Agent Refuses to Fix Gas Fire Heater (VIC)

The house I've recently rented has a gorgeous gas fire heater in the living room, built into the central mantlepiece. It's one of the main reasons why I chose to rent here, the ads and the inspections all highlighted it as a feature. The inspection report has it listed as working and the pictures on their website of the living room show it working.

About a month ago it stopped working and we could smell gas, so we evacuated the house and called the emergency plumber who made it safe and decommissioned the unit.

My issue now is that they're now categorically refusing to do anything about it after dragging their feet for a month. Their stance is that because the living room also has an old style split system, that the house meets the minimum requirements for heating and they're not obligated to spend any money fixing/replacing it.

To me that seems like the equivalent of offering an awesome swimming pool in the backyard, and then when it breaks they fill it in and put a cheap kiddie pool in its place.

I know it's a first world problem, but I'm really frustrated by this, as it was one of my favorite things about the house. What are my rights here? Can I demand they fix/replace it?

Comments

  • +3 votes
  • +9 votes

    If it was part of the advertisement for the rental, while they may not be required to fix it (I’m not sure if this is the case or not so I’ll let others respond to this part), you might be able to request a rent reduction, and maybe even (once again, others may be able to advise) terminate your lease early as it is not what was advertised.

  • +12 votes

    If it was advertised as a feature I would expect it to work.

    • -6 votes

      Per the OP, it did work..
      It now doesn't.
      And there is no obligation to fix the unit as there is an alternative (and cheaper to operate) heating solution already available.
      Personally I don't see what the tenants argument is.

      • +3 votes

        If it was just a heater I'd understand, but it was a key feature of the house that was advertised and now doesn't work. I see it the same as a swimming pool that's been filled in

        •  

          It's not at all comparable.
          You do not have a gas fire to enjoy the appearance of a gas flame. Its primary (and arguably sole) purpose is to heat the home.
          As the home is still able to be heated and heated in a manner that is economical, the core function of the gas fire is still present in the home.
          The fact that the Split system was already present and (old) is also irrelevant. The Landlords could have installed a split system as a suitable replacement for the gas fire if the split system was not already present.

          Filling in an inground pool and replacing with a kiddy pool is a strawman argument.
          The core function of the inground pool cannot be replicated by a kiddy pool.

          • +1 vote

            @ESEMCE: So if op was the one to break the gas heater, it would be fine for them not to fix it, as the reverse cycle is still there, the house can still be heated.

            •  

              @brendanm: Another strawman argument.

              • +2 votes

                @ESEMCE: "Everything's A Strawman: A Child's Guide To Arguments On The Internet", by ESEMCE.

                Available from all good book stores, and on Amazon Kindle.

      • +6 votes

        Lol that’s like buying a set of two pots from The Good Guys and one breaks after a month but you go back to TGG and they say “oh but it did work, and the other one still does, so you’re still ok with paying full price for this, yeah?”

        Obligation to fix as per rental requirements or not, OP no longer has access to something that was advertised to them when they entered into the contract.

        • +8 votes

          Not bad analogy.

          I'll have a go too.

          Rent a Hybrid, electric motor breaks down and but the ICE is OK, car still drivable…

      • +3 votes

        As per ops example, if it came with a 60,000l pool, and that had a problem, would you be happy with a Kmart blow up pool instead?

        A gas heater is not the same as reverse cycle.

  • +10 votes

    Seriously are there any landlords who actually give a (profanity) about maintaining these properties?

    • +4 votes

      Your not from around "waves arms around at all of Australia" here are ya?

  • +5 votes

    If it was advertised with the property as a feature then they have to fix it, otherwise you can break the lease with no penalty.

    • +2 votes

      This. It's why they make you inspect the property before applying. You're agreeing to rent the property as it is when you inspected it, that goes both ways.

  • +1 vote

    Send a written request for the repair of the item. And if it is not repaired within 14 working days, contact consumer affairs for their resolution.
    If they still do not carry out the repair, you might be able to request rental reduction or break the lease as the landlord has breached a condition. You might have to be prepared to go to the tribunal for your issue. But in my experience, all the landlords dropped the dispute as soon as the officer from RTA(QLD version of Consumer affairs) initiated the communication.
    https://www.consumer.vic.gov.au/housing/renting/repairs-alte...

    You can also request Repair inspection from consumer affairs before initiating a dispute resolution from them.

    •  

      Thanks for the information, that's actually really helpful. I didn't realize there was a middle option between starting a dispute and doing nothing, I think I'll organize that and see how it progresses.

      They've known about the heater not being functional for a month now, does written notice include notifying them and asking for repairs, or does it only count if I send them the official form?

      • +2 votes

        In my case yes. Email communications with the agent regarding the repairs was enough evidence.

  • +2 votes

    They do not have to fix it. You are likely entitled to a rent reduction - but you'll have to fight for it.

  • +5 votes

    We don’t know if repairing/replacing the heater is economical.
    If it is not, the landlord can choose to stop offering the heater since an alternative is available.
    You can’t force the landlord to spend the money.
    You can make a strong argument that the heater was a key feature they promoted, and that they should give you a rent reduction (or allow you to break the lease) if they choose not to fix it.

  • +2 votes

    It is also possible the heater that has failed is now Banned in vic (open flue) which means they could not replace it with a similar one even if they wanted too.
    Typically ones built into old fireplaces (like you describe yours being) are open flue, which means now banned
    Landlord has installed a split system at some point which offers heating
    As a landlord i can tell you that there is zero obligation to repair / replace when an alternative exists so there is no way you will be able to force the landlord to do so.
    A rent reduction is possible but unlikely. Heaters are generally not a "feature" of a home
    House comes with pool: thats a "feature"

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-05-28/open-flue-gas-heaters...

    • +2 votes

      Zero chance of having it repaired if it's now illegal yes.

      But there's a near 100% chance of a lease break or rent reduction. The OP has already indicated how this fireplace was essential to them in the choice of this home. If they take that to VCAT they have an extremely good chance.

      • +1 vote

        VCAT won't let the OP break the lease due to a heater.
        While i understand it was advertised as a feature, its stopped working and landlord cant legally repair / replace it.
        An alternative exists so VCAT will side with Landlord i suspect.

        Had a very similar situation with a tenant, we had a an open flue heater fail.
        tenant argued that they only rented place due to that type of heater (we did not promote it as a feature though)
        we installed a new wall heater in the loungeroom (more efficient also)
        He continued to push us via agent, went to VCAT to try and break lease.. VCAT dismissed the case within like 5 mins
        (we suspected tenant just wanted to break lease and was using heater as an excuse)

        Rent reduction is possible .. maybe, break of lease unlikely

        •  

          They could always install a heater with flue.

          • +1 vote

            @brendanm: They could
            I actually think this is what would of had to happen had they not had an alternative already installed

            • +1 vote

              @jimbobaus: I think they still should do this, or give op a rent reduction.

  •  

    They dont have to fix the fire at all because there is an alternative heating system.

  • +1 vote

    If they wont fix it you are definitely entitled to rent discount as you based your decision to rent at the given price assuming you would have access to the gas heater