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Rental repair advice – heating

By 17 June 2010 27

Rioters, I need some advice.

I have tried to call the Tenants Union for the last week and a half, and as they are impossible to get ahold of, hopefully you can help.

I live in a townhouse that has two forms of heating, ducted and small wall heaters in the main living areas. My housemates and I all stay in the main loungeroom area in the evening until bedtime to socialise and… computerise. Recently the wall heater in the loungeroom broke, and it seems melted one of it’s connectors.

We have requested it be fixed through the real estate agent and have been advised as we also have ducted, the landlord will not be fixing the wall heater and we instead must use the ducted. We are reluctant to do this as it will cost more due to the need to connect up the gas and it will involve heating the whole house, instead of just the one room we require.

Do we have the right to fight this decision and request the small heater be fixed, even though we have an alternate (more expensive) form of heating?

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27 Responses to Rental repair advice – heating
#1
troll-sniffer1:23 pm, 17 Jun 10

Absolutely 100%. The place was rented with the smaller heater as part of the lease. Therefore you have a right to expect that it will be maintained as part of the conditions of your paying rent.

I would write a formal letter to the managing agent and advise them that you require the heater to be fixed. If the landlord won’t do it, then you can pay to have it fixed and deduct the bill from your rent. If the agent and the landlord don’t like it, you can see them in the tribunal. I think you will find the tribunal takes a dim view of landlords who don’t maintain properties to the standard when rented.

#2
S4anta1:23 pm, 17 Jun 10

It appears that this whole conundrum revolves around money. May I suggest you harden up and put another jumper on if one is afraid to turn the heater on during winter.

#3
ps01041:30 pm, 17 Jun 10

You have every right to have the small heater fixed. If something was listed on the condition report at the beginning of your tenancy as in working order (which I assume it was), it should be kept in working order for the duration of the tenancy. You have signed a contract to pay $x per week based on the condition and inclusions of the property as listed on that report.

The tenants union provides some useful advice here. Your next step is to issue the agent with a notice to remedy. This will document everything in an official form should you require this as evidence down the track (hopefully it won’t go that far!)
http://www.tenantsact.org.au/Advice/repairs.html

If they still dont want to fix the heater, I would be giving them three options a) reduce the rent as the property is no longer in the original condition or b) ask the landlord to foot the bill for getting the gas connected and any additional costs you will incur or c) take it to the tribunal

#4
Genie1:33 pm, 17 Jun 10

IS it really cheaper to run the wall heaters over using ducted heating ? Dont you want a warm bedroom to go sleep in ? ( I know I do )

In the mean time go buy a heater for your loungeroom, or buy some blankets and dressing gowns.

It also sounds like your gas isnt even connected, argue that fact with your landlord. Shouldn’t that cost go back on to them (if there is one)

#5
thehutch1:34 pm, 17 Jun 10

Another Rental thing… TU must be busy as. The legislation states:

Lessor to make repairs
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.

The issue here is that does the non-working heater mean that the landlord is not keeping the property in a reasonable state of repair. Generally speaking, if the small heater was present when you moved into the property the landlord should repair it to ensure you have heating provided. But as you already have an alternate source of heating this is may not be an issue. The property is probably still in a reasonable state of repair.

There is no obligation for a landlord to replace a heater with ‘like for like’ (eg old heater goes and he replaces it with a spilt system etc).

But in the worse case scenario, and this goes to the Tribunal, it is likely he would be requried to either subsidise the additional running costs of the more expensive system or repair the old heater.

I suggest you serve the Agent with an Notice to Remedy (copy available via the RTT link http://www.courts.act.gov.au/magistrates/index.html) to repair the heater (or at least write a letter)… and advise them if they don’t, you will put in a claim for the increased electrical costs etc.

#6
Lazy I1:42 pm, 17 Jun 10
#7
johnny_the_knife1:46 pm, 17 Jun 10

If the heater was in good working order when you moved in, I’d suggest the landlord has an obligation to maintain it.

