This information is a guide and should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice.

Repairs and maintenance

You have the legal right to ask the rental provider (landlord) or agent for repairs. If you have trouble getting them to act, here are steps you can take to get repairs done.

What the law says

The rental provider must ensure:

  • Your rented home is ‘maintained in good repair and in a reasonably fit and suitable condition’, including any shared areas they own or manage [section 68]
  • All repairs are done by a ‘suitably qualified person’ [section 68]
  • They comply with safety-related repairs and maintenance requirements [section 68A]

The rental provider must follow these laws regardless of the age or character of the property, the condition it was in before you moved in, or the amount of rent you pay. If there is a need for repairs the rental provider cannot refuse to arrange them.

The renter must tell the rental provider:

  • If anything needs repair or is damaged, in writing, as soon as possible, especially if not fixing the problem could cause more damage[sections 62 and 72AA]

Note that on this page sections in brackets, such as [section 42], refer to sections in Victoria’s Residential Tenancies Act 1997. See the Resources section at the bottom of this page for links to the laws.

Types of repairs – urgent and non-urgent

The law separates repairs into two areas, urgent repairs and non-urgent repairs.

Many renters think rental providers have 14 days to get urgent repairs done. This is not true.

Urgent repairs need to be done as soon as possible. If they are not done urgently you can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administration Tribunal (VCAT). It will hear your application within 2 business days.

If any repairs needed are not urgent the rental provider has 14 days to get them done.

Urgent repairs

Urgent repairs are:

  • 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 or fire damage
  • A failure or breakdown of any essential service or appliance provided for water, hot water, cooking, heating or doing laundry
  • A failure or breakdown of any cooling appliance or service
  • A failure to comply with any rental new minimum standards – if the renter moved in after 28 March, 2021
  • A failure or breakdown of any safety-related device
  • A failure or breakdown in any appliance or fitting supplied by the rental provider that will result in a large amount of water being wasted
  • A failure or breakdown of the gas, electricity or water supply
  • Any fault or damage that makes the premises unsafe or not secure, including pest infestations or the presence of mould or damp caused by, or related to, the building structure
  • A serious fault in a lift or staircase

Not sure if it is urgent?

Sometimes it can be tricky to work out if the repairs you need are on the urgent list.

For example, if the stove is not working, it is an urgent repair. But if only one burner on the stove is not working is that a non-urgent repair? The law says that ‘a failure or breakdown in any appliance provided for cooking’ is an urgent repair. So even though part of the appliance may be working, the part that is not should be treated as urgent.

Also, the words ‘serious’, ‘unsafe’ and ‘not secure’ are not defined in the law. If you think the damage is serious or makes your home unsafe, you should treat the problem as an urgent repair.

However, there could be times when you think something is urgent, but the law does not agree.

If the repair needed does not fit into the list of urgent repairs above, but you treat it as if it does and apply to VCAT, your application could be dismissed if VCAT does not agree the problem is urgent. You may lose your application money, or VCAT could put the application on hold and tell you to follow the non-urgent steps.

You can get a free inspection and report from Consumer Affairs Victoria about any repairs needed before you apply to VCAT. These inspections are usually only requested for non-urgent repairs, but you can still ask for an inspection for repairs that you think are urgent.

Reporting urgent repairs

1. Contact the rental provider or agent – call, then put it in writing

Call the rental provider or real estate agent as soon as possible to report the repairs needed, especially if they are urgent repairs. Then, even if it sounds like the problem will be fixed with just a call, confirm the repairs that are needed in writing. The law requires this, and it will also give you proof of when you reported the problem in case you need to take further action later [section 72AA].

Written contact

Some agents might ask you to fill in their maintenance or repair form. This is fine provided you get to keep a copy.

You can also send an email or text – if the rental provider or agent have agreed to receiving communications and notices electronically. Or you can write a letter. You can also use one of the official forms on the Consumer Affairs Victoria website – either the Notice to rental provider of rented premises or the Notice of breach of duty to rental provider of rented premises.

