10 things you should know about being a tenant
1. How leases work
When you’re renting a property, your lease is the most important thing to understand. It’s the legally-binding agreement between yourself and the landlord that defines how long you’ll be renting the property, how much you will pay each week, and what your responsibilities are.
Signing your lease means you agree to everything that’s set out in it, so be sure to read it thoroughly – because if you breach the conditions of your lease, the landlord can have the right to evict you.
2. What your rights are
When you’re named on the lease, you are entitled to certain rights. For example, the landlord can’t force you to pay for things like general repairs and maintenance.
You also have the right to privacy, meaning the landlord can’t show up to the property unannounced to pester you.
Different states around the country may have different laws regarding your rights as a tenant, so find out what your tenancy rights are in your state:
3. Leaving the property
Upon the expiration of the lease, you may be offered a lease renewal or you can move out. If you do intend on leaving the property, you’ll be required to provide a few weeks’ notice (usually 4 weeks) in writing prior to the end of the lease.
As we know, life is full of the unexpected, and unforeseen circumstances could require you to move out prior to the expiration of the lease. Unfortunately, this can require you to pay compensation to the landlord for the loss of income caused by you ending the tenancy agreement early. These costs can include re-letting fees, advertising costs, and rent until a new tenant is found.
It should go without saying that you should leave the property in a clean, well-maintained state. You’ll need to do this in order to get your bond back (see below). Make sure you go through your Entry Condition Report checklist with a fine-tooth comb to check that the “end condition” of the property matches how it was when you first moved in.
A rental bond is the money you pay at the start of a tenancy to provide financial security for the landlord in case you breach the terms of the lease. Essentially, it’s designed so that if you damage the property at all during your lease, the landlord can keep the bond and use it for repairs and cleaning when you leave.
The bond money is held by a regulatory body (in NSW it is deposited with NSW Fair Trading) until you claim it back at the end of your tenancy. For most properties, the most a bond can cost is the equivalent of 4 weeks rent.
If by the end of the lease you have left the property unclean, damaged (besides ‘fair wear and tear’), or with rent owing, you may not be able to claim back your bond. This is because the landlord has a right to claim the reasonable costs of cleaning and repairs from your bond – hence the importance of leaving the property as you found it.
5. Paying rent
The method for paying rent should be stated in the lease. Approved methods may include electronic bank transfer, EFTPOS, credit card, cash, cheque, or deductions from your pay. If you pay with cash, you should be given a receipt.
The landlord/property manager will keep a record (ledger) of your rent payments and should retain this for up to 1 year after the tenancy has ended. You can request a copy of this record.
If your rent is late by a specified amount of time (usually 14 days) your landlord usually has the power to evict you. If you’re unable to pay overdue rent, repayment plans for the outstanding amount can be organised with your landlord or real estate agent.
6. Repairs and maintenance
While it is your duty as a tenant to keep the property clean and undamaged, it is the responsibility of the landlord or the landlord’s property manager for keeping the property in a good condition for the tenant to live in.
Your landlord needs to organise and pay for repairs when necessary, including emergency repairs. If notified problems aren’t fixed within a reasonable amount of time, you may have a right to end the tenancy or claim compensation from the landlord.