If you’re renting a property with a gas heater or a fireplace, who’s in charge of actually maintaining and cleaning those pieces of equipment?
It’s a topic definitely worth addressing. Back in 2013, a Victorian coroner warned that landlords should check their gas heaters every two years after two children died in a tragic gas leak incident.
As it turns out, the laws in this area aren’t so simple.
Like many tenancy laws the rules differ from state to state, and it can be confusing to figure out what exactly your responsibilities as a landlord - or tenant - are.
Before I break it down state by state here’s the short of it: most states require that if you lease out a property with a working gas heater, then you need to make sure it’s repaired whenever it breaks. And many states also say that landlords need to keep their properties in a reasonable state of repair or maintenance.
So, even though you don’t necessarily have a specific legal requirement to make sure those gas heaters are regularly serviced - it’s a smart idea if landlords do anyway.
Here at Cubbi we recommend that you book in routine maintenance for your gas heater every two years. Even though many states don’t require that, you don’t want a tragedy on your hands should there be a gas leak. And the longer many appliances go unmaintained, the more expensive they can be to fix or even replace!
Now, what about fireplaces?
The same rules apply. Few states have guidelines regarding fireplaces and chimneys, but landlords are expected to keep their properties in a decent state of repair.
However, it’s a good idea for a landlord and tenant to agree on who should make sure the chimney is cleaned, and have that agreement stated in a lease.
Now remember, cleaning the chimney is one thing, but cleaning the fireplace that’s visible from a living area is something else entirely. Tenants are in charge of the general cleaning of the property, so making sure that area is neat and tidy would be their responsibility.
But as with many tenancy laws, these issues can differ from state to state.
In fact, there is ONE state in Australia that has very specific rules regarding the landlord’s responsibility to clean a chimney or a flue - and that state says it’s the landlord’s responsibility to keep it clean.
Find out below what the laws really say about maintaining a gas heating appliance, or a fireplace?
According to Consumer Affairs, “rooming house owners”, which means a house in which one or more rooms is available to rent, need to make sure gas connections are tested every two years.
Consumer Affairs also states that appliances need to be kept in “good repair”. Which means that:
· Tenants are provided with a copy of the manufacturer's' instructions
· Only a licensed gasfitter performs gasfitting work
· All appliances are safe for use before letting or re-letting a property
· All appliances, pipework and flue systems are installed and maintained correctly
· Pipes are correctly sealed if appliances are removed
· All safety checks and details of work done on gas installations are recorded and certificates of compliance obtained when required.
Consumer Affairs even recommends including a clause in the lease to require gas appliance maintenance every two years (but this isn’t a legal requirement).
Victorian law offers no specific legal requirement for chimneys to be maintained or cleaned regularly by either the landlord or the tenant.
According to NSW Fair Trading, landlords need to make sure that the property is in a “reasonable state of repair” before tenants move in. If an appliance breaks down, tenants need to contact the landlord about it immediately.
As with Victoria, New South Wales has no specific legal requirement for landlords or tenants regarding fireplaces.
Read more about repairs and maintenance in NSW here.
ACT law requires that landlords ensure rental premises must be “habitable”, and that any furniture, fittings and appliances are “fit for habitation” and “in a reasonable state of repair”.
The breakdown of services including gas leaks, gas connections or heating are classified as “urgent repairs”.
ACT law has no specific legal requirement for chimney and fireplace maintenance by either the landlord or the tenant and this will need to be organised on a case-by-case basis.
Read more about repairs in ACT here.
Queensland has no laws regarding regular maintenance of gas appliances. However, the Residential Tenancies Authority states that property managers and owners need to make sure that the “property is in good condition and fit for the tenant to live in”.
Queensland law has no specific requirements regarding chimneys and cleaning.
Read more on the Residential Tenancies Authority website.
Northern Territory law doesn’t state any requirement for landlords to provide heating appliances, though it does require landlords provide a “reasonable state of repair” for their tenants.
Northern Territory law doesn’t carry any requirements for the cleaning of fireplaces and chimneys by either the tenant or the landlord.
Read more about maintenance and repairs in the Northern Territory here.
Like other states, landlords in Western Australia need to keep their properties in a “reasonable condition”.
Western Australia has no specific requirements for fireplace and chimney cleaning for either landlords or tenants.
More information is available at the Consumer Affairs website.
The South Australia Residential Tenancies Act states that landlords must ensure that the premises are “in a reasonable state of repair at the beginning of the tenancy, and will keep them in a reasonable state of repair having regard to their age, character and prospective life”.
South Australia provides no guidelines for whether fireplaces and chimneys are the responsibility of the tenant or the landlord.
Read more about repairs and maintenance in South Australia here.
Tasmania is the only state in Australia that actually requires landlords to provide heating appliances. This is classed as an “essential service”, and the minimum standard requires heating installed in the main living area of the premises. This could be either a fixed electric or gas heater, a heat pump, or a wood heater.
Landlords also need to “maintain the property” during the course of the tenancy, and make sure it stays in a similar condition.
Additionally, any fireplaces need to be maintained on behalf of the landlord - Consumer Affairs Tasmania says this is “maintenance task associated with the ongoing use of a fireplace or heater and is not a general cleaning obligation”.
This means that the owner has an obligation to ensure the chimney or flue is cleaned as required, to permit the safe functioning of the fireplace or heater.
Tenants should notify the owner or agent if they believe that the chimney or flue requires cleaning.
Read more about repairs and maintenance in Tasmania here.
Get ahead of the game
Now that we're getting into the colder months of year it’s a good time to get your gas appliances serviced and chimneys cleaned to be on the safe side.
Although many states don’t require regular maintenance of gas heaters and fireplaces, it’s still better to be ahead of the game. Landlords should make sure they book in regular maintenance for gas appliances every couple of years.
And when it comes to chimneys, make sure it’s cleaned when your tenants move in and state this on the Condition Report. As an extra precaution I also recommend getting the flue cleaned as we head into colder months or email your tenant to ensure the flue/chimney is cleaned before using it.