Tenants Victoria recommends you use the Notice of breach of duty to rental provider of rented premises form. The title may sound harsh but if you send the form at the time you are reporting the repairs it can help get them done sooner.

Using the official forms also helps to make sure you include all important details. It can also be useful later if you take further action, such as pursuing compensation.

In the form make sure you include:

  • What needs to be fixed
  • When you reported the problem, or when you attempted to report it if you could not get in touch with your rental provider or agent
  • What the rental provider said they would do
  • That the repairs need to be done straight away for urgent repairs, or within 14 days for non-urgent repairs

See our page Rental provider breaches and other notices for more information on sending the forms.

Contact after hours for urgent repairs

You should have a phone number provided by the rental provider or agent for after-hours calls. Use it to tell them you need urgent repairs. Check your lease – there may be a list of numbers. You can also try the agent’s office phone number in case someone is working late or there is a message on the agent’s machine on how to deal with urgent repairs after hours.

If you cannot contact the rental provider, agent or after-hours emergency contact, and need to arrange for urgent repairs to be done yourself, you should send a text message or email as evidence of your attempt to contact them, even if the rental provider or agent has not agreed to electronic communications. Follow that up with a more detailed written notice once the immediate danger or damage has been dealt with. This will assist you in complying with the law and being reimbursed if you have had to pay for urgent repairs.

Examples of such repairs are a gas leak, a burst water pipe or an electrical safety issue, or anything else that cannot wait until you can reach the rental provider or agent.

2. Take photos and videos

Photos and videos can help show what the problem is and can also be useful later if the repairs are not done, or matters get worse, and you need to take further action. A video may be helpful if photos do not illustrate the problem, such as a leaking roof or a sliding cupboard door that does not work.

3. Keep notes and copies

Keep notes on any contact you have with the rental provider or agent about the repairs. Keep details of:

  • Phone calls you made, including times, dates and who you spoke to
  • Emails or text messages, and who they were sent to

If calling or texting from a mobile phone take a screenshot of your call log as a record of your calls.

Keep copies. Copy, scan or take a photo of anything you want to give the rental provider or agent. Make sure the copies are clear enough to be easily read. Keep them safe in case you need them later.

Keep copies of:

  • Maintenance forms
  • Forms for notice for breach of duty to rental provider or notice to rental provider
  • Photos or videos
  • Phone logs, emails or text messages

4. Give written notice to the agent or rental provider

Do this as soon as possible.

Get your written notice of the repairs needed to the agent or rental provider as soon as you can, along with any photos and videos or other evidence showing the repairs required.

In person

If you hand deliver the written notice, write down the date, time and name of the person you handed it to.

By post

If you mail the written notice by post, Tenants Victoria recommends using registered post and keeping your receipt and tracking number.

You will also need to allow extra time for delivery. See the Australia Post website for delivery times.

By email

You can only send notices by email if the rental provider or agent has agreed to this. Check:

  • If you have something in writing from the rental provider or agent that says they agree to you sending notices by email. This might be in your lease
  • The email address is the one the rental provider or agent agreed to. They may have more than one email address

If you do email the notice check it has been received. Ask for a confirmation return email from the agent or rental provider. Check your email settings to see if you can add a ‘delivery’ or ‘read’ receipt to your email before you send it, so that you receive an automatic reply. You can also call to confirm your email has been received.

5. Check if you can get compensation

You might be able to get compensation from the rental provider if they did not arrange for the repairs or took too long to arrange them.

If you tell the rental provider that you are going to claim compensation, they might even carry out the repairs sooner.

You can claim compensation at the same time as asking for the repairs or wait until they are completed. It may be better to wait until the repairs are completed, so that you can calculate the full loss you suffered.

To find out if you can get compensation and what you need to do, see our page, Compensation for renters.

Non-urgent repairs

Non-urgent repairs must be done within 14 days of you reporting them. Your report must be in writing. See the ‘Reporting repairs’ section on this page for more information.

