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Residential Tenancy Issue

By 20 March 2014 18

Hope someone can help or guide me with this one.

 

I rent a flat-tin-roofed 2bdr property in Fisher and have had a couple of instances with the gutters overflowing during major storms and leaking into the house.

The first time this happened, a couple of years ago, there was some leaking in the master bedrooms which I was able to deal catch in buckets and mop up with towels.  It wasn’t a huge amount, but I called it in to the property manager anyways the next day as per the rental agreement.  I was advised to keep an eye on it but nothing much else was done.

During the next storm a week or so later the ceiling in the master bedroom came down.  It was a heavy downpour and was forecast to go on for a few more days so I called in the SES and they patched it up as best they could.  I called it in to the property manager on the same day and within a couple of weeks it had been patched up and the carpets dried.
I was advised by the property manager at the time that there was an issue with the gutters that caused them to clog up during heavy downpours and was told that they would have someone come out periodically to remove any debris build up.  I was happy with that.

A guy came around to check the gutters once since then.

This time, during the last couple of downpours last month, there was initially some major flooding throughout half of the house which I reported immediately, mentioning the previous issue with the gutters, but was told by a receptionist at the real estate to email the (new) property manager as she was unavailable and told to deal with the water as best I could with towels and buckets until she got back to me.  I emailed and heard nothing back.  Within 3 days there was a second major downpour which brought large parts of the ceiling down again, this time in both rooms, soaking furnishings, beds, coverings, carpet throughout the house, and causing the wood to warp and break a fitting on one of the beds rendering it useless and unrepairable.

This happened on a weekend so I called a roof repairer from the supplied emergency numbers to ensure no further damage would be done and emailed the property manager immediately.  The next business day I also called in again but was unable to reach her so I left a message for a call back and emailed again.  When she called, she said she had received both emails at the same time, citing issues with their email servers.

She authorised the carpet cleaners to come out and but they took a full week to arrive and once they did, they removed the carpet throughout the house, saying it had been too long and the carpet was damaged.  They did no provide blowers saying they were not authorised to do so by the real estate.

As a result, I have been unable to live in the house due to the moisture, smell and general upending of the house done during the carpet removal for a full month and have been living with family elsewhere.  As mentioned I also have no beds as they and their coverings were soaked and the mattresses are now riddled with mold, and one was broken.

When I’ve asked the property manager, who has been incredibly difficult to reach, whether their insurance would cover the damage to my property she said I’d have to take it up with my insurance and has left it at that.

Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t this a breach of the Rental Tenancy Agreement in regards to repairs and maintenance of the property?  According to the Tenants Union site, any damage done to tenant’s property as a direct result of inadequate maintenance of the structure should be covered by the landlord’s insurance.

For the past two weeks I’ve been on the hunt for another suitable place home but

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18 Responses to Residential Tenancy Issue
#1
digitalchet2:24 pm, 20 Mar 14

Hmm… that’s odd…. I had saved this as a draft as it wasn’t finished, yet here it is.

Wrapping up:

…I’ve not yet been able to find one as yet.
Thankfully, the property manager has contacted me today to “remind me to stop rental payments” (nothing was mentioned about that up until this point despite my inquiries), but reiterates that any property which was damaged remains my responsibility.

#2
colourful sydney rac3:07 pm, 20 Mar 14

contact the tennants union for advice

#3
enrique3:24 pm, 20 Mar 14

Read the ACT residential tenancies Act…

http://www.legislation.act.gov.au/a/1997-84/default.asp

Find the sections that relate to maintenance and repairs

From memory, you’re interested in the following sections…

54, 55, 56, 57, 59, 60, 61, 62.

Best of luck.

P.S. I wonder if the actual owner of the property is aware of the problem? Sounds like a shonky property manager.

#4
SheepGroper5:18 pm, 20 Mar 14

Why didn’t you clean the gutters yourself especially after you became aware of the problem?

