Ask LH: How Can I Make Sure My Landlord Fixes Problems Where I’m Renting?

Ask LH: How Can I Make Sure My Landlord Fixes Problems Where I’m Renting?

Dear Lifehacker, I did a careful inspection of my new apartment, signed the lease, and moved in . . . but once I was there, problems cropped up left and right. How can I hold my landlord accountable for stuff that looked OK during the inspection, but fell apart after normal use? Thanks, Frustrated Tenant

Title image made with Barry Barnes and Santosh Kumar (Shutterstock).

Dear Frustrated Tenant,

That’s a bummer! There are a lot of things you can identify in routine inspections of an apartment or home before you move in, but you’re right — some things won’t become obvious until you have been regularly living in a space. As well, good rental properties are in relatively short supply in Australia, so you can often feel pressured into making a decision too quickly.

Document Everything

Property owners (or the real estate agents they employ to manage their properties) can often be incredibly picky about small details when you move out of a place. When you move into a place, you should document the state of absolutely everything. You’ll usually be asked to sign and agree to a condition report. Use a digital camera (or your phone) and take photos. Note down any cracks, broken items, rust marks, stains on carpets or ceilings, flaking paint . . . cover absolutely everything. If those problems affect how something actually works rather than how it looks — say a window won’t open — single it out when you return the report and ask for it to be fixed.

If you’re renting a place which is furnished, note the conditions of the furnishings as well. Check that the oven actually operates and that any heating or cooling systems work.

The basic rule? As soon as you identify an issue, report it. Don’t worry about being considered a “fussy” tenant; you need to protect yourself and ensure you get your bond back. (The costs of any needed repairs will also be a tax deduction for the owner.)

It sounds as if you have just moved in, so don’t assume your landlord will be opposed to fixing the issues. Sometimes all you need to do is ask nicely and your landlord will work with you — after all, it’s in their best interest to keep you in the place, happy, and paying rent, not to mention maintaining their property value.

Know Your Rights


In the event of a dispute that can’t be solved, you need to be clear on your rights. These vary from state to state. We’ve collected together links to the relevant departments in each state, as well as the tenants’ unions organisations:

Some property owners suck, and sometimes you’ll need to resort to bringing in an external arbiter (and start looking for a new place). But if you document everything carefully and ask nicely, most issues can be resolved. Good luck!

Cheers Lifehacker

Lifehacker’s weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money. Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our contact tab on the right.


  • Basically, you can’t. You are the scum of the earth in the eyes of the owner and the law. “Rights” for tenants are a joke, you’ll be lucky if you don’t end up blacklisted.

      • Unfortunately, this is the basic structure of the housing system in Australia. It’s run not to provide housing, but to provide profit. And there’s a simple reason for this: nearly all MPs are landlords. They write the laws for their own personal benefit.

        • Queenslands rental tenancy legislation was written back in 1994 when there was an out cry buy landlords that they had no rights. The climate of the rental market has changes so much in the favour of landlords and of course nothing has been changed to reflect this.
          Basically if you have an issue that they don’t want to fix. Suck it up princess.
          A method that I have employed in the past has been trying to refer to repairs as “looking after their investment”. We had issues with water leakage for ages, only when I related to the landlords on their greedy a**hole level did the recognise the reason as to why repairs needed to be done.

        • This is true, most of the MP’s are themselves landlords which is why they are cut-off from most of the populace. Even the labour government MP’s is relatively well to do, and into small business ventures, they have no connection with the plight of working class families.

    • Unfortunately true. We’re reported needed repairs, were repeatedly ignored, and then on check-out have been presented with a bill for those same repairs – as “damage”!

      **Most importantly** DON’T trust your estate agent. They are entirely at the disposal of the owner and are not working on your behalf – they have no reason to be. In the current rental market they can easily get another mug tenant.

      Document everything, scrupulously. And the CCCT really is your friend – we’ve found them really helpful. Better to get their advice sooner than later.

