2/6/2020

What you should know about renting

What you should know about renting

As a tenant, it's important to be aware of your rights when you move into a new home. Whilst landlords are obliged to be fair, the extensive tenancy laws make it hard for them to know all the details involving tenancy agreements.

 

Take note of this important information to ensure you know your rights when renting.

Please note: if you require further information and advice, we have compiled a State by State list of tenant resources and services at the end of this article. 

Do I need to pay for repairs?

While the law differs from state to state, generally speaking tenants have the legal right to ask for repairs to be carried out and can seek compensation if the landlord refuses or fails to take action. However, if the damage is a result of the tenant's neglicence and not just normal 'wear and tear' the tenant may be liable to pay for the repairs (read our article on the difference between wear & tear and damage).

As a tenant, you should notify the landlord as soon as possible when you notice something needs repair. In Victoria, the landlord has 14 days to do non-urgent repairs, but for urgent repairs they are expected to fix things straight away. 

Am I entitled to compensation?

Renters have a right to be compensated by their landlord if they are not carrying out their duties. For instance, if the landlord disrupts the peace by holding too many open for inspections or repeatedly coming to the rental property without proper notice, tenants have a right to compensation. In Victoria, Tenants must be notified at least 24 hours in advance before landlords or agents enter the property.

How do I connect my utilities?

Before you move into a new property make sure you organise all the essential energy connections at your new address. You will need to arrange new connections for your electricity and gas. For those in Victoria, you will also need to arrange your water connection. If you want to save yourself time, rather than calling up each retailer, MyConnect can organise it all for you in one phone call. We partner with a number of energy providers and you can choose from a range of energy plans on offer. Our service operates in NSW, VIC, QLD, WA and SA.

Left your connections to the last minute? MyConnect also can arrange same and next business day gas and electricity connections as well as the disconnections at your previous property. If you have any questions about MyConnect's service, check out our FAQs.

It's also important to know where your gas meter is located as your service provider will need to access your meter on the day of your connection. Read this article on gas and electricity meters including how to find it and how to do a meter reading. If you have a real estate agent managing the property you can also ask them for advice on any metering issues as they will have knowledge of the property and may be able to advise you. 

Finally, make sure you have paid your final bills for the utilities at your previous property.

Do I need to pay for my utilities to be connected?

A tenant is only liable to pay for utilities such as electricity, gas and water if the supply is separately metered. Landlords must pay all installation and initial costs for connecting  the electricity supply as well as the gas and oil supply if there is no separate meter. If you've paid the costs of any utilities that your landlord is liable for, they must reimburse you.

Will my landlord instigate a rental increase?

Landlords need to give the tenants sufficient (60 days) written notice of the rental increase. Rental increases are only permitted if they're part of the tenancy agreement. For tenants on a periodic lease in QLD, Vic, WA and NT, rent can only be increased once every six months and in ACT, once every 12 months. Tenants are not obliged to accept a rental increase, particularly if similar local properties are lower in price, or if the owner or agent has withdrawn services, facilities or other items that are part of the property. If you believe a rental increase if excessive, you can contact your State's rental tribunal or other appropriate service (listed at the end of this article). 

The bond

Most lessors/agents require a bond as security for the premises. Paying the bond occurs at the beginning of the tenancy. At the conclusion of the tenancy, the landlord can claim all or part of the bond as compensation for damage to the property or unpaid rent. If you pay the bond, you must receive two copies of the condition report signed by the landlord. It's important that you complete a condition report as this can be used as evidence if there's a dispute about the condition of property.

In most States and Territories, your bond is paid to the relevant bond authority and your landlord authorises its release at the end of the tenancy. If there is a dispute over payment of your bond or your landlord has not authorised its release in a timely fashion, you can apply directly to the relevant authority to get your bond back (NCAT in NSW, VCAT in Vic). 

Paying rent

You cannot refuse to pay your rent, or undertake a 'rent strike'. Not paying your rent is a breach of your tenancy agreement and the landlord may take steps to end your tenancy. If you are experiencing genuine hardship, you can speak to your landlord about a temporary rent reduction or seek information and advice from a tenant advisory service (listed by State at the end of this article). In Victoria, the landlord or agent cannot request more than one month's rent in advance provided the rent is $350 a week or less.

In summary

Renting can be a bit of a minefield to navigate, especially for first timers or people who are new to the country. To ensure the fresh start at your new house or apartment is enjoyable and stress-free, make sure you are across your rights and responsibilities as a tenant.

 

Resources for Tenants (by State)

 

New South Wales

Disputes: New South Wales Civil & Administrative Tribunal (NCAT)

Advice & information: Tenants' Union of New South Wales

Australian Capital Territory

Disputes: ACT Civil & Administrative Tribunal 

Advice & information: Tenants' Union ACT

Victoria

Disputes: Victorian Civil & Administrative Tribunal (VCAