Have you heard about the gorilla in the (bathroom) mist? We kid you not.
Asking for a home repair is completely acceptable if you rent a property today. We live in a country where landlords have a legal duty to provide a rental home that is safe for tenant occupation.
But while urgent repairs must be promptly carried out – no ifs, no buts – most repairs fall in the ‘non-urgent’ basket. This means they do not pose immediate risk to health, safety and property livability and should be addressed in a reasonable time-frame (exact time limits vary between states and territories).
Property managers spend many hours of their days fielding requests for common non-urgent repairs including:
Wobbly door knobs
Dripping taps or toilets
Jammed roller doors
Shower screens rolled off their runners
Squeaky or stuck cupboards and drawers
So when it comes to rental home repair requests, Melbourne’s Hocking Stuart Caulfield Head Property Manager Marnie Proudfoot thought she’d heard them all.
Until she received a tenant’s email asking his landlord to fix a light as he was concerned his pet primate couldn’t see the toilet!
“One of the more memorable ones involved an unusual tenant asking for a bathroom light to be fixed because his pet gorilla couldn’t see the toilet at night and he was worried he would make a mess,” Proudfoot recalls.
“I got his email requesting the repair and while I usually bite my tongue, remain professional and say I’ll ask the landlord, I couldn’t stop laughing … and the thing is he wasn’t a zookeeper, he was a bookkeeper!”
Of course, Proudfoot duly got the light repaired. The tenant stayed another 12 months. The gorilla and the landlord were thrilled.
“You just don’t know what people get up to in their homes.”
Malcolm Gunning from Richardson & Wrench Surry Hills/Redfern and Gunning Commercial concurs.
In his decades in the property industry he has seen it all and says most of the most amusing tenant repair requests boil down to “a lack of common sense”.
Tenants asking property managers for help changing light bulbs always raise a chuckle he says.
“My property manager says the funniest ones are when tenants ring up flustered demanding a technician is sent because the air-conditioner isn’t working and when we say ‘have you checked the battery’ we never hear another word or the tenant who requested we speak to her landlord about moving the window because it was too bright in her bedroom and she couldn’t sleep,” Gunning says.
“Another favourite is the requests we get related to noise: ‘can you please write a letter to City of Sydney council demanding they tell their rubbish trucks not to be so noisy’.
“Usually the more unconventional requests come down to people’s comfort levels and people really just not knowing what is and isn’t the responsibility of the rental home owner.”
Other outlandish repair tales include:
“The tenants who moved in and thought the landlord should knock out an internal brick wall and install bi-fold doors, telling me they thought it would ‘really open up the home’,” Proudfoot says.
“The tenant who requested the owner paint her apartment canary yellow ‘because it would really brighten up the home’ and it was her favourite colour,” she says.
“The tenant who contacted us to say he couldn’t get any hot water. I told him to go and check the pilot switch on his hot water system was on. He did. He found he didn’t have a hot water system – at all!”
What is an acceptable repair request?
According to Australian common law, a property owner must ensure nobody is injured – including tenants, neighbours and general public – as a direct result of owner irresponsibility.
There are also regulations specific to rental properties, which include:
Maintaining the home’s structure and exterior;
Making sure all installations are working including gas, electricity and heating;
Ensuring installation, maintenance and safety compliance for all landlord-owned appliances;
Addressing potentially health-threatening issues such as rising damp and mould.
If a tenant request relates to any of these issues, it should be treated as ‘urgent’ and fixed promptly.
If not, it is either a ‘non-urgent’ repair – which usually grants a landlord more time to remedy – or a cosmetic or subjective request, which is not a landlord’s responsibility but a tenant’s wish (i.e. paint a room a different colour). This needs approval by the property’s owner (via a property manager if applicable) before proceeding.
For state and territory specific information, contact the consumer affairs body in your local area.