  • We’ve had a good run with our new place. We mentioned a few things on our inspection report, just as a matter of course.. didn’t ask them to be fixed.. but within the first 2 months, all of those things have been fixed. Our oven died about 3 months in, called the agency (LJ Hooker) and the oven was fixed in a few days.

    Things break.. and if it’s through normal use, than it is the landlords responsibility to pay for them to be fixed. Just contact the agent or landlord and let them know as well as the urgency of getting them fixed. In the case of the rolling door being a little sticky, we didn’t care too much.. but with the oven, we politely expressed our need to have the oven fixed asap and it was.

    It’s only after you’ve asked for things to be fixed and they haven’t been, that you should be bothered going to tribunals etc

  • Used to have massive drama when I was renting an apartment run by Ray White in QLD. Was ok (mostly) on inspection but things fell apart after day one.

    Air con died, oven door latch stopped working (magnetic), power supply issues and the worst one was the apartment flooding through the roof! The spa above us sprung a leak and went through my ceiling on christmas day.

    I have a whole list of things that went wrong with that place, and Ray White were far from helpful. I remember my property managers exact words regarding the flooding when we rang:”F**k off, its Christmas Day”The best advice I can give is ring and/or email constantly, keep records of all conversations (dates, times and person spoken to) and if they keep refusing to help, thank them for their time and tell them you’re going to have a chat to the RTA. They seem to help out quick smart then…

    • The big chains like Ray White are particularly egregious. Their property managers rarely give a stuff. This seems to be just as bad from the owner’s point of view — I’ve had personal experience of reporting serious problems like roof leaks, and then finding the Real Estate didn’t even bother passing the info to the owner. Their cut of the rent is just easy money.

      • They couldn’t even get basic things right, it was insane.

        And living on the top (9th) floor and having a broken elevator for 3 months was great fun…

        I also remember when we discovered that a group of prostitutes were running “services” out of a series of apartments on a lower level. When we told Ray White, they pretty much shrugged it off. And apartments meant for 2 people, would have 10 – 15 international students living in them, so they would always break the locks on the doors throughout the building to get in and out because they obviously didnt have keys because they werent legal tenants and again Ray White didn’t care.

        Scum. I’ll avoid them at all costs now.

  • Ive just moved into a new place and found a few issues that need to be fixed, but my problem is the agent whose not doing anything. Its been a week since ive reported the issues and nothing is being done after numerous follow ups. My previous agent jumped on things immediately and id only wait a few days at most to get anything fixed

  • Unfortunately, the answer in Queensland, is that there’s nothing you can do. Certainly, under the RTA’s rules you can ‘breach’ your landlord for not fixing things. And what does an official breach offer you? The opportunity to break your lease earlier!

    In effect, if a Queensland scumlord refuses to fix something, all you can do is say “If you don’t fix this, I’ll incur hundreds of dollars in expenses by finding myself a new home!”. That’ll scare them!

    Fortunately, most landlords (at least if you’re not at the bottom of the rental market) are reasonable enough and want to maintain their properties. But you do depend on their niceness. Queensland’s system is an entirely class-based system: tenants have no meaningful rights.

  • Landlords are the scum of the earth. We lived with a roof that leaked through the light fixtures for 2 years. No lights in our stairwell for 2 years. A broken unlock-able front door for 1 year (which was the cause of a robbery). A broken intercom for 3 years. Have been told not to replace the locks on the bedroom doors (which we were never provided keys form, and has resulted in several bedroom lockouts). A busted oven for 4 months. and we have been sharing 1 bathroom between 12 people for the past 2 years due to leakage problems and a busted tap. To get these things fixed we have had to threaten legal action every time. We have never been offered any compensation or reduced rent because of these problems. Landlords = Scum.

  • All well and good to bag the landlord However for every bad landlord there are hundreds of good ones. just the same as with Tenants although in my case the ratio was much smaller. I had over $18,000 damaged caused by one tenant in a 3 year old house. Even 6 years later I’m still finding things that were deliberately damaged. And guess what – his bond was for a measly $1200. Having said that the next tenant was fantastic.

    • No-one is forcing you to be a landlord. If you don’t like the risk of your investment, perhaps it’s not for you, you money might be better suited in shares or others types of investments.

