Renting House - Structural Damage & Lack of Action

Hi everyone,

I've been renting this house in Victoria for about 4 years now. There are 3 months left from this contract.

Yesterday I found that the house has started to move. 2 sides of the house, that I can see, have started to move. This happened quite recently. Not sure exactly when but we suspect during the last rains.


There are numerous cracks inside the house now, especially around the windows.

We've sent an email to the agent immediately with the pictures and the reply wasn't what we expected.

We mentioned that we have starting looking for a another house in the area as we don't feel safe inside, especially with children around and that we were hoping that they will understand and brake the least before expiry in case we manage to find something.

Thank you for your email. I will ask the owner if he would be willing to send a building inspector to check the property and make sure it is safe.

That's it. That's the whole reply.

We loved the house especially for the fact that everything is close and we can walk to school, work, activities, etc.

What are our options in case they we will find something and they don't want to break the lease?

How bad do you think the house is?

Any suggestions?


  • Looks like not enough piers in the slab and the footing has dropped and snapped.
    You might find that the outside doors jamming not closing soon and that could be an easy out of the lease.

  • +2 votes

    Break the lease due to that?

    It needs underpinning but isn't at risk of collapse.

  • the agents can't just let you off the lease, they will for sure go and have everything checked and reported before doing so. So they are starting okay to me


      Ok. As long as we have an answer, that's fine. I don't want to be looking for a new place in vain.

  • We have a lot of smart people here, but I'm not sure we have a psychic structural engineer who can give you the answers you're looking for without actually seeing the property in person. Because honestly all I see from the photos are what look to be common settlement cracks that you find on any old property.

    Their reply seems reasonable to be honest, probably just lacking the urgency you feel is warranted, but that might be because they also haven't seen the property and aren't aware of how urgent the issue is. I mean - if you actually had kids in the house and was scared it was going to collapse, surely you wouldn't still be living there right? Right?

    • if you actually had kids in the house and was scared it was going to collapse, surely you wouldn't still be living there right? Right?

      I think you'll find that emotive readers will neg the crap out of this. I know what you're saying but I think this sort of speak is litigious speak.

      common settlement cracks that you find on any old property.

      Cracks forming in a settled (ie. Not a new build) is actually a good indicator of some sort of foundational shift. It may not be a disaster waiting to happen as a walls and windows shifting doesn't automatically mean the roof is compromised but it is a good indicator.

      • I think you'll find that emotive readers will neg the crap out of this.

        Haha, right on point.

        Oh - I agree that if an old house suddenly starts developing cracks, that's a sign of something potentially seriously wrong. But 1. The real estate agent isn't a structural engineer and won't know this, and 2. OP is still willingly living there. Both of which explains why the agent might not be taking it as urgently as OP (or the facts) might actually warrant.

        So imo, the real estate agent's reply isn't unreasonable because it just doesn't look that bad in either the photos or in OP's reaction to it.


        The house is around 20 years old.

        • I'm not saying the cracks aren't worrying - I'm saying that they don't look worrying. Usually settlement cracks form, well… a lot earlier than 20 years. As tshow said, if a settled house starts forming cracks yeah you're right to worry. Still - I (not being a structural engineer) feel like this is more an 'urgent - in terms of weeks' kind of thing and not an 'urgent - in terms of days' kind of thing.


      This the cracks were noticed 2 days ago.

      2 doors are not closing, at all. The one with the big gap, you can fit 2 adult fingers between the door and the frame.

      I have no knowledge of house structures, but I'm a bit unsettled seeing that I have cracks inside the house as well and I tend to notice more and more of those.

      • It's very strange for such sudden change.

        Ask your neighbours if they've noticed anything.

        Maybe it's a sinkhole :O

      • Did the cracks inside happen within the span of 2 days?


          Don't kkow. Just noticed. We didn't go outside on that side of the house for a while.

      • I'm an Intermediate level Structural Engineer, I don't have much experience in the way of remedial works but I wouldn't be worried until I see cracking in the actual brickwork - where you've only shown cracking along the joints. I did see a hairline crack in the brick at the corner of one of the windows - this could just be minor settlement, depending on the soil type and reactivity could be a result of the recent rain. But otherwise I see mostly shrinkage/contraction cracks.


          See all the photos if you can. Some cracks are quite large, 3+ cm wide.

  • They've taken the right approach by sending an inspector out. I'm certain they wouldn't just cancel the lease because you said it isn't safe. Just see what the outcome is.

  • My olds have a 95 year old house full of cracks..

    Cracks happen. If the walls are straight, you'll be fine. Unless you have a sinkhole under the house, then it'll last another 3 months fine. However the owner should check it out as there may be remediation activities they can do to minimise the cost of repairs later.

  • Just relax. Homes generally dont fall in on themselves. Even the one that fell into the lane cove tunnel took days unsupported before it fell in.

    You've reported that there has been a sudden shift, just chill

  • After LONG periods of drought the ground water table lowers and the soil 'shrinks' & depending on how the slab was poured (soil conditions at the time, reinforcing, footings ect) it might crack but trust me, if you get a lot of sustained rainfall, well it will crack for sure as the soil expands rapidly and the water table rises under the house.

    This is going to suck for the owner, but your ok until the end of the lease but watch for this problem when you move too as a LOT of housing/units will be effected!

    One good reason to rent cheap and save over buying a home BTW. Then its 'problem belong the owner' time!

    One of the major reasons BTW rental homes are more effected than owner occupier is to avoid water charges, you guys dont water the lawns! Same goes for pensioners ~ this lack of maintaining water moisture levels costs the owners way more than water does. But with water restrictions (makes things bad) and then owners passing on water costs to the renters, well its an accident waiting to happen!


      You are right.

      The owner used to pay the water bills which were not that bad, around $50/month at most. We didn't water the lawn often and we didn't abuse the bills as we are very conscious of our environment. 2 Years ago he cheaped out and passed the bill to us. As such, we stopped using water outside and just managed the lawn without water. Basically the same as we found it.

      Maybe that's the cause? interesting theory.

  • I'm a building inspector. There's literally nothing unsafe with the house. You're worrying over nothing. Yes, there are problems, probably swelling/heaving of the soil.

    As others have said. Cracks happen.

    The cracks you're showing are nothing.

    I wouldn't pay attention to anything less than the thickness of a pen. If you can stick a pen inside the crack, then you'd get someone to come take a look. But EVEN THEN it's just cosmetic repairs.

  • While that is a significant crack you'll typically find (not always) that brick houses are just facade and they have no structural bearing on the house. Typically you'll have a wooden frame that is holding the house together and wood is better at handling tension/bending.

    I'd feel safe in that house. If I owned the house I'd be worried though as it'll cost a lot to fix it.

    You can get companies that inject expandable gel / foam stuff under the part of the house that is sinking. As it expands it raises the slab back to level. If you watch the videos on YouTube you can actually see the cracks closing before your eyes.

    Good idea to let the landlord know. I'd be wanting to get it repaired before it gets much worse! Lots of plastering otherwise.

  • I think a building inspector is a good step, though I understand if you feel unsafe staying in the house.