VIC VCAT - Urgent Repairs on Lighting Taking Too Long

Australia's #1 for Law
Join 150,000 Australians every month. Ask a question, respond to a question and better understand the law today!
FREE - Join Now


12 December 2015
My partner and I are renting an apartment with unusually high ceilings, so much so that even with a regular ladder it would not be possible for us to reach the lightbulbs to change them. The real estate agents managing the property acknowledged this upfront when we moved in and said that if the lightbulbs blow, we should get in touch and she would 'send an electrician right out'.

A couple of weeks ago the lightbulbs in our main living area blew. We contacted the agent. She got onto the owners, but it took them 1 1/2 weeks to get back to us, after which they said they needed to see photos and that getting the bulbs changed was going to take some time.

By this point, more bulbs had blown (so now only 1 bulb out of 6 used to light a large space is functional, and it basically doesn't shed any adequate light at all, making the main area of our house pretty much unusable after sundown). We told the agent yesterday that while we were happy to provide photos, we are not prepared to wait even longer to have lighting restored to the premises. We said we consider the issue to be an urgent repair, and that if the owners are not able to organise an electrician we would seek to do so ourselves and send them the bill. The agent was pretty sympathetic, went back to the owners, and came back today and said they are now 'considering changing all the lights over to LEDs', so want particulars of all lighting in the property. No mention of organising for an electrician to come out.

We went to our local community legal centre for advice, and they said that while there are no guarantees if the matter ended up in VCAT we'd have a very arguable case that the issue is an urgent repair. But I'm not sure of the process from here. Ideally, I want to just get an electrician out tomorrow to get the issue fixed (we have guests staying and it is extremely inconvenient not having to light), then send the bill on to the landlord via the agent noting that we will pursue the matter in VCAT if they don't reimburse us. When we reported the issue 2 weeks ago there were some lights left so it wasn't a huge issue, but because extra bulbs have since blown we've had no use of the area at night for a week.

I'm apprehensive, though - although the advice we received from the CLC was somewhat encouraging and I've heard before that VCAT are often tenant friendly, I can't find anything that would guarantee a finding in our favour. The list of urgent repairs includes dangerous electrical faults, faults that make rented premises unsafe (the CLC lawyer suggested that not having lights could potentially qualify), and breakdowns of other essential services. But it doesn't mention lighting - understandably, as changing bulbs is usually a tenant's responsibility, but that is not a safe possibility here because of the unusual configuration of the property.

Does anyone have any experience with VCAT's approach to important repairs that logically require immediate attention, but that don't fit directly within the list of urgent repair categories? I read some cases but didn't find much on point. Or does anyone have any advice on what my next steps should be? If I get the bulbs changed and indicate that I would be prepared to go to VCAT, if necessary, is that likely to be enough to get the owner to reimburse me? We're cooperative tenants and really didn't want to go down this path because it's annoying and stressful, but it's stressful having no lights too, and the owner has historically proven themselves to be really uncommunicative and uncooperative with requests for both urgent and non-urgent repairs, so I think it's time we start sticking up for ourselves a bit more!

Thanks so much for any help! We're new to renting in Victoria, and our last landlord in Sydney was wonderful, so we're feeling a bit lost :(


Hi banapple,

Unfortunately, I don't have specific experience with what VCAT will and will not grant in terms of repairs or what they will classify as urgent repairs, however as I often recommend to people in sticky situations like this, feel your landlord's out with a letter of demand. Give them 7 days to have the bulbs changed or alternative lighting installed failing which you will have it done yourself and charge them for it. If they are going to respond, you will see some action. If not, you may need to consider VCAT.