A sudden ceiling collapse can turn a comfortable home into a disaster zone in an instant, with the potential for serious injury and significant damage to property and possessions.
Consumer Protection recently became aware of two tenants who had been given seven days to vacate their rental property following the collapse of their living room ceiling.
As we step in to help the parties reach an agreement, we want to remind tenants, landlords and property managers that seven-day termination notices are unlawful unless the home has been destroyed or deemed uninhabitable by a local government authority.
There are often warning signs a ceiling is about to give way, so it is important for tenants to alert their landlords and agents about any loud cracking sounds, sagging or dropping of the plasterboard sheeting and/or cornice, or any visual cracking. Small circles or blisters (nail pops) in a line on the ceiling can indicate the plasterboard sheeting is pulling away from the nails or screws. Landlords need to respond to such reports and ensure necessary repairs are undertaken to prevent a collapse.
If a ceiling does collapse, landlords are legally responsible for bringing the property back to a liveable condition and must initiate these urgent repairs within 48 hours.
Should the landlord or agent fail to respond to a written request for repairs within a reasonable timeframe, a tenant may serve a breach notice. If the issue continues to be ignored, an application can be made to the Magistrates Court for an order that the necessary repairs be undertaken.
While it is important to keep paying rent until the matter is resolved, a tenant is entitled to ask the court for a rent reduction if the issue means part of the property – such as a second bathroom – is unable to be used.
We always recommend tenants arrange their own contents insurance in case they need to replace damaged possessions. However, if the damage is caused by a fault in the building, such as a lack of maintenance, then a tenant may decide to seek compensation from the landlord through the courts.