#5
digitalchet8:39 pm, 20 Mar 14

SheepGroper said :

Why didn’t you clean the gutters yourself especially after you became aware of the problem?

Well, it’s not like that didn’t occur to me. Unfortunately I don’t own a ladder, nor is there any room or place to store one.
I work long hours and it was late in the evening when I came home to find the mess both times, which is why I called it in to the real estate.
My experience with most property managers in the past has been that they usually will send someone out when it’s called in and will not expect you to scramble up the pipes or up a tree if you have no access.

#6
Masquara9:33 pm, 20 Mar 14

SheepGroper said :

Why didn’t you clean the gutters yourself especially after you became aware of the problem?

OHS risk – you can’t expect a tenant to own an extender ladder & get up on the roof!

#7
Maya1239:34 pm, 20 Mar 14

I thought cleaning gutters of a house was part of the tenants’ responsibility; rather as the garden is while they live here, or changing tap washers. If you don’t have a ladder get one, or pay someone else to do the gutters.
“I work long hours”. So!?

#8
Masquara9:35 pm, 20 Mar 14

Masquara said :

SheepGroper said :

Why didn’t you clean the gutters yourself especially after you became aware of the problem?

OHS risk – you can’t expect a tenant to own an extender ladder & get up on the roof!

Wow ! New post-posting-moderation policy! Not a moment too soon ……

#9
digitalchet10:03 am, 21 Mar 14

colourful sydney racing identity said :

contact the tennants union for advice

enrique said :

Read the ACT residential tenancies Act…

P.S. I wonder if the actual owner of the property is aware of the problem? Sounds like a shonky property manager.

Yup, thanks. I’ve been doing my homework and have left a message on their machine and am awaiting a call-back. Hopefully it won’t take too long.

To be honest I’m really not asking for that much; I’d simply like to know whether they can replace the bed & mattresses that were destroyed. I’m not mentioning the tall-boy full of clothes that was completely soaked and had to be emptied and put out to dry, or the time and energy spent on the various loads of washing; or the trips and costs involved with having to take the doonas and bedding to get restored and cleaned.
If it turns out I have to wear the costs, I will, but damn if I’m not going to at least find out where I stand.

Maya123 said :

I thought cleaning gutters of a house was part of the tenants’ responsibility; rather as the garden is while they live here, or changing tap washers. If you don’t have a ladder get one, or pay someone else to do the gutters.
“I work long hours”. So!?

To be honest, I eagerly await the day I’m bitten by a radioactive spider so that I can climb sheer walls (and web-sling!), and find a way to be in two places at once without slicing myself in half… Boy howdy, that would be grand!

But srsly, as mentioned earlier, the property manager had said they would take care of it so I called it in to remind them and let them know. Had they replied with ‘get up there yourself or call one of our tradies to do it,’ I would certainly have made arrangements to do so right there and then. But instead I was instructed to email the property manager and had to wait for her reply.

The first flooding this time around was fairly severe and there was little warning but there was no indication that the ceiling was going to come down again, or even that the rain would continue and cause further damage. But the second storm came in so severely and suddenly even if I had gone home from work there would have been little I could’ve done to prevent further damage.

Suffice it to say that I did everything I was expected to do by the terms set out in the Rental Agreement and arrangements made by property managers.

#10
MrBigEars10:37 am, 21 Mar 14

Maya123 said :

I thought cleaning gutters of a house was part of the tenants’ responsibility; rather as the garden is while they live here, or changing tap washers. If you don’t have a ladder get one, or pay someone else to do the gutters.
“I work long hours”. So!?

Before I joined the mortgagee Übermenschen, the landlords (or more accurately, the property managers) at our two previous rental properties specifically forbade us cleaning out the gutters, or performing any technical maintenance. I suppose it’s a matter of reducing damage by gungho tenants that they wouldn’t be able to recoup.

