A tenant must not intentionally or negligently cause or permit any damage to the property and is responsible for any damage caused intentionally or negligently [Residential Tenancies Act 1995 (SA) s 69]. This includes damage caused by guests unless the tenant can show that she or he could not reasonably have prevented the damage. Where the damage was caused negligently or intentionally by a guest, a tenant wanting to deny responsibility would be assisted by reporting the matter to the police as a criminal offence.
The tenant is not responsible for damage caused by a genuine accident or through normal wear and tear; nor are they responsible for damage caused unintentionally through use of a domestic appliance requiring instruction for which the landlord has failed to provide instructions [ss 69(3a), 48(2)].
The landlord must ensure that a property is in a reasonable state of repair, although this does not apply to a property that is subject to an order under the Housing Improvement Act 2016 (SA) [See Residential Tenancies Act 1995 (SA) ss 67, 68].
The landlord is not in breach of his obligation to repair unless he has notice of the defect and fails to act with reasonable diligence to have it repaired. If something needs repair, the tenant should notify the landlord as soon as possible [Residential Tenancies Act 1995 (SA) s 69(1)].
- the disrepair is not the tenant's fault; and,
- it is likely to cause undue inconvenience or damage to the tenant, or to the tenant's belongings; and,
- the landlord refuses to carry out the repairs,
then the tenant can arrange for the repairs to be done and pass the bill on to the landlord. The repairs must be carried out by a suitably licensed person, who should provide a report as to the apparent cause of the disrepair [s 68(d)]. The tenant can also claim reasonable compensation for any damage they have suffered as a result of the failure to repair – provided they have made a reasonable attempt to notify the landlord. If the loss could have been mitigated by taking reasonable steps, then compensation will be reduced for failure to do so [s 68(d)].
Under Part 3 of the Housing Improvement Act 2016 (SA), the Minister has the power to make an order declaring a house unfit for human habitation. An order under part 3 could require either that repairs be undertaken to bring the house to a reasonable standard or that the house be demolished.
The owner is legally obliged to notify prospective purchasers that a house is subject to action under the Housing Improvement Act 2016 (SA). Owners or agents can be prosecuted for failing to comply with these requirements of the Act.
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