How tenants can request maintenance and get results
Renters are living in fear…at least when it comes to maintenance.
Back in February, a survey conducted by the National Association of Tenants’ Organisations, National Shelter and Choice, found that half of 1,000 renters said they’re worried that a repair request or complaint could get them blacklisted on the National Tenancy Database.
Here’s the shocking part – 14% of tenants decided not to request maintenance at all because they didn’t want to risk being charged more.
Isn’t that sad?
What’s even sadder is that they’re believing a lie.
Hey, I get it – as a tenant myself I understand the feeling and I’m actually going through it right now. Just recently, a metal bracket holding up a curtain has come loose from my wall. The very first thing I thought when reporting it was, ‘are they going to increase the rent?’
But I know that’s a silly thought because from my own experience as a property manager, I can tell you that most landlords don’t raise the rent because you request maintenance.
In fact, as a landlord as well, I can tell you I want to know about maintenance issues ASAP. It means I save money because a small problem doesn’t have the chance to turn into a big one (like the entire curtain rail falling off the wall!)
This is actually why tenancy laws in most states require tenants to inform landlords of certain types of maintenance issues as soon as practicable. We’ve covered this in previous blogs for issues like locks, or smoke alarms.
The good news is, there are a few ways you can make it easier for everyone when requesting maintenance.
The ultimate goal here should be getting something fixed quickly – we all know how difficult it can be for agents to sort out maintenance requests. So follow these steps, and you’ll be well on your way.
Step #1: Put all maintenance in writing
It’s always good to keep a record of maintenance requests. It means you have a paper trail to back up your word and it makes life easy for your property manager or landlord as well.
In some cases it’s good practice to make a call as well, just to give a heads-up that a maintenance issue is coming their way. Do that before you send a written request, so it’s not coming out of the blue if it’s a big one.
Don’t waffle. Keep it short and to the point.
If you’re a Cubbi tenant already, just log into your account to report any maintenance directly from your dashboard in seconds.
Step #2: Take photos
Including some photos helps portray the issue as a little more serious.
Including photos is a good way to help the property manager or landlord figure out what type of tradesperson – if any – they need to go to the property. If your maintenance issue is about an appliance, include the model number as well – it’ll help the agent or landlord when talking to a tradesperson.
Remember, this is all about trying to reduce the amount of back-and-forth chat about the problem, so include this information up front.
Step #3: Try to fix it…if you can
Now, obviously don’t try and fix something if you don’t have the skills – especially if it’s something crucial like plumbing or heating. If it’s a smaller issue, it may be worth mentioning what you’ve tried to do to minimise the issue or stop it from getting worse.
Take my situation about the bracket. I tried putting it back in the wall but the hole in the plaster actually got bigger and I didn’t want to risk doing any more damage with my limited carpentry skills! So, when I told the landlord I mentioned my attempt at repair just so they knew I wasn’t requesting unnecessary maintenance and that a professional was definitely required.
Step #4: Keep it simple
Your goal is to get something that’s broken, fixed. The landlord’s goal is the same thing. So try not to do anything that’s going to exacerbate the problem or drag out the process.
For example, don’t create a huge list of items that need fixing. Focus on the most important ones, like heating or cooling, and then prioritise the rest. After all, a couple of cracked tiles or a loose handle on the pantry aren’t big issues when compared to something like faulty smoke alarms or ducted heating.
Who’s responsible for what?
While landlords will generally be responsible for both urgent and non-urgent repairs, any accidental damage caused by the tenant is the tenant’s responsibility.
So if you’re swinging a hammer around and knock out a chunk of plasterboard, that’s on you, but you’ll still need to get the landlord’s consent to have it taken care of.
We’ve prepared a table of various maintenance issues and whether it’s something you’ll need to handle yourself or whether the landlord needs to take it on:
Here are a few other things to keep in mind:
Keep your cool!
It’s incredibly frustrating when things break but just remember - keep your cool. Getting angry with the landlord or tradespeople is just going to make things worse, and damage your reputation with the landlord or agent...not a good look when your lease is up for renewal. That doesn’t mean you need to put up with unreasonable waiting times but stop yourself before saying something you might regret later!
You should hear back quickly
After the landlord or property manager has received your maintenance request you should expect to hear back within a few days (technically, in Victoria, they have 14 days). That first response should at least be an update, followed by a call from a tradesperson to arrange access.
Be flexible with access for tradespeople
Try to be really flexible with providing access to help get the job done. Be reasonable and keep your cool if the landlord can’t attend to the problem right away. However, you should expect updates along the way.
The job should be done super fast… if it’s urgent
When it comes to an urgent repair, you should expect the problem to be fixed that day or at least within 24 hours.
We know that speed is the biggest issue when requesting maintenance. At Cubbi, we actually have a home emergency policy that offers 24/7 emergency call outs. No more waiting for your property manager to get round to it; you'll have a qualified tradesperson at your door typically within an hour.
Every property with Cubbi receives up to four free call outs per year to the value of $300 each, and if anything costs more than that, the landlord gets a call. It means repairs get done faster and without the lengthy back-and-forth discussions.