Small Maintenance Vs. Tenant Compensation

Rachael Jenkins
decision earlier this year in the NSW CTTT (Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal) regarding damages to a property caused by mould have left a landlord more than $5,000 out of pocket. Should recommended repairs have been carried out, this could have been reduced to under $1,000. Are your landlords trying to save a buck, but risking themselves thousands?

This recent case, heard in February 2012, states that a couple moved into a premises, and reported that mould was appearing on their bathroom ceiling. Reporting the issue to the Real Estate, a tradesman attended, and found the exhaust fan to be working “to the best of its ability”. The landlord assumedly took this as that it was working, and no further repairs were required. With the mould still appearing, and tenants increasing the cleaning to ensure it did not damage the property, spread, and had little chance to affect their health, they reported back to the Real Estate. 

Recommendations were made that either vents be installed in the bathroom door to allow more circulation, or a higher power exhaust be installed to cope with the damp. Again, the landlord received recommendations, but failed to act upon them. 

Fast forward to the end of the tenancy, and the tenants decide to take the landlords to Tribunal. The mould situation became so bad that it damaged the tenants property, it rendered some of the property unusable, escalated normal cleaning and laundry expenses, and the tenants were looking for compensation. 

After hearing all the evidence, that the invoices stated that the exhaust fan was “working” (omitting the part where it stated “to the best of its ability&rdquoWink, and proving that a tradesman was sent to the property every time the tenant contacted the Real Estate with an issue, the CTTT still found in favour of the tenants. Just because someone attended the property, it was clear from reports and invoices submitted that extra work would be required to prevent mould from forming, but this work was not carried out. 

Had the owners replaced the ceiling fan, or added vents in the doors (work estimated at under $1,000), the CTTT may have changed their ruling. Instead, the owners were left paying the tenants for excessive rent (as some of the property was rendered unusable), compensation for cleaning and laundering costs, and compensation for damages to their belongings – a cost of over $5,000.  

Given this ruling, one would assume that the property now requires some additional cleaning, repairs to paintwork, and the original work of a higher powered exhaust and/or vents in the door, just to get it back up to a tenantable standard. 

As a Property Manager, it is up to you to use real-life examples such as this one to ensure your landlords fully understand the risks of inaction when it comes to property maintenance.