|Starting a tenancy [pdf 96 kb]|
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.
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). They might include a clause in your lease about this. 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, but if you do 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.
At the beginning of your tenancy, your landlord must give you:
If you pay a bond the landlord MUST give you 2 copies of a condition report BEFORE you move in. The report must have been signed by the landlord, or their agent, and set out the state of repair and general condition of the property (both inside and out) at the time the report was prepared.
You then have 3 business days from your move-in date to complete and sign the condition report and return one of the copies to the landlord or agent.
The Condition Report may be relied on as conclusive evidence of the state of the property at the time you moved in. So before you sign and return a copy of the report you should inspect the property and make notes of any problems or issues on both copies, especially where your opinion is different to the landlord’s or agent’s, for example a stain on the carpet that hasn’t been recorded by the landlord or agent. This is important as the Condition Report can help you defend a bond or compensation claim for damage or cleaning costs at the end of your tenancy.
If there is not enough space on the condition report 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 for yourself in a safe place in case you need it at the end of your tenancy.
Photos can be really helpful in showing the condition of the property. We recommend you take plenty of photos of the property when you move in, and again when you move out, so you have your own evidence of how you received the property and how you left it.
If your rent is $350 or less per week, the landlord cannot ask you to pay a bond that is more than one month’s rent. But if your rent is more than $350 per week, there is no maximum limit.
There is also no maximum limit 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.
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 then lodge the form and your bond money with the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority within 10 business days. The Bond Authority will send you a receipt within 15 business days of receiving it.
If your rent is $350 or less per week the most rent you can be asked to pay in advance is one month. But if your tenancy agreement says your rent is paid weekly, the most you can be asked to pay in advance is 2 weeks.
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. It is against the law to refuse to issue receipts.
It is also against law 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.
You cannot be given a rent increase more than once every 6 months.
Section 29 – copies of lease to be provided to tenant
Section 31, 32, 33 – maximum bond
Section 35 – condition report
Section 36 – condition report is evidence of state of repair
Section 37, 38 – guarantees
Section 40, 41 – rent in advance
Section 51 – charges for rent payment cards/direct debit
Section 66 – statement of rights and landlord/agent information
Section 406 – duty to lodge bond