If the repairs are not done within 14 days, or not done properly, you can:

  • Either apply to VCAT for non-urgent repairs
  • Or request a free inspection for non-urgent repairs from Consumer Affairs Victoria. Then, after Consumer Affairs Victoria has assisted and provided a report, apply to VCAT

See our page, Applying to VCAT.

You do not need to obtain an inspection report from Consumer Affairs Victoria for an application to VCAT. However, an inspection may be useful if the repair required is not obvious, such as a bad smell or problems with the property’s foundations. If you do request an inspection from Consumer Affairs Victoria, you will need to wait for their report before you can apply to VCAT.

If you apply to VCAT for non-urgent repair orders, it must hear your case within 7 days. If you can show the repair that is needed without an inspection or report, you can apply to VCAT much more quickly.

You cannot arrange and pay for non-urgent repairs yourself.

If repairs are not done

Do not stop paying rent and do not use your rent money to pay for repairs.

If you do not pay rent the rental provider may try to evict you for ‘overdue rent’. There are other steps you can take to make sure repairs are carried out. These include applying to VCAT and asking to pay your rent to VCAT instead of the rental provider until the repairs are completed (section 77).

Urgent repairs should be done immediately, even if the need arises after hours, or on a weekend or a public holiday.

If you have not been able to contact the rental provider or agent, they do not respond, or they refuse to do the repairs you have 2 options:

  • Apply to VCAT for urgent repairs
  • Arrange and pay for urgent repairs yourself – if the repairs cost less than $2,500, including GST, and you can afford to pay for them and wait to be reimbursed by the rental provider

If you apply to VCAT for urgent repair orders, it must hear your case within 2 business days. This is usually better than arranging and paying for repairs yourself, then getting the rental provider to reimburse you.

Arranging urgent repairs yourself

If the rental provider has not carried out urgent repairs you can apply to VCAT for the repairs to be done, or you can arrange and pay for them yourself, then ask the rental provider to reimburse you.

In most cases Tenants Victoria recommends applying to VCAT, which must hear your application within 2 business days.

If you want to arrange and pay for the urgent repairs yourself, you can do this if:

  • The repairs are urgent, and
  • You have tried to contact the rental provider or agent, and
  • You could not contact them, or they did not do the repairs, and
  • The repairs cost less than $2,500 (including GST)

Note that this process only applies for urgent repairs. You cannot arrange and pay for non-urgent repairs.

1. Check if you can pay

Consider what is involved in paying yourself. The issues include:

  • You cannot afford to pay
  • You do not want to pay because of any complications in getting reimbursed by the rental provider
  • The repairs needed will cost more than $2,500 (including GST)

If any of these apply to your situation, you can go to VCAT to ask for urgent repair orders instead. See our page Applying to VCAT.

2. Get quotes

If you pay for repairs, the rental provider only has to pay you back for ‘reasonable’ costs.

Get 2 or 3 quotes to compare prices and make sure you do not pay too much.

3. Check GST

The maximum the rental provider has to pay you back for urgent repairs is $2,500 including GST. So, before you book urgent repairs, check if GST is included.

4. Book the repairs

All repairs need to be done by a ‘suitably qualified person’. Tenants Victoria recommends you find a licensed tradesperson.

If you are a licensed tradesperson yourself, do not do the repairs unless the rental provider has agreed to pay you. The law on urgent repairs says the rental provider has to pay you back (up to $2,500 including GST) if you pay someone else to do urgent repairs. But it is not clear about what happens if you do the repairs yourself.

If the rental provider agrees that you can do the repairs, get this in writing before you start. Make sure the written agreement includes how much they will pay you and when you will be paid.

5. Take ‘before and after’ photos and videos

Take photos and videos that show the damage before any work starts and again after the repair is completed. Keep these safe in case there are any questions in future.

A video may be more helpful if photos do not show what the problem is, such as a leaking roof or removal of a blockage.

6. Get a receipt or tax invoice

Make sure you get a receipt or tax invoice. Check that it includes the work done and how much you paid.