      The tenants on the other hand have little other choice. Most rent because they can’t afford to buy. The risks they incur when renting a place are just as great. I’ve had a friend develop serious health problem due to the poor state of repair a house was kept in. Her only option was to move, at her expense. If only she had another option of a place to live.

      • This always comes up: tenants complain about slumlords, then the latter respond about bad tenants. As if there’s some kind of moral equivalence between the need for a home to live in, and the desire to make money from speculation (and speculation it nearly always is: ‘property investment’ is only relevant if you’re building anew).

        Everyone needs a home. Society needs everyone to have homes. No-one needs to be a speculator/rent-seeker. Society does not need speculators/rent-seekers.

      • Without property investors like me who would provide the properties people rent? Yes the is a risk return equation in play but does that mean a tenant is entitled to vandalise property? If you rent a car are you entitled to trash it? Besides if you are so against private ownership of rental properties, better we become like the soviet union where you got what you were given even if it meant having to live in a crowded box miles from anywhere and if you didn’t like it you could always sleep on the street or if you trashed it you were shot.

        • Property “investors” don’t provide properties unless they’re building them. Speculation is not investment, and (as many economists have shown with hard numbers) it just tends to push prices up with no net increase in housing availability.

          And neither did anyone suggest anyone was entitled to trash anything. Tenants should respect their obligations. But to pretend that there is some equivalence between the social problems caused by bad tenants vs bad landlords is idiotic. Having a home is a basic essential need for everyone; having unearned speculation income is not.

          Bringing up the Soviet Union is either naive or dishonest. There’s a huge variety in housing systems across the world. Australia happens to be at the less-civilised end of the spectrum, and as a consequence has, like the US, high rates of homelessness and housing stress for a rich country. It’s a choice: speculator profit vs housing availability. Currently Australia chooses the former, because its legislators are also property speculators. Good for you, bad for society.

      • You can’t say that landlords shouldn’t have rights because tenants don’t have rights. EVERYONE needs to be protected from scum and the laws need to be strengthened to protect tenants but that doesn’t mean landlords don’t have rights. NO ONE should vandalize a property and cause damages and not have to pay them. Just as no one should have to live in an unsuitable home or have to wait ages for things to be fixed or have to move because a scummy landlord can’t be bothered. GROW UP and stop being so closed minded and one-sided.

  • My friend has rented her apartment for over 7 years. There has been very little interaction with the landlord to date, very little if any periodic maintenance, and only fairly essential work carried out during that time. The paint finish is now deteriorating quite a bit in several places. Could she legitimately request that the entire property be repainted as maintenance given so little has been done through her tenancy?

  • Tenants (generally) live by the rules, landlords make their own. Best thing I did was buy, got sick of landlord having open homes and trying to sell the house underneath me just after I moved in even when I was promised a long term lease.

  • I really feel for the people that have had trouble with their landlords and the realestate companies that represent them (the landlords).
    I just wanted to say that I have had a relatively good experience with the landlord and realestate agents. It’s not perfect, took them about 2 months to fix the aircon (in the middle of summer in a house with an uninsulated tin roof, it was during the Brisbane floods but still, we requested the fix BEFORE the floods even occurred), the back fence which is falling apart won’t be fixed, the landlord doesn’t care even though the back neighbour agreed to pay for half (he has dogs and one actually snuck under the fence and came into my bedroom (it was cute and I didn’t mind but the fence is there for a reason…)

    There were quite a few things wrong with the place when we first moved in, the person who did the exit report obviously did not do a very good job but with a firm hand and courteous requests, most of the stuff was fixed in a timely manner and our concerns have been taken seriously.

    So yes, there does need to be more protection for tenants, however, not all landlords are scum, I suspect the lower the rent, the more scummy they tend to be and that needs to be addressed as part of providing affordable, decent housing for people.

    Just don’t accuse everyone of being greedy….

    • Of course not all landlords are bad. Most are good (in my experience), and would be better if their (generally atrocious) Agents were better.

      But that’s not the real issue, which is that, in general, landlords are *permitted* to be bad, and tenants can do nothing about it. This is because our legislators are usually landlords, and they write laws to suit themselves and their families.

      The thing to understand is that there is not an equality of position between the two. “Tenants” are really home-dwellers. The place they rent is their home. “Landlords” are really property speculators: the place they rent out is their gamble (*not* investment: an investment is the productive use of capital, whereas rent-seeking does not produce, it just parks and seeks to extract rent). Everyone needs to be a dweller, so our legal system should preference them over speculators, who are unnecessary. Currently it does the opposite, by subsidising property speculation (primarily negative gearing)

  • Clearly markets have failed to provide a solution for universal need of housing. On the contrary, it has created a problem where there are many empty houses and high rate of homelessness. In a country like Australia where there is plenty of landmass and scope for vertical development and most people who are renters pay a hefty amount to the efficient system of working mostly to pay to the landlords and just to keep a roof over their head. To add to this , we have the inheritance laws which makes sure that the inequality persists in the society which endows some form of birth right to the property owners. I know many people who would be happy to abolish this system all together.

  • Policies don’t matter at all. What matetrs is how much they want to keep you as a tenant and how much you want to stay. Your bargaining power is that at renewal time you have the right to walk away if they charge too much for you. Their bargaining power is that they can let it to someone else if they will pay more than you will.So you haggle.

  • I have a unique problem. The landlord lived in our rental before renting it out to us through an agent. When we moved in, the house was absolutely filthy. I managed to get the property manager to get a professional cleaner for the rangehood which had become a major fire hazard. The cleaner took 3 hours to try and get the rangehood, stove and oven to an acceptable level of dirt. He told me that he had never seen anything so bad. All the problems only becme apparent after we had moved in. Washers needed replacing, security doors with no keys, one security door to the laundry is permanently locked. I asked for things to be fixed as soon as we moved in but nothing got done. At our first property inspection I again listed everything that needed to be fixed and that was 4 months ago with nothing having been done. Our kitchen light needs replacing but we can’t get the light fitting off. I asked the property manager to send an electrician over to help and also a plumber to fix the leaking taps in the house and a major leaky tap in the garden. One week later I contacted her again to ask when we could expect things to be fixed as we are now cooking by candle light! She told me she had contacted the landlord a week ago and he wanted to send his own electrician and handymen to do the requested maintenance work. She tried to contact the landlord again and now he is not answering his phone. I have had enough and want to break the lease but can’t afford the fees I know this landlord is going to demand that we pay. I appear to have no choice but to live with all the problems for another 6 months when our lease will thankfully be up.

  • we have a rat bag landlord and the civil tribunal wont do anything about it. the owner buit the back porch ( the lenght of the house ) including the concrete slab and seconde toilet , turns out the council didnt know anything about it wen in a fight with the landlord over a toilet that had been blocked since we moved in i contacted the council to find out wat size the sewer pipes had to be. they came and inspected the property. none of the backporch etc was built with council knowledge or consent. any way the concrete slab sheds dust so much so the lawn mower guy couldnt blow the grass stuff off it without creating a cloud of dust. we are eating it yet cant seem to find a way to do anything about it. cant leave the health hazard etc. HELP

  • innocent till proven guility but not in tenancy laws an old tatty laundry curtain , a laundry sink that wasnt cracked but is after we moved out. a fence that was dinged but they knew about it. means I could lose my bond and end up black listed, after years of a good record. does it matter the owner has done a lot of illegal building work including a cement slab shedding dust and a slab that foods etc of course not.

  • Hi,
    I stay at New Mexico and inside my Rental Contract is written that the owner take care about the backyard like mowing and terminate bad growing of weed. But the owner don’t take care about and send every 6-8 weeks someone out to Mow the grass and cut the trash alley weed.
    I don’t can use my backyard as well and that make me very disappointed.
    Also i told him before many weeks to come bye and fix the doors and the locks because it getting unsafe and difficult to open and close.

    What can i do?
    Don’t pay full rent?
    Possible to break the contract and move?

    Please help thanks

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