Avoiding unexpected bills when renting

Sep 24, 2021

If you are a tenant in Queensland, it’s your responsibility to advise the landlord or landlords agent if the property needs routine or urgent repairs.  At times in doing this, you may find you receive an invoice or bill you weren’t expecting from the landlord or agent that they deem you responsible to reimburse them for, which is no doubt really frustrating.

Every tenancy is different and will have different factors to consider, but here are some of the more common maintenance visits and call outs during a tenancy that are often found to be a tenants responsibility and how you can best avoid the sting of a surprise invoice

1. Blocked toilet

The owner of the property is likely going to want to be refunded for the bill if anything other than toilet paper or tree roots are found to be the cause of the blockage.  Some examples of items found to be causing the blockage that will likely be considered a tenant responsibility are things like small toys, detachable toilet cleaners or packaging, hair scrunchies, sanitary products, kitty litter etc.

You won’t always know if your kid has dropped a matchbox car in the toilet or a friend you have had over has flushed something they shouldn’t have, however if the lease is in your name chances are you will be sent the bill.

2. Bathroom exhaust not working

We don’t know who needs to hear this today, but please dust your exhaust fan before lodging a maintenance request advising that it has stopped working.  When clogged with dust, newer exhaust motors will shut off when they overheat and older style exhaust fans full of dust could potentially be a fire hazard.

You can clean the exhaust yourself or engage help from a professional, just make sure you have done your part by making sure it isn’t full of dust before lodging a request as there’s a good chance you will be asked to pay the bill if the dust is the cause of the issue.

3. Glass repair

The owner is responsible to ensure the property is fit to live in and in a good state of repair, so something like a replacement window will need to be acted on fast if it is an overall security or safety concern.  Glass installs aren’t cheap, and someone’s insurance policy often comes into play.  It will depend on the cause of the break when determining who is responsible, but the general rule of thumb is unless the window died of natural causes, damaged in a storm or a crime not involving the tenant (such as a break in), the tenant will probably be found responsible for replacement costs.

To avoid an expensive and unexpected bill, we recommend every tenant take out contents insurance including accidental damage.

4. Blocked sink or shower drain

Nothing more than water and soap should go down a sink or shower drain and if anything else is found to be blocking the sink, you could be asked to pay the bill.  Over the years, we have seen items such as chicken bones and other food scraps, cooking fat, cotton tips, hair, rubber bands etc on the plumbers invoices as the culprit for the blockage.

While we don’t recommend that you try to carry out plumbing yourself, we do recommend that you try to prevent the plumbing call out in the first instance.  Most minor blockages can be cleared yourself with boiling water, natural solvent or a chemical drain cleaner.

In short, keep in mind that both owners and tenants have responsibilities when it comes to maintaining a rental property and if the property or inclusions aren’t being used as per the terms and conditions in the lease agreement, you may find yourself with an unexpected bill.

The information contained in this blog post is general in nature.  Maintenance required and whose responsibility it is to pay for it will vary depending on the terms and conditions in the lease agreement and specific requirements per property.  When considering maintenance required at a rental property, please ensure you read through the terms and conditions in the tenancy agreement.




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