#11
Maya12310:57 am, 21 Mar 14

MrBigEars said :

Maya123 said :

I thought cleaning gutters of a house was part of the tenants’ responsibility; rather as the garden is while they live here, or changing tap washers. If you don’t have a ladder get one, or pay someone else to do the gutters.
“I work long hours”. So!?

Before I joined the mortgagee Übermenschen, the landlords (or more accurately, the property managers) at our two previous rental properties specifically forbade us cleaning out the gutters, or performing any technical maintenance. I suppose it’s a matter of reducing damage by gungho tenants that they wouldn’t be able to recoup.

About three years ago I rented out my house. The contract said the tenant was responsible for changing the tap washers, care for the garden, etc. I can’t remember what was said about the gutters, but I would have thought that was house normal cleaning such as sweeping the paths. I have got up and removed leaves. It’s what a good householder does occasionally as needed. If someone is physically incapable of doing this, or the house is more than one storey high, it might be necessary to pay someone to do it. The one thing I remember in the contract that said the tenants weren’t to do without consulting the agent was clean the curtains. But I have had a good (ie hands-on very capable tenant) wash some of the curtains without a problem. This clause was to stop the useless tenants from damaging them. And some people are REALLY useless!

#12
mcs11:25 am, 21 Mar 14

This property manager sounds as uselss as my previous one, who basically seemed to not want to get anything fixed at all – including things we were told would be fixed before we moved in (nothing major but annoyances) and also a numebr of issues during the tenancy.

It is of no suprise that my old place is still up for rent, some month and a bit after we vacated. Wonder it has anything to do with the mould problem that was reported multiple times, or the general poor condition of the property? not that the real estate seemed to care at all about that, just getting her payment I expect!

All I can say is good luck, but that you shoud definitely take it to ACAT (Is that the one for for rentals?) if need be in order to get a rent reduction/refund etc, using what is in the residential tenancies act. You’ll win without an issue if you can proven you’ve taken the appropriate steps from your side.

#13
Maya12312:39 pm, 21 Mar 14

mcs said :

This property manager sounds as uselss as my previous one, who basically seemed to not want to get anything fixed at all – including things we were told would be fixed before we moved in (nothing major but annoyances) and also a numebr of issues during the tenancy.

It is of no suprise that my old place is still up for rent, some month and a bit after we vacated. Wonder it has anything to do with the mould problem that was reported multiple times, or the general poor condition of the property? not that the real estate seemed to care at all about that, just getting her payment I expect!

All I can say is good luck, but that you shoud definitely take it to ACAT (Is that the one for for rentals?) if need be in order to get a rent reduction/refund etc, using what is in the residential tenancies act. You’ll win without an issue if you can proven you’ve taken the appropriate steps from your side.

From experience as a renter, live in owner and landlord, mould problems are often more to do with the person living there than with the property.
I moved into a flat once with the worse bathroom mould I have ever seen. It took me weeks to remove it. But once I did the mould never returned during my tenancy. Why? It was because I actually cleaned the bathroom regularly and vented the room.
Mould built up in my own house once when I got slack with the cleaning.
The house I rented out developed a mould problem in the bathroom. The walls and ceiling were spotted with it. The previous tenants had never had a problem with it, but then it started to develop badly. I was silly enough to take the tenants word for it there was a problem. After a few years they left and were replaced with other tenants. Miraculously the mould problem ceased. The new tenants cleaned the bathroom and no more problems. I apologised to them, but they were so nice about it, saying it was not hard to fix. I felt so stupid to have taken the previous tenants word for the bathroom problems. The problem was them, but I believe they honestly couldn’t see this. They didn’t clean the bathroom properly. “We do clean, but it won’t come off.” Anyway, they lost in the tribunal over other issues. Basically useless tenants; the mould built up because of their behaviour (lifestyle).
I rented out rooms in the house I lived in and we all shared the bathroom. I had to teach some people (good tenants in other respects) how not to cause a mould problem in the bathroom. They really didn’t know how to avoid this, and left alone there would have been a problem.
Yes, there can be a genuine mould problem, but from experience in most cases it is caused by the lifestyle of the person living there. In the examples I gave it was caused by the tenant, and in one case (my own home) by me when I went through a slack period in my life. I realised the fault was mine, but in all honesty, I don’t believe the tenant realised it was theirs, when it was.
Mould can usually be avoided by good housecleaning, which the tenant swore they did, but actually didn’t, and ventilation.

