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Anyone with ACAT experience? (a rental quandary)

By 8 July 2011 18

I was wondering if anyone has had any dealings with the ACT Civil & Administrative Tribunal?

My husband and I are considering applying for compensation through them, for not having any working heating in our rental house. We went for the majority of last winter with no heating as the ducted heating was broken, and so far this winter have had no heating either. A certain air-con company came out 5 times last winter and failed to fix the problem, and so far this winter they have diagnosed the problem, but only after one month of me chasing them up for an appointment.

I rang them today only to find out they hadn’t ordered the part needed yet. Its been sitting for a week and a half without anyone acting on it. Meanwhile, I’m freezing my butt off, and have been for 5 months total.
Surely not having any heating for 5 (and possibly more, depending on how long they take to finally fix it) months is worth some compensation.

Our property manager has said we are entitled to it, but our landlords refuse. According to the residential tenancies act it is considered an urgent repair, and needs to be fixed ASAP. Oh, and the landlords have taken weeks to approve repairs to the air-con. As far as I’m concerned, its an urgent repair, it just needs to be fixed even though the landlords take up to a month to approve the repairs.

This whole heating issue has been a source of an insane amount of frustration.

What does everyone else think? Are we entitled to compensation?

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18 Responses to Anyone with ACAT experience? (a rental quandary)
#1
CoffinRX211:50 am, 08 Jul 11

ACAT are generally in favour of tenants rather than landlords so you may well have a case.

I’d call up and speak to the Residential Tenancy Advisory Service and ask their opinion on which is the best way to proceed? They were very helpful when we took a landlord to ACAT

#2
kezzafezza12:50 pm, 08 Jul 11

And before any smart arses tell us to move, we are. We move into a fabulous new house with working heating, that belongs to the parents of great friends of ours. A win-win situation!

#3
CB43DW1:03 pm, 08 Jul 11

On the surface it does sound like you’re entitled to compensation. Consulted hubby who used to work in real estate (but left because the owners of the business told him basically to lie to tenants and owners) and he reckons:

In regard to the broken heater and urgent repairs it clearly states in the standard residential terms that form part of any residential tenancy agreement:

Clause 60: The following are urgent repairs in relation to the premises, or services or fixtures supplied by the lessor:
(j) a failure or breakdown of any service on the premises essential for hot water, cooking, heating or laundering

Related clauses are:
Clause 55:
(1) The lessor must maintain the premises in a reasonable state of repair having regard to their condition at the commencement of the Tenancy Agreement
(2) The tenant shall notify the lessor of any need for repairs.

Clause 57: Subject to clause 55, the lessor must make repairs, other than urgent repairs, within 4 weeks of being notified of the need for repairs (unless otherwise agreed). This clause outlines the timeframes the lessor (or the lessor’s agent) is responsible for repairing the air-con.

Further to Clause 57 where it indicates that, ‘other than urgent repairs,’ Clause 59 states:

Clause 59: The tenant must notify the lessor (or lessor’s nominee) of the need for urgent repairs as soon as practicable, and the lessor must, subject to clause 82, carry out those repairs as soon as necessary, having regard to the nature of the problem.

Clause 82 although related, doesn’t really add much other than talking about timings associated with access to the property to view the damage:
Clause 82:
(1) On giving the tenant 1 week notice (or such other agreed period), the lessor may enter the premises at a reasonable time, having regard to the interests of the tenant and the lessor, for he purpose of making or inspecting repairs.
(2) For urgent repairs, the lessor must, give reasonable notice and enter the premises at a reasonable time having regard to the interests of the tenant and the lessor.

More broadly, the ACAT generally rule in favour of the tenants, so as long as you have recorded when you have informed the real-estate agency and the lessor regarding the need for repairs for both the heater and the cooling, they are highly likely to be candidates for compensation.

http://www.acat.act.gov.au/content.php?id=254 is the link to the ACAT forms website

http://www.legislation.act.gov.au/af/2009-120/current/pdf/2009-120.pdf is a link to the ACAT form that needs to be submitted

As part of the submission, include any e-mail correspondence and clearly summarise – in dot point form – the dates the dispute has been running for and the amount of compensation that you are seeking.

It is abysmal that landlords think they have no responsibility to fix up their properties…especially like heating in winter!

