Consumer Affairs Victoria guidelines

Rental providers (landlords) and renters have duties under the law they must follow. Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) has guidelines for some of these duties.

The guidelines

Consumer Affairs Victoria, the state’s consumer affairs regulator, issued these guidelines in 2021 to outline its position on compliance and non-compliance with Victoria’s rental laws, the Residential Tenancies Act 1997. The purpose of the guidelines is ensuring greater consistency in decision making and dispute resolution by VCAT, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. VCAT needs to consider the guidelines when making decisions about compensation claims or compliance applications [section 211B].

Note that all the sections in brackets on this page, such as [section 211B], refer to Victoria’s Residential Tenancies Act 1997. References in brackets to regulations, such as [regulation 12], are to the Residential Tenancies Regulations 2021. See the bottom of this page for links to all of these.

Duties of rental providers (landlords) and renters

See our page Landlord breaches for a list of rental providers’ (landlords’) duties under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997.

See our page Renter breaches for a list of renters’ duties under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997.

Maintenance guidelines

‘Maintenance’ is referred to in some of the duty sections of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 and in the Residential Tenancies Regulations 2021 but is not defined by these laws.

The guidelines set out maintenance activities that should be undertaken by rental providers and renters, in addition to those specified under the law, to ensure they are meeting their duties.

Rental provider maintenance activities

The guidelines include the following maintenance activities that should be undertaken by rental providers to ensure they are meeting their duty to provide and maintain the property in good repair [section 68].

Information

  • Recording maintenance requests
  • Providing the renter with any instructions that might relate to the use or cleaning of fixtures at the property

Outside the property

  • Painting or repairing fences
  • Major pruning and removal of trees, shrubs, and plants
  • Clearing gutters
  • Washing the outside of windows that are not easily accessible by the renter, especially those on upper levels
  • Building work involving the property’s structure
  • Maintenance of water tanks if present
  • Checking septic tanks and septic tank pumps at regular intervals in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions

Properties with an owners’ corporation

For properties where there is an owners’ corporation, such as apartment buildings, the owners’ corporation will generally be responsible for repairing and maintaining:

  • Common property, for example a garden or nature strip
  • Chattels, fixtures, fittings and services related to common property, such as in common hallways or entry areas
  • Equipment and services that benefit some or all of the residences and common property, such as a common laundry

Renter maintenance activities

The guidelines include the following maintenance activities that should be undertaken by renters to ensure they are meeting their duties to keep the property reasonably clean [section 63] and to not intentionally or negligently cause damage [section 61]. See also the section headed ‘Cleanliness guidelines’ on this page.

Inside the property

  • Cleaning any fixtures installed at the rented premises
  • Replacing light bulbs which do not require new light fittings
  • Dusting and wiping down surfaces, including heating or cooling vents
  • Carpet and floor cleaning
  • Cleaning the inside of any windows and the outside of any ground floor windows
  • Cleaning the inside of the balcony doors, windows, and tracks
  • Emptying and cleaning the dishwasher filter as needed (if a dishwasher is installed), following manufacturer’s instructions
  • Cleaning behind and underneath appliances, if they can be moved safely without damage to floor
  • Cleaning scuff marks and fingerprints off walls where the texture of the wall allows it to be cleaned
  • Cleaning wet areas, such as bathrooms and laundries

Outside the property

  • Regular gardening duties and yard maintenance – for example, weeding, pruning or lawn mowing. If you have an agreement with the rental provider that they will be responsible for maintaining the garden or yard, this guideline may not be relevant to you
  • Regular disposal of garbage and other waste, using bins provided by the council

Cleanliness guidelines

‘Reasonably clean’

‘Reasonably clean’ is referred to in some of the duty sections of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 but is not defined by the Act. These includes duties of the rental provider to provide the property in a reasonably clean condition [section 65] and of the renter to keep and leave the property reasonably clean [section 63].