#14
mcs3:48 pm, 21 Mar 14

Maya123 said :

mcs said :

This property manager sounds as uselss as my previous one, who basically seemed to not want to get anything fixed at all – including things we were told would be fixed before we moved in (nothing major but annoyances) and also a numebr of issues during the tenancy.

It is of no suprise that my old place is still up for rent, some month and a bit after we vacated. Wonder it has anything to do with the mould problem that was reported multiple times, or the general poor condition of the property? not that the real estate seemed to care at all about that, just getting her payment I expect!

All I can say is good luck, but that you shoud definitely take it to ACAT (Is that the one for for rentals?) if need be in order to get a rent reduction/refund etc, using what is in the residential tenancies act. You’ll win without an issue if you can proven you’ve taken the appropriate steps from your side.

From experience as a renter, live in owner and landlord, mould problems are often more to do with the person living there than with the property.
I moved into a flat once with the worse bathroom mould I have ever seen. It took me weeks to remove it. But once I did the mould never returned during my tenancy. Why? It was because I actually cleaned the bathroom regularly and vented the room.
Mould built up in my own house once when I got slack with the cleaning.
The house I rented out developed a mould problem in the bathroom. The walls and ceiling were spotted with it. The previous tenants had never had a problem with it, but then it started to develop badly. I was silly enough to take the tenants word for it there was a problem. After a few years they left and were replaced with other tenants. Miraculously the mould problem ceased. The new tenants cleaned the bathroom and no more problems. I apologised to them, but they were so nice about it, saying it was not hard to fix. I felt so stupid to have taken the previous tenants word for the bathroom problems. The problem was them, but I believe they honestly couldn’t see this. They didn’t clean the bathroom properly. “We do clean, but it won’t come off.” Anyway, they lost in the tribunal over other issues. Basically useless tenants; the mould built up because of their behaviour (lifestyle).
I rented out rooms in the house I lived in and we all shared the bathroom. I had to teach some people (good tenants in other respects) how not to cause a mould problem in the bathroom. They really didn’t know how to avoid this, and left alone there would have been a problem.
Yes, there can be a genuine mould problem, but from experience in most cases it is caused by the lifestyle of the person living there. In the examples I gave it was caused by the tenant, and in one case (my own home) by me when I went through a slack period in my life. I realised the fault was mine, but in all honesty, I don’t believe the tenant realised it was theirs, when it was.
Mould can usually be avoided by good housecleaning, which the tenant swore they did, but actually didn’t, and ventilation.

I can tell you now, the mould problem in my old place had nothing to do with my actions but everything to do with lack of building maintenance and poor build quality. Firstly, there were ongoing issues in the ensuite bathroom (buily without any external windows per say) because the exhaust fan did not work. I badgered the property manager for almost the whole 2 years we were there to try and get it fixed, but either her or the owner couldnt be stuffed to put up the money to replace it (which the electrician told them was required). Hence despite my ongoing efforts to clean the bathroom, significant mouls developed in a way in the grout that it basically was unremovable, no matter what chemicals nor any amount of scrubbing. A fixed fan mighty have really helped though…

The more disturbing mould problem however was in the bedroom amd walk in wardrobe, and came down to appaling building quality. As the outside wall was basically plasterboard straight onto brick, which was also the outside wall of the property, and the windows were ill fitted, in winter you could wake up to moisture actually pooled like watet on the window sills. However, the damp problem that caused mould actually occurred behind one bookcase (the mould that had developed destroyed the back wood of the bookcase) in a corner and in the walk in robe, where once I removed the hanging clothes from the outside wall side, the wall behind was basically black. Now I know I probably should have seen these issues previously, but it is a bit ridiculous that a building of only about 8-10 years old, had such fundamental flaws.

