When renting out a property in Australia, one of the most often asked questions is “is a tenant responsible for cleaning gutters?” As a general rule of thumb, the property owner is responsible for cleaning gutters in a rental property. But what exactly are a tenants cleaning obligations when renting a property?
To help you understand what’s what, let’s take a look at some of the most common rental property maintenance chores… and who it is who needs to take care of them.
Cleaning Gutters and Drains
Cleaning gutters is considered as part of property upkeep and maintenance. More often than not, guttering is an overlooked task that can result in pretty hefty additional expenses when not taken care of. Failure to clear and clean gutters and drains properly can result in:
- Water overflow resulting in damage
- Water damage to the roof
- Cracked or damaged foundations
- Bent, wart or damaged gutters
- Damp or internal mold growth
- Damage to decks, patios and pathways
A big part of responsibility falling on to the homeowner is down to the safety of the tenant. Could you add a clause into the rental agreement that the tenant is responsible for cleaning gutters? You could try. But any additional terms that are inconsistent with the Residential Tenancies Act can be taken to the Tribunal by the tenant to be removed or bypassed.
The tenants sole responsibility for gutter cleaning is to notify the property manager or owner of any blockages or suspected damage to the guttering.
Responsibility: Landlord or Rental Property Management
Tree, Lawn and Garden Care
The person responsible for the tree, lawn and garden maintenance should be clearly listed in the lease or tenancy agreement. Of course, certain maintenance tasks are the responsibility of the property owner.
Tree Felling and Pruning
Any trees, hedges, plants or lawns that require ongoing specialist care are typically not considered the tenant’s responsibility unless they explicitly agree.
Felling, pruning and lopping are considered as major work and is typically the responsibility of the property owner or manager. Typically, specialist equipment and knowledge are required to perform this type of maintenance. It is classified as part of the property owner or managers obligation to keep the rental property in good repair.
Fruit Trees and Fruit
If fruit bearing trees are present on the property, ownership of said fruit should be clearly written into the rental agreements special terms. If the property owner claims sole rights to pick and collect the fruit, it is also their responsibility to ensure any fallen fruit is cleared from the ground on a regular basis and trees are kept well pruned and tidy.
Fallen Branches or Trees
This will largely depend on the size and weight of the fallen branches or trees. For small and manageable branches, the tenant is typically expected to remove them from the property. Of course, this will largely depend on their ability levels. An elderly tenant may not have the same agility as a younger tenant.
Larger branches and fallen trees that require specialist equipment such as chainsaws, cranes and chippers are the responsibilities of the property owner or manager. Damage caused to the property or yard due to fallen trees or branches is the property owner or manager’s responsibility to maintain and repair.
If a yard maintenance company takes care of the external areas of the rental property, said company should be clearly written into the tenancy agreement. However, it’s important to note that you cannot force the tenant to pay for the maintenance in addition to their standard rental costs.
If a maintenance company is not used, the tenant is typically responsible for general tasks such as, weeding, edging and mowing. if this is the tenant’s responsibility, it should be clearly indicated in their tenancy agreement.
Responsibility: Landlord or Property Manager and Tenant
Cleaning Mould and Damp
Understanding whose responsibility it is for cleaning mold and damp largely depends on how appeared in the property. It is the tenant’s responsibility to notify the property manager or owner at the first sight of mold, mildew or damp.
When it’s the tenant’s responsibility
There are certain actions that can lead to the growth of mold or damp due to the tenant. In these situations, the tenant is liable for cleaning and repair of any damage caused by it. Some actions include:
- Chronic steam build up in bathrooms without using provided ventilation.
- Drying laundry inside the property.
- Failing to wipe down condensation from windows and walls.
- Failing to ventilate the property on a regular basis.
- Cooking without using an extractor fan.
When it’s the landlords responsibility
There are times when mould growth and damp are the responsibility of the landlord or property manager. This is usually due to improper maintenance of the property or failure to provide adequate ventilation. Here are a few examples of when a landlord is responsible for mould:
- Failure to install extractor fans in the bathroom or kitchen.
- Lack of adequate ventilation throughout the property.
- Leaking pipes or roof.
- Rising damp or pooling water due to building structure.
- Weathered or damaged walls, windows, doors or roofing.
Responsibility: Landlord or Property Manager and Tenant
Maintaining Smoke Alarms
It is the responsibility of the property manager or owner to ensure that all health and safety requirements are met with the rental property. This includes testing and cleaning smoke alarms before a rental agreement commences and replacing faulty fire alarms immediately on notification from the tenant.
However, tenants also have a responsibility to the proper care and maintenance of smoke alarms in the rental property. The tenant is responsible for:
- Replacing any nearly flat or flat batteries in the smoke alarm
- Dusting and vacuuming the smoke alarm on a regular basis
- Testing the smoke alarm at a minimum of once every year
- Not removing the battery or painting or covering the surface off the smoke alarm
- Granting the property manager or owner entry into the property to install a smoke alarm
- Informing at the property manager or owner of any issues the smoke alarm has except about batteries
The property manager or owner is responsible for ensuring that smoke alarms meet all current legislation and are installed in the rental property. The tenant is responsible for maintaining the smoke alarms and notifying the relevant people when issues arise.
Responsibility: Tenant (general) and Landlord repair or issues (Except batteries.)
Keeping the property clean and tidy is the responsibility of the tenants. As part of the tenancy agreement, it is the tenants obligation to ensure that the property remains in a hygienic and habitable condition. This includes but is not limited to:
- Keeping gardens and yards clear of trash and food waste.
- Vacuuming, sweeping or mopping the floors or the property.
- Keeping the inside of windows clean and free of condensation.
- Disposing of trash on a regular basis.
- Cleaning up behind pets in the yard in a timely manner.
- Regularly ventilating the property by opening windows.
- Cleaning bathrooms and kitchens to prevent mould or mildew growth.
- Wiping down walls and light switches to remove grime.
- Keeping furniture included in the property protected and clean.
- Keeping hallways, stairs and communal areas clear of clutter, dirt or debris.
General cleaning within the rental property falls to the tenant. Any required cleaning that requires specialist equipment, such as steam cleaning carpets or bathrooms due to lack of care or purposeful damage can be taken from the rental bond or security deposit. Fair wear and tear is not the fault of the tenant and cannot be deducted from the security deposit.
Get it Right, Get Leased.
Understanding your obligations as a property manager or owner is an important part of a smooth and problem-free rental process. By knowing who is responsible for what, and then clearly listing it in the residential tenancy agreement, both you and your tenant are protected.
We take property management seriously and help to make everything clear from start to finish. Find your perfect tenants today, and get ready to get Leased.