7. Request payment from the rental provider

Write to the rental provider, or agent, to ask for repayment of the money you spent on urgent repairs.

Tenants Victoria recommends you use the Notice to rental provider of rented premises form available on the Consumer Affairs website to describe the repairs that were done, how much they cost and that the amount rental provider needs to pay you.

Using the official form is a good way to make sure you include all important details. And it might get the rental provider to reimburse you for the cost of urgent repairs sooner.

See our page Rental provider breaches and other notices for how to complete a Notice to rental provider of rented premises form.

What happens next

The rental provider has 7 days from the time they receive your written request to pay you. If they do not do so, you can apply to VCAT for an order that the rental provider has to pay you.

The 7 days starts from when the rental provider receives your paperwork — not from when the repairs are done. If you send your paperwork by post you will need to allow extra time for delivery.

See our page Applying to VCAT on getting your money back for urgent repairs.

 

Non-urgent repairs: requesting a free inspection

If you need non-urgent repairs done and have not been able to get the rental provider to undertake them you can apply to VCAT for non-urgent repairs, or you can first request a free inspection from Consumer Affairs Victoria. You cannot arrange and pay for non-urgent repairs yourself.

In most cases Tenants Victoria recommends applying to VCAT because they must hear your case within 7 days of you making your application.

If you want to request a free inspection first follow the steps below. Note that if you request an inspection from Consumer Affairs Victoria, you will need to wait for their report, if they agree to provide one, before you can apply to VCAT.

1. Write to Consumer Affairs Victoria

You can request a free inspection if you have reported the need for non-urgent repairs in writing to the rental provider or agent and they have not been done within 14 days of your notice being received, or have not been done properly.

Use the Request for repairs inspection or rent assessment form available on the Consumer Affairs website.

2. Keep copies

Keep a copy of the form and any notices you sent to the rental provider, or agent, and keep them safe in case you need them later.

You can copy, scan or take photos but make sure the copies can be clearly read. You will have two sets – one for you, one for Consumer Affairs Victoria.

3. Send the request to Consumer Affairs Victoria

You can email the form, along with any photos and videos or other evidence showing the repairs required, to Consumer Affairs Victoria at renting@justice.vic.gov.au.

Or you can mail it to the address listed on the form. If sending by post, we recommend you use registered post and keep your receipt and tracking number.

4. Your request is accepted or rejected

Consumer Affairs Victoria may either accept or reject your request.

If your request is accepted, an inspector from Consumer Affairs will contact you to book a time for the inspection.

If your request is rejected, you can still apply to VCAT for orders for non-urgent repairs. See our page Applying to VCAT.

If you do not hear from Consumer Affairs you can call to follow up about your request on 1300 558 181.

5. Consumer Affairs’ inspection

If Consumer Affairs Victoria has agreed to inspect the property for the repairs you listed on your form, make sure you, or someone who knows about the problem, attends the inspection to provide access and to point out anything the inspector might miss.

6. Consumer Affairs’ report

Consumer Affairs Victoria may decide to prepare a report, including recommendations for the repairs needed. If they do this, they will send a copy to you and to the rental provider, or agent, and may contact the rental provider, or age

What happens next

If the rental provider does not do repairs recommended by Consumer Affairs’ inspector, you can immediately apply to VCAT for non-urgent repairs. See our page Applying to VCAT.

You can also apply to VCAT for non-urgent repairs if Consumer Affairs Victoria rejected your request for an inspection or refused to provide a report.

Can you be evicted for asking for repairs?

You cannot be evicted just for asking for repairs. If you get a notice to vacate and you think it is in response to your request for repairs you may be able to challenge it at VCAT.

If you do receive a notice to vacate get legal advice as soon as possible. Make sure you have the notice with you when you contact us or your local Tenancy Assistance and Advocacy Program (TAAP) service.

Resources

Related pages

Was this page helpful?

Cookies and Privacy:This site uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.

Find out more Accept