#15
Maya1237:01 pm, 21 Mar 14

“because the exhaust fan did not work.’
Get it fixed yourself, pay the bill and take the bill to your agent. (Keep a copy of the bill.) As the agent hasn’t fixed it in a reasonable time and two years is FAR longer than you should have waited, it’s your right to get it fixed. Also get a written statement from the electrician that the fan needed fixing and didn’t work to cover yourself. If the agent then won’t pay the bill go to the tribunal. You should win. You should have (or should have generated this) all the written correspondent between you and the agent about lack of action re the fan. Actually just the threat of the tribunal I imagine should be enough to scare the agent into paying the bill. Be proactive. I have been to the tribunal and I won because I had written evidence that created a history.
As for the other mould problems; they do sound bad.

#16
poppy7:05 pm, 21 Mar 14

To the OP: As a landlord of multiple properties, your problem is almost certainly a slack and lazy property manager, I have had many of them, I have to chase them again and again just to ensure basic maintenance is performed. No landlord is going to tell the property manager to do nothing when their property is being flooded, the property manager is either not communicating the issue properly to the landlord or is too lazy to organize the tradies to fix the problem. I suggest get in touch with landlord direct as they are likely as angry as you and even more out of pocket than you due to terrible property manager, combined you may be able to get a resolution from the agent. Normally the landlords address is on your lease (though not completely sure in the ACT as the laws change between states). You could use this info to get in tough with them. Changing tap washers and cleaning gutters are also not a tenant’s responsibility. I wouldn’t want tenants changing tap washers anyway, any stuff up would result in an expensive emergency plumber visit. BTW landlords insurance definitely does NOT cover damage to tenant’s contents. It only covers damage to the landlords contents (eg carpets). Whether the landlord may be liable or not for damage to your property is a different thing, you may be confusing the issue.

#17
Maya1237:54 pm, 21 Mar 14

“Changing tap washers and cleaning gutters are also not a tenant’s responsibility.”
Until a couple of years ago I rented out a house. The contract from the agent listed tap washers as the tenants responsibly. (not other plumbing.) I can’t remember what it said about gutters. Only one set of tenants had a problem with changing the tap washers (either by themselves, or getting a professional in), but then they had trouble with changing light globes too. I kid you not, I had to go and change a light globe for them. In seven sets of tenants, no-one mucked up the taps.

#18
gildrsleeve9:19 pm, 06 May 14

Belated entry here, but nobody seems to have mentioned: if a building is unsafe for occupancy — and ceilings collapsing *repeatedly* should certainly qualify! — what agency does a tenant go to to have the building inspected? — and either the landlord ordered by the authorities to carry out repairs, or risk having his property condemned?

Obviously the simpler, cheaper, and probably quicker way of dealing with this agent/landlord issue is to go to the tribunal. It was set up to expedite disputes like this, and less severe cases as well. In my experience, this system works reasonably well for both tenants and property owners. However, in cases of actual structural damage, or severe systems failures (such as, say, unsafe electricals), there should be some sort of building inspection going on, too, so that unscrupulous persons don’t just hide the problem (when the tenant finally feels they must leave), and rent the property to some unsuspecting new tenant.

On that note, I have to *strenuously* disagree with poppy (comment # 16), who said, ‘As a landlord of multiple properties, your problem is almost certainly a slack and lazy property manager, I have had many of them, I have to chase them again and again just to ensure basic maintenance is performed.

‘No landlord is going to tell the property manager to do nothing when their property is being flooded, the property manager is either not communicating the issue properly to the landlord or is too lazy to organize the tradies to fix the problem.’