To take another example, if you have a house with two toilets and one breaks, you’d expect that would be fixed even though you could use the other one.

#8
johnny_the_knife1:56 pm, 17 Jun 10
#9
p12:05 pm, 17 Jun 10

johnny_the_knife said :

If the heater was in good working order when you moved in, I’d suggest the landlord has an obligation to maintain it.

To take another example, if you have a house with two toilets and one breaks, you’d expect that would be fixed even though you could use the other one.

But what if the house had a single electric heater when they moved in, it broke, then it was replaced with gas ducted, what then?

Although the last place I rented had a single gas heater, and it used to cost a fortune to have it connect even in months where is was turned off at the valve and used no gas.

#10
boffins2:15 pm, 17 Jun 10

S4anta: We are all students, so money isn’t exactly flowing into the property. We use blankets and jumpers where we can but theres a point where it just gets too damn cold in the loungeroom. Bills are high enough as is without adding a gas bill on top.

As for the warm bedrooms, not as much of an issue. A hot water bottle generally does the trick for getting into bed. It’s just the loungeroom we want heated as we spend most of our time in there, not the whole house.

#11
johnny_the_knife2:38 pm, 17 Jun 10

p1 said :

But what if the house had a single electric heater when they moved in, it broke, then it was replaced with gas ducted, what then?

Although the last place I rented had a single gas heater, and it used to cost a fortune to have it connect even in months where is was turned off at the valve and used no gas.

Then it’s being replaced with, arguably, a better alternative. Similar to a single flush toilet being replaced with dual flush – just to keep the toilet analogy going. In this case, the broken heater, which was functioning when they occupied the premises intitially isn’t being replaced at all.

#12
ThatGuy2:49 pm, 17 Jun 10

I had a similair case when I was a PM – slightly reversed though. The house was filled with wall heaters, the living room one died beyond repair and the owner opted to install ducted throughout. Tenants felt that this was taking too long and took us to the Tribunal. They won.

In your instance, the key factor is whether or not the property was originally described to you as having wall heaters in fully working condition. If this is what was originally promised then you have a case on your hands.

Having said that, I think the right thing to do would just be to use the ducted. I’ve used ducted in a townhouses before and the cost wasn’t too high.

#13
harvyk12:49 pm, 17 Jun 10

Whatever you do, do not go making the repairs yourself and then try and deduct the repair costs from the rent payments… You will most likely be brought in front of the tribunal for non-payment of rent, and when they make their decision they will not consider the fact that it was because the heater was repaired from your own pocket…

Write them a letter reminding them of their obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act, and if they fail to repair the heater take them to the tribunal. The tribunal can (and most likely will) order them to repair the heater out of their own pocket. The fact there is a second heater is irrelevant, as you have the right to use everything in your property. If you feel (and can prove, eg via an electricity bill and any documentation stating energy usage of both heaters) that the running costs of the ducted system are more expensive than running the smaller heater, ask the tribunal for those costs to be reimbursed as well…

Whatever you do, do not withhold payment, as this puts you in a far worse position if (and when) the matter goes in front of the tribunal.

#14
grundy3:08 pm, 17 Jun 10

Going the other way around, we have some awesome private landlords and we had expensive ducted heating/cooling.
We asked if a small, silent and cheap to run system could be installed just for the bedroom and they were more than happy to do it!

We saved over 40% on our last electricity bill over the same summer period from the year before! :D

#15
Lazy I3:08 pm, 17 Jun 10

Don’t overlook the fact that paying additional for the ducted heating may work out being the cheap option. If they fail to renew your lease because of a dispute over a heater they see no value in fixing, you will end up having to find another place to live in the current rental climate.

#16
One3:53 pm, 17 Jun 10

Forgot to say, sounds like you got billed for the heater – you just don’t know about it yet :-)

“have been advised”

was that written?

“advised”

LOL

Also for others; getting heaters cleaned from Dust or dirt could be expensive. Not the landlords fault they need to build more investments or own a housed in an area of dirty air.

Any workers needs to be sure there isn’t Asbestos before pulling covers off things.