Good luck and hope you’re successful.

#4
ThatGuy1:23 pm, 08 Jul 11

You’re entitled.

I used to be a PM, we had a similair situation but the timeframes weren’t as ridiculous. The owner opted to install brand new heating system throughout entire house instead of replacing one broken wall heater (all other heaters in the house worked).

The installation was taking a bit of time as it does, tenants got impatient and demanded a replacement wall heater along with the brand new system. We asked them to wait for the few more days it would take to complete the installation. No such luck, they went to the Tribunal 3 days after the installation was complete and won rental reduction from the first day the wall heater went out.

Slightly different in your situation, you’re completely in the right while these tenants were just being brats. If they won then you should definitely win.

#5
kezzafezza3:26 pm, 08 Jul 11

ThatGuy said :

You’re entitled.

I used to be a PM, we had a similair situation but the timeframes weren’t as ridiculous. The owner opted to install brand new heating system throughout entire house instead of replacing one broken wall heater (all other heaters in the house worked).

The installation was taking a bit of time as it does, tenants got impatient and demanded a replacement wall heater along with the brand new system. We asked them to wait for the few more days it would take to complete the installation. No such luck, they went to the Tribunal 3 days after the installation was complete and won rental reduction from the first day the wall heater went out.

Slightly different in your situation, you’re completely in the right while these tenants were just being brats. If they won then you should definitely win.

Wow. They got compensation for only one heater out of a few not working? Ours has failed to work at all. No heating at all, for the entire house. For 5 months so far. Well, it would be 2 years in total, but obviously we don’t use the heater over summer. Surely that means we would get a fair bit in compensation, for having no working heating at all?

#6
ThatGuy3:40 pm, 08 Jul 11

ThatGuy said :

Surely that means we would get a fair bit in compensation, for having no working heating at all?

Bingo, you could request reimbursement for a reduction in rent for the period of the heating not working. Oh yeah don’t forget to try for reimbursement for the Tribunal fees too (around $140 if I remember correctly).

Uhh let me just confirm that the house was advertised as being with heating yeah? People have weasled their way out of that before by trying to claim that, while the heating infrastructure was there, the property was never advertised as having working heating. I think magistrates of today see through that, but that was a crafty little argument back in the day.

#7
kezzafezza4:05 pm, 08 Jul 11

ThatGuy said :

ThatGuy said :

Surely that means we would get a fair bit in compensation, for having no working heating at all?

Bingo, you could request reimbursement for a reduction in rent for the period of the heating not working. Oh yeah don’t forget to try for reimbursement for the Tribunal fees too (around $140 if I remember correctly).

Uhh let me just confirm that the house was advertised as being with heating yeah? People have weasled their way out of that before by trying to claim that, while the heating infrastructure was there, the property was never advertised as having working heating. I think magistrates of today see through that, but that was a crafty little argument back in the day.

Yes, it was advertised with ‘ducted heating’. As it currently also is on Allhomes, as its up for rent again. We’re getting the hell out of dodge! I feel sorry for the people who move in. But as we are breaking the lease early, I can’t afford to mouth off about the landlords to prospective tenants, as we NEED someone to take up the lease by August 14th, or we still have to pay rent.

#8
wondering1236:06 pm, 08 Jul 11

kezzafezza said :

ThatGuy said :

ThatGuy said :

Surely that means we would get a fair bit in compensation, for having no working heating at all?

Bingo, you could request reimbursement for a reduction in rent for the period of the heating not working. Oh yeah don’t forget to try for reimbursement for the Tribunal fees too (around $140 if I remember correctly).

Uhh let me just confirm that the house was advertised as being with heating yeah? People have weasled their way out of that before by trying to claim that, while the heating infrastructure was there, the property was never advertised as having working heating. I think magistrates of today see through that, but that was a crafty little argument back in the day.

Yes, it was advertised with ‘ducted heating’. As it currently also is on Allhomes, as its up for rent again. We’re getting the hell out of dodge! I feel sorry for the people who move in. But as we are breaking the lease early, I can’t afford to mouth off about the landlords to prospective tenants, as we NEED someone to take up the lease by August 14th, or we still have to pay rent.

As long as you’re alright, don’t worry about the next sucker.

