Understanding tenant rights

More than a third of Australians rent, and if you're one of them, your rental home should be a secure, safe place to live.

Unfortunately, many people are injured each year in rental houses due to circumstances outside of their control. This can have a devastating impact on their life, particularly if the injury is serious and means they can't work or will have ongoing medical costs.

We discuss your right as a tenant to have a safe environment for you (and your guests), the obligations of your landlord, and what to do if something has happened to you. 

Your rights as a tenant

As a tenant, your landlord has a duty of care to provide you with a safe dwelling suitable to be lived in.  

If you notice something at your property that is unsafe, or has the potential to be unsafe, you should raise it with your landlord or property manager as soon as possible. 

Examples of faults that should be addressed quickly include:

  • any electrical faults, such as exposed wiring, dodgy appliances or broken switches 
  • broken or decaying stairs 
  • fire alarms not working 
  • water damage and/or mould
  • any gas leaks, or  
  • damaged floorboards. 

You should note that if the safety issue is your fault (i.e. you broke the stairs), you may be responsible for covering the cost of repairing it. However, if the issue wasn't your fault, your landlord should cover the cost and it must be done in a reasonable timeframe. 

Send details of the issue to your landlord or property manager and explain what needs to be fixed. Take photos to show the issue clearly and keep a record of your contact with your landlord or property manager. 

What are the next steps?

Once you’ve alerted your landlord or property manager to the issue, they must inspect the property and arrange whatever is necessary to make it safe.

You should ensure that the landlord takes photos of the issue so that any further damage caused by renovations can not be unfairly attributed to you. 

In the case of serious issues, like a gas leak, your property may not be inhabitable. Your landlord or property manager should work with you to arrange temporary living arrangements, usually at their own cost. 

You have the right to be confident that the issue has been fully resolved. If you are having difficulties escalating issues with your landlord or property manager, seek advice from your state tenancy authority. 

What if something happens? 

If you, or a guest, is injured in your rental property, you should immediately seek medical advice and treatment if required.

You should also notify your landlord or property manager that you've been injured, and the circumstances of your injury. If you believe that your landlord or property manager is at fault for your injury, whether by ignoring or failing to fix known faults, you have legal rights.  

Remember, your landlord owes you a duty of care. If they fail in that duty of care, and you've been injured as a result, they are at fault. 

Tenant safety is important

Tenants should not have to choose between an affordable property and their safety. No matter where you live or what property you rent, you have the right to be safe.

If you have an issue with your rental property, it's important to understand that you have legal rights. 

RELATED LEGAL SERVICES: Public liability

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Alison Barrett

Maurice Blackburn Gold Coast

Alison Barrett is a Principal in Maurice Blackburn's Southport office on the Gold Coast. She is a Queensland Law Society accredited personal injury specialist with over 10 years’ legal experience helping people with claims for workers’ compensation, CTP and public liability claims.

A Gold Coast local, Alison holds a Bachelor of Arts with a major in psychology, and Honours in Law. Alison joined the firm while she was still completing her studies, and was admitted as a solicitor in 2006…

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