Melted?

HINT: don’t go about putting in another heater incase the rented property burns down. I bet your landlord just upped his insurance against fire damage in hope you will fix it.

#17
One4:06 pm, 17 Jun 10

I can see the real estate agent ad after you move

House for rent
Gas heating option
Brand new electric heating

#18
georgesgenitals4:12 pm, 17 Jun 10

I find the concept of a ‘Tenant’s Union’ amusing. As a landlord, do you really think I give a crap if other tenants walk out on their landlords?

#19
Woody Mann-Caruso4:21 pm, 17 Jun 10

Sabotage the gas heater. The electric heater will get fixed quick smart. Claim a reduction in rent because the whole property isn’t heated anymore, just one room. Win win!

#20
shaneb5:04 pm, 17 Jun 10

I don’t know how much establishing a gas connection will cost, but are you sure that using the gas won’t be cheaper (and easier than going through the tribunal)? Just shut the vents and close the doors in the bedrooms so that the airflow is directed to the living room.

#21
dvaey5:36 pm, 17 Jun 10

georgesgenitals said :

I find the concept of a ‘Tenant’s Union’ amusing. As a landlord, do you really think I give a crap if other tenants walk out on their landlords?

No, but I suspect you would give a crap if the ‘union’ lobbied government to change legislation. My guess is thats where the unions power is, not with individual landlords but with the legislation. ie. workplace unions have more power if they can change the award than if they can get a few cafe workers to strike, for example.

#22
urchin6:58 pm, 17 Jun 10

georgesgenitals said :

I find the concept of a ‘Tenant’s Union’ amusing. As a landlord, do you really think I give a crap if other tenants walk out on their landlords?

the union exists primarily to help renters understand their rights and to improve protections of renters. i don’t expect landlords–especially canberra landlords–to give a crap about anything at all. that’s what the tribunal is for. fwiw i don’t find the callous greed of most landlords amusing, just a bit pathetic and despicable.

#23
nhand427:19 pm, 17 Jun 10

The small wall heater is part of your rental lease. It was working when you moved in, therefore the owner must repair it. The ACT Rental Act is very clear.

http://www.tenantsact.org.au/Advice/repairs.html

The landlord has four weeks to complete non-urgent repairs. There was a local case a few months back where the landlord had to repay the tenants after failing to fix various things for several months.

http://www.acat.act.gov.au/decisions.php?action=decision&id=75&PHPSESSID=daa4d0d476f701d972c08e2a29472313

Whatever you do, don’t stop paying rent. However the landlord is entirely obligated to fix the heater. They can’t fob you off. The agent is doing the wrong thing too. Name and shame them.

#24
cleo11:22 pm, 17 Jun 10

It sounds like the heater was dangerous, the landlord does have a responsibility to fix the heater, as it was on the condition report as working, and that’s what you agreed on when you signed your lease, I would not use the gas, I suggest that you buy a second hand heater from revolve, they are really cheap.

#25
ProudTenant8:47 am, 18 Jun 10

Veteran S4anta: If the air in the entire room is cold, how does a jumper help the OP exactly? Your nostrils can still form icicles? S4nta, of all people, should know that.

#26
S4anta10:59 am, 18 Jun 10

ProudTenant said :

Veteran S4anta: If the air in the entire room is cold, how does a jumper help the OP exactly? Your nostrils can still form icicles? S4nta, of all people, should know that.

Actually when expelling air out your nose, providing your internal body temp is higher than that outside you should be right, especially indoors. ‘Nostril’ icicles are formed by moisture being frozen by external factors such as wind, blizzards etc. The best examples of these are the icicles found on those people’s facial hair mad enough to climb everest

#27
ProudTenant11:55 am, 18 Jun 10

HHmmmm, a logical, and scientifically aware S4nta.

Do you have a heater S4nta? One that takes the chill out of the actual lounge room air, and not just your big fat red-pantsy butt? I hope so.

Here’s hoping the real Santa brings the OP warmth, preferably well before Christmas.

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