#9
Angelina9:57 pm, 08 Jul 11

+1 wondering123, that was how I read the comment too. The OP is all about ‘poor us, look how badly we’ve been treated’ but they’re prepared to let someone else fall into the same trap without a second thought. Badmouth away, I say. You might have to pay some more rent but you could be saving someone else a lot of trouble.

If I was this tribunal that you’re considering going to, I would be asking why you’ve waited so long to push for compensation. You should have jumped on this last winter instead of waiting till now to ask people on RiotAct whether you have a case. And I don’t believe that whole ‘but they came out five times to fix it and nothing happened’. You could have done something about it then, either by making a hell of a lot more noise to the property manager or landlords, or going to the tribunal at the start of the issue

Maybe you should just buy your own house, then you can heat it how you please.

#10
Angelina10:08 pm, 08 Jul 11

Also, I take back my comment about buying your own house, on further consideration I acknowledge that this may not be a viable option for you and it’s not a relevant point.

#11
54-112:20 pm, 09 Jul 11

Have a look at the latest posting on the ACAT website, at http://www.acat.act.gov.au/decisions.php?action=decision&id=191. Although not about heating, it will answer all your questions.

#12
LadyxBec10:17 am, 11 Jul 11

You should read this past decision – http://www.acat.act.gov.au/decisions.php?action=decision&id=149

I think you’re entitled to compensation, or to break the lease without penalty, or both.

#13
Holden Caulfield12:15 pm, 11 Jul 11

Like any walk of life there are arseholes easily found. Sadly looks like the OP’s landlords fall into that category–based on what we’ve been told here anyway.

wondering123 said :

As long as you’re alright, don’t worry about the next sucker.

Gee, that’s the spirit! [/sarcasm]

#14
wondering1233:02 pm, 11 Jul 11

Holden Caulfield said :

Like any walk of life there are arseholes easily found. Sadly looks like the OP’s landlords fall into that category–based on what we’ve been told here anyway.

wondering123 said :

As long as you’re alright, don’t worry about the next sucker.

Gee, that’s the spirit! [/sarcasm]

Oh, I’m so sorry. I forgot that its perfectly acceptable for the OP to post a public rant about how hard done they are due to the actions of their supposedly incompetent land lord. However, they have absolutely NO qualms about the next person who has to put up with this sh*t that they claim is so terrible they require compensation. Now isn’t that a delightful spirit to possess?

#15
Holden Caulfield3:12 pm, 11 Jul 11

@wondering123

Haha, right you are.

#16
kezzafezza4:08 pm, 11 Jul 11

wondering123 said :

Holden Caulfield said :

Like any walk of life there are arseholes easily found. Sadly looks like the OP’s landlords fall into that category–based on what we’ve been told here anyway.

wondering123 said :

As long as you’re alright, don’t worry about the next sucker.

Gee, that’s the spirit! [/sarcasm]

Oh, I’m so sorry. I forgot that its perfectly acceptable for the OP to post a public rant about how hard done they are due to the actions of their supposedly incompetent land lord. However, they have absolutely NO qualms about the next person who has to put up with this sh*t that they claim is so terrible they require compensation. Now isn’t that a delightful spirit to possess?

I’m not going to pay an extra 4k just so I can sleep a little bit better at night, knowing that while I am out of pocket thousands of dollars, no-one has to deal with the house with no heating. Not my problem.
Anyway, we have spoken to a solicitor who says our case is very strong. We will probably be granted the lease termination we seek, plus compensation, especially as I have email evidence that our property manager has lied to us about numerous things regarding breaking the lease, the heating and numerous other issues we have had.

And @ Angelina, how are you to know we didn’t ‘make more noise’ about the heating? We made a lot of noise. As for not going to the tribunal earlier, we didn’t know we could. Our property manager has told us all sorts of fibs, and having never rented before, besides Defence housing, we had no real idea what our rights were until we educated ourselves via the Residential Tenancies Act. We foolishly believed our property manager when she told us there was ‘no way to take any matters further than the real estate agency’. But unluckily for her, we kept the emails.

#17
Chop715:57 pm, 11 Jul 11

I had ACAT experience once ….. left me with scratches and a bite mark.

#18
pris10:02 pm, 07 Aug 11

5 months without a heater????, were you wanting to use the heater in February?
It is an urgent repair, you have the right to organise yourself, so why didnt you?

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