How to deal with the landlord

Some of the most common problems housemates face as tenants are the landlord’s refusal to do repairs, provide reasonable security or respect your privacy. The following are some suggestions for getting the reluctant landlord or agent to do what they should. For more details, contact your local tenants’ advice service (see Contact Points).

  • Notify your landlord/agents soon as you become aware of a problem. Complain in person or on the phone and then follow up with a letter/email confirming what was said. Make sure you keep a copy of the letter/email. If you can, take someone along to act as a witness when you first go to see the landlord/agent about the problem.
  • If nothing happens, keep phoning and sending follow-up letters or emails. Your letters should clearly outline the problem, what you want done and the history of your complaint, i.e. when you first made contact etc. This will make your case stronger if you have to apply to the Tribunal or another dispute body to deal with the problem. Keep a copy of all your letters. You can find sample letters at www.tenants.org.au
  • Some real estate agents have a ‘complaints’ book. Make sure your complaint is put in the book, as you can then ask for it to be produced as evidence at the Tribunal.
  • Keep a diary of your conversations with the landlord/agent. Buy an exercise book specially for this purpose and keep it safely with your tenancy agreement and bond receipt. Record the dates of conversations, who you spoke to and what they agreed to.
  • Keep a printout of all e-mails sent and responded to. Be warned that e-mails are often written in the heat of the moment and sometimes people say things that they do not mean, or do not understand their legal consequences. Emails should remain formal and passionless.To avoid agents and landlords claiming that the void of cyber space swallowed the e-mail and it was never received, always try and follow up with a formal letter which outlines the key points discussed and decided upon.
  • Do not stop paying rent at any stage regardless of what the landlord/ agent does. Fourteen days rent arrears is sufficient grounds for your landlord to give you 14 days notice to leave. It’s much safer and much more effective to apply to the Tribunal for a solution.
  •  Don’t move out without giving the required notice as you may end up losing your bond.
  • Contact a tenancy adviser, community legal centre or community worker for advice and assistance if you feel you are getting nowhere with the landlord/ agent (see Contact Points).
  • Contact your local Member of Parliament or some other influential person such as a member of the local council. Explain your situation and ask if they would write a letter to your landlord/agent to add extra pressure.
  • Apply to the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal for a remedy (see The Legal Situation). It’s your right to get assistance from the Tribunal – take advantage of it!