starting a tenancy, information for renters - Tenants Victoria

Starting a tenancy

Tenancy agreements

A tenancy agreement (sometimes called a ‘lease’) may be in writing or it may be verbal. It may be for a fixed term (eg 6 or 12 months) or periodic (usually month to month).

Fixed-term agreements are more secure because they make it harder for the landlord to evict you, but it can be expensive if you want to move out before the end of the fixed term. Only commit yourself to a fixed-term agreement if you are reasonably sure that you want to stay for the full term of the agreement.

Make sure you are happy with the condition of the property before you pay any money and before you move in. If the landlord offers or agrees to repair or improve the property before you move in (eg install a heater), make sure it is included in the tenancy agreement or get the promise in writing.

If there is a written tenancy agreement, you should be given a copy before you sign it. If necessary, seek advice before you sign, especially if there are ‘additional terms’ attached. You must be given a copy of the agreement within 14 days of signing.

Your consent for notices to be sent electronically

When you sign your lease, your landlord or real estate agent might ask you to agree to the landlord sending notices to you electronically (for example, by email). You should only agree to this if you regularly check your emails. You should make sure that the email address that they will send notices is specified. You should also consider whether there is a risk that an email by the landlord or their real estate agent may divert to a spam folder or be rejected due to size.

You do not have to agree to notices being sent to you electronically and you can withdraw your consent if you later change your mind.

If you withdraw your consent to electronic service, you should make sure that you keep evidence that you withdrew your consent. For example, keep a copy of the email or letter when you tell the landlord not to send you any notices electronically.

The condition report and other documents

At the beginning of your tenancy, your landlord must give you:

  • the Statement of Rights and Duties (booklet from Consumer Affairs Victoria)
  • if you have paid a bond, 2 copies of a completed Condition Report, signed by the landlord or agent
  • the landlord’s full name, address, telephone and fax numbers, and a written statement about whether or not the agent can authorise urgent repairs
  • if the agent can authorise urgent repairs, the maximum amount they are authorised to spend, and the agent’s telephone or fax number for urgent repairs

The Condition Report may be conclusive evidence of the state of the property (both inside and out) at the time that you moved in. The report can help you defend a bond claim or compensation claim for damage or cleaning costs at the end of the tenancy.

Make sure you note any problems (such as carpet stains) on both copies of the report. If there is not enough space on the form, write ‘see attached’ in the relevant section and attach a separate sheet. When complete, sign and return one copy to the landlord and keep the other copy in a safe place. You should complete, sign and return the Condition Report within 3 business days of moving in.

Rent and bond

If your rent is $350 or less per week, you can be asked for a maximum of one month’s rent in advance, plus a maximum of one month’s rent as bond. If your rent is paid weekly, you can only be asked to pay 2 weeks’ rent in advance.

If your rent is more than $350 per week, there is no maximum limit on the amount of bond or rent in advance.

If your tenancy agreement states that the premises are the landlord’s principal place of residence and that they intend to move back in when the lease expires, there is no maximum bond limit.

It is illegal for agents (or anyone else including a third party) to charge for the first issue of a rent payment card or for establishing and/or using direct debit facilities for rent payments.

If you pay your rent in person, you must be given a receipt immediately. If you use another method to pay your rent and you request a receipt at the time of making the payment, you must be given a receipt within 5 business days. Even if you don’t request a receipt at the time, you can still request a record of your rent payments within 12 months of the date of payment. You must be given a copy of the record within 5 business days of your request.

In most cases, you cannot be asked for both a bond and a guarantee. If you are, contact us for advice.

When you pay your bond, the landlord or agent must complete and sign a Bond Lodgement form and give you the form to sign. They must lodge the form and your bond money with the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority within 10 business days. The Bond Authority must send you a receipt within 15 business days of receiving it.

You cannot be given a rent increase more than once every 6 months.

This information is a guide only and should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice.

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Tenants Victoria | Published: June 2012
Tenants help line 03 9416 2577 |
Tenants Victoria acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.

Tenants Victoria acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.