Sorry, but some landlords DO tell their hired property managers to do nothing! I had 4 owners pull illegal stunts over 4 tenancies of me and my family, all of them cases where the owners were squeezing their properties for as much cash return as possible, with as little outlay as they could get away with. (For balance, we rented from 10 other owners who were perfectly professional about their rental properties; 6 of those had equally professional real-estate property managers; 2 were owner-managers; the 2 remaining managers were unscrupulous and/or incompetent, and didn’t last long with their owner/employers.) Stories? Oh, I could tell you stories. . .!

The worst of the 4 landlords was a fellow who used to live in the house with his family, and made some upgrades that I’m not sure were even legal. I won’t give you the whole list, but here are a few of the problems.

First, he installed a ducted gas central heating system, without removing the old Vulcan wall-mounted room heaters. These were in such bad shape that the one in the lounge room would turn itself on without anyone even going near it — and the buttons wouldn’t work to turn it off! After repeated complaints, we were told the owner was not interested in fixing it. We ended up hiring an electrician to open the thing up and permanently disconnect it, but we were naive enough at the time not to try to get compensation for our costs.

Second, this owner had a wall-mounted clothes dryer in the laundry room, which was positioned where it prevented two room-doors from being opened fully. The dryer didn’t work. We ended up taking it off the wall and putting it out in the carport under a cheap tarp. I also wrote on the inside that this dryer does not work, in permanent marker, just in case this guy decided to re-install it and fool another tenant. He complained, but I threatened him with going to the tribunal and asking for a rebate on our rent, since we had been paying for an appliance that we couldn’t actually use.

Worst of all, the roof of this house had developed a leak. We complained a couple of times over 2 months. When we eventually lost some property to water damage as a result, we complained — ermm — vigorously: the property manager told us the owner would not be fixing the roof leak. Our lease was almost up, anyway, so we took no further action, other than clearing all our own possessions out of that half of the room.

We know it wasn’t the property manager(s) conducting business this way, because the owner then forced an illegal eviction on us (not knowing that we had already decided to move out). He was so obnoxious to the real-estate agency that they resorted to the customary procedure: at the final walk-through, they insisted that not only we should be there, but the landlord had to be there, too.

I confronted him directly about all the problems, and insisted that we were not going to pay any money to clean the house (carpets, curtains, etc) as is usually required on vacation of the premises. We only did some basic cleaning (vacuuming, wiping down hard surfaces, etc). If he objected, we would take the matter to the tribunal, where he could explain to the judge there why we *had* to leave the house. That threat warned him off, as we knew it would; and we did get our entire bond back.

In our 16 years in the Canberra rental market, my family and I were illegally evicted 4 times! Granted, 3 of them were before the tenancy law changes of the turn of the century, when owners could get away with more, when the rental market was rising so fast that unscrupulous owners saw plenty of opportunities to evict unlawfully, just so they could charge more to the new tenants.

We are not the only tenants who have such dramatic little horror stories to tell about house-rental landlords. It isn’t all-and-always the real-estate agents’ fault, although there are still plenty of illegal practices carried out at their initiative.

My best advice to you, digitalchet, is do your homework, keep thorough and organized records of EVERYTHING (including receipts, and hundreds of detailed photos if it’s not too late), and find out for yourself as much as you can about what your rights and obligations are, and what your recourse is against the landlord’s negligence.

And remember: damage to your property can be claimed against the landlord’s knowledge and negligence, and it does not matter if you have insurance, if he/she has insurance, or if your cousin’s dog has insurance. If it was the next-door neighbour who caused your furniture and clothing to be destroyed/damaged, you’d have every right to insist they compensate you, right? And the law would back you up. Property damage should be compensated for, no matter who did the damage.

It certainly sounds to me like you’re not too worried about losing the landlord’s friendship. Clearly, he never was worried about losing yours! Good luck!

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