Apartment tenants in Canberra have sued their landlord for faulty air conditioning they said led to sleepless nights and killed their goldfish.
The tenants signed a 12-month rental agreement for the apartment in September 2012.
They told the Civil and Administrative Tribunal the air conditioning had never worked properly, there were security problems, and despite being told Foxtel was connected, it was not.
The air conditioning turned itself off every 20 minutes, causing sleepless nights during a hot summer and killing their goldfish.
The tribunal heard the tenants telephoned the agent to complain about the faulty air conditioning in September 2012 and followed it up with an email on December 10.
The air conditioning was not repaired until March this year.
The tenants presented evidence during December 2012 and January 2013 that more than half of the days had temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius.
While the tribunal was not satisfied the heat caused the death of the fish, they found the air conditioning problem was a breach of the landlord’s obligations.
The tenants were awarded $4,000 including compensation for the lack of the pay TV connection.
General manager of property management at Harris Property Management Suzie Hamilton-Flanagan said such situations were not uncommon.
Each state had its own legislation around a landlord's obligation to repair defects in their property.
"Tenants can take landlords to the Residential Tenancies Tribunal and can successfully claim for rent reduction for the time that the property did not have the air conditioning operating in their rental property. This is not an unusual practice," she said.
"As property managers, our role is to report maintenance and request the landlord’s approval to repair the property. But should this approval not be given, we can not proceed with maintenance or we will be liable for the account.
"If property managers are to meet best practice, they have to clearly explain these legislative requirements to the landlord and highlight their responsibilities under the act.
"They need to make it clear that should they not approve maintenance, they face the consequence that a tenant can take them to the Residential Tenancies Tribunal to get a resolution."