What would you do if your landlord disappeared? What would you do when your landlord has disappeared, and his property is now sufficiently defective that essential services are not being delivered to the tenant?
What would you do if you held back the rent and you still had no response yourself from your landlord?
What you have, is a tenant who is paying rent on a property where the kitchen does not work and the instructions on your agency agreement is to spend no more than $300. Where do you get instructions?
There are four options as to your landlord’s whereabouts:
a) he is dead;
b) he is overseas and un-contactable;
c) he is suffering dementia;
d) he is in jail.
What do you do?
A tenant is entitled to essential services. In this case, they need to be able to cook their meals, the repairs are in excess of $1,000 and therefore retaining the rental does not resolve the position.
Our first suggestion is to try and find the landlord. You should file a missing persons’ report with the police and/or engage a process server who has data to pursue your landlord. If you cannot find your landlord, your hands are tied.
You need to advise your tenant to make a claim to NCAT seeking the right to repair the kitchen and keep their rent until the repairs are completed. You have an obligation to your landlord, but the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 gives you an obligation to ensure that the tenant’s obligations are fulfilled. By sending it to NCAT, you remove yourself from the responsibilities.
In short, protect the tenant but don’t absolve yourself from your fiduciary obligations.