The CAV guidelines provide guidance on the interpretation of ‘cleanliness’:

‘Cleanliness should be measured according to average standards in the community. It does not mean spotless or pristine nor does it mean terribly messy; the standard should sit somewhere in the middle and will depend on the nature, age, and circumstances of the rented premises.

‘Generally, an item or surface may be considered reasonably clean if it is free from marks, dirt, cobwebs, stains or dust etc. and cannot be further improved by additional cleaning to a reasonable standard (e.g. wiping down a benchtop again doesn’t produce a higher standard of cleanliness).’

Examples of cleanliness that would be expected in premises which are ‘reasonably clean’ included in the guidelines are:

  • Cooking appliances, including the oven, stove and rangehood, to be free of oil, grease, and food stains
  • Dishwasher to be clean, that is, free from grease, grime, food scraps and any strong odours
  • Baths, showers, toilets, sinks and vanity units to be free from dirt, dust, stains, soap scum and mould caused by renter’s failure to take care
  • Kitchen sink to be free from soap scum and food scraps
  • Mirrors to be free from dust, marks, and smears
  • Walls and skirting boards to be reasonably free of scuff marks, fingerprints, and dust
  • Floors to be washed and free from dirt, dust, and stains
  • Carpets free of pet hair, stains, and any strong odours (such as urine)
  • Premises clear of personal belongings (at the end of the rental agreement)
  • Garden beds and lawns to be weeded and neat
  • Lawns to be mowed unless this is the specific responsibility of the rental provider
  • Windowsills free from dust and dirt
  • Windows, including the outside of any external ground floor windows, to be free from marks, smears, dust, and dirt
  • Curtains or blinds free from dust and stains
  • Cupboards emptied and free from dust and dirt
  • Heating ducts and exhaust fans to be clean and free of dust. Note: cleaning at heights may often be considered maintenance which is the responsibility of the rental provider. Renters are not expected to access ceiling fans where access may be dangerous.
  • Rubbish removed and disposed of correctly
  • Shed or garage (where provided) to be kept neat, tidy and emptied at the end of the rental agreement

Leaving the property ‘reasonably clean’

When renters move out, they are required to leave the property, as far as practicable, reasonably clean and in the same condition as when they moved in, taking into account fair wear and tear [section 63].

The guidelines provide some further information on assessing the cleanliness of a property when a renter moves in that may assist in determining the condition it should be in on moving out.

Professional cleaning

Rental agreements entered into from 29 March 2021 may include a term about professional cleaning, or cleaning to a professional standard [section 27C, regulation 12].

Such terms are not intended to impose requirements for cleanliness over and above what is required under the law. The law only requires renters to keep and leave the property reasonably clean [section 63].

Where a professional cleaning term is included in a rental agreement it only applies if:

  • The property was professionally cleaned or cleaned to a professional standard immediately before you moved in, and the rental provider told you this had been done, or
  • Professional cleaning, or cleaning to a professional standard, is needed to restore the property to the same condition it was in before the start of your tenancy, taking into account fair wear and tear [section 27C, regulation 12]

See Consumer Affairs Victoria’s Cleanliness guideline for guidance on when professional cleaning, or cleaning to a professional standard, may be able to be requested by the rental provider.

Damage and fair wear and tear guidelines

Renters, and their visitors, have a duty to not intentionally or negligently cause damage to the property or common areas, but damage does not include fair wear and tear [section 61].

The guidelines provide examples of what may be considered fair wear and tear compared to damage.

table explaining the difference between fair wear and tear and damage to property

They also provide examples in relation to pets of what may be considered normal fair wear and tear as compared to damage.

See Consumer Affairs Victoria’s guidelines on damage and fair wear and tear for further guidance on distinguishing between damage and fair wear and tear.

The guidelines also address depreciation – the decline in an item’s value over time – which needs to be taken into consideration by VCAT when a rental provider makes a claim for compensation for damage [section 211A].

Resources

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