See the DCLS ‘Condition Reports’ factsheet for more information.

Who is responsible for repairs?

At the start of your tenancy, the landlord must make sure that your home is in a reasonable state of repair and is clean. You should note any repairs that are required or any cleaning that needs to be done on the ‘condition report’ when you begin your tenancy. Even minor damage should be noted and photographed.

The landlord must, whilst you are living in the property, repair the house according to the age and character of the home.

This means that the house does not need to be, or look, brand new but it should be what you would expect for a property of the same age. When we talk about repairs we don’t mean replacing everything that is old, just things that are either not working, or not working to the standard they should be.

What are my responsibilities in relation to repairs?

As a tenant you must:

  • make sure the home is reasonably clean
  • ensure you don’t damage the property
  • report any damage to the landlord, and
  • get written permission from the landlord before making changes to the property.

What happens if I break something?

If you break something intentionally or carelessly, you need to tell the real estate agent or landlord. You can either arrange for someone to come and fix the damage and pay for it yourself, or you can pay the landlord to get someone to fix it. Even if you can’t afford the repair, the landlord still needs to fix it, and the cost may come out of your bond.

If something has broken as a result of fair wear and tear, then you are not be liable to pay for the repairs. The landlord must pay.

Repairs

There are two types of repairs – Emergency Repairs and Ordinary Repairs.

Emergency repairs

Include:

  • a burst water service
  • a blocked or broken toilet
  • a serious roof leak
  • a gas leak
  • a dangerous electrical fault
  • flooding
  • serious storm, fire or impact damage
  • breakdown of gas electricity or water supply
  • breakdown of an essential service or appliance required for cooking

If emergency repairs are needed, you should write to the landlord and ask for the repairs to be made. A qualified repair person must fix things within 14 days of when you advised the landlord. If the repairs are not carried out, you can make an application to the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT).

Ordinary Repairs

All other repairs are ordinary repairs. You should write to the landlord requesting repairs. The landlord should arrange for a qualified repair person to make the repairs within 21 days from when you advised the landlord.

What happens if the repairs are not fixed?

If repairs are not carried out within either 14 days (emergency repairs) or 21 days (ordinary repairs), you can either:

  1. Send the landlord or real estate agent a document called a ‘notice to remedy breach’. This is a formal legal document that gives the landlord one final opportunity to make the repairs before you can elect to take the matter to NTCAT.

OR

  1. If the property is or at risk of becoming uninhabitable, unsafe or insecure, you can arrange for the tradesperson nominated by the landlord in the tenancy agreement to undertake repairs, as long you did not cause the damage. You can ask the landlord to
    1. pay you for the repairs,
    2. deduct the amount from your rent payable, or
    3. pay the tradesperson directly.

You must provide proof of repair costs and can only seek payment of an amount up to two weeks rent. If the landlord does not pay for the repairs, you can appeal to NTCAT.

Do I have to keep paying rent if the landlord has not carried out the repairs?

Yes. Even if you landlord fails to make repairs you should continue paying rent. Although this may seem unfair, you need to ensure you continue to meet your obligations under the tenancy agreement, to ensure action is not taken against you.

You can ask the landlord for a rent reduction until the repairs are made, or apply to the NTCAT for a retrospective rent reduction.

See DCLS factsheets ‘Rent increases and reductions’ and ‘Going to NTCAT’ for more information.

Can I terminate the tenancy due to repairs not being completed?

If repair issues make the premises unsafe or uninhabitable, and you want to end the tenancy, you can give your landlord a ‘notice of termination’. (See DCLS factsheet ‘Termination of tenancy by tenant’).