What rights do landlords have when tenants damage a property?

Published 11 Jul 2019

While landlords have a responsibility to repair damage as quickly as possible, they also have a right to ask the tenant to pay if they caused the damage. However, sometimes landlords and tenants disagree. What can you do in this situation?

What responsibilities do your tenants have?

As landlord you should expect that your tenants take care to minimise damage by:

  • Ensuring they and their guests behave appropriately.
  • Keeping the property clean and well-maintained.
  • Keeping the property secure.
  • Notifying you of any repairs necessary as soon as possible.

This allows you to maintain the property to the best of your ability and act quickly when problems do occur. Additionally, tenants should take responsibility for accidental or malicious damage caused as a result of their actions, whether they organise repairs or agree to pay for arrangements you make.

What responsibilities do landlords have?

In general, landlords are responsible for anything that counts as fair wear and tear or problems out of the tenants control. For example, should damage occur in bad weather, this is not the tenants fault and therefore landlords must pay for repairs. Landlords must also expect that items like carpets will wear over the years and need replacing at some point and should factor this into their plans for the property. It is unfair to charge tenants for these sorts of repairs, especially if they have not lived in the property for long.

What to do when landlords and tenants disagree 

In an ideal situation, the landlord and tenant discuss the matter and decide on the most fair and straightforward method of rectifying the problem. However, where these discussions do not result in an outcome both parties are happy with, there is legal support available.

For landlords, it's crucial that they note the details of the damage, including when it was discovered, the costs associated, and ensure they have photographic evidence. You can then propose to deduct the sum from the rental bond, if the damage is discovered at the end of the tenancy or does not need to be put right straight away.

However, if the tenant disagrees with your proposal, you cannot deduct money from their bond without their approval. In this case, one option is to take the matter to a tribunal, where the damage caused is assessed by a third party.

Should you need support with your residential tenancy agreement and any disagreements involved, contact Malouf Solicitors to have experienced NSW lawyers review your case.

Please call us on 02 8833 2000 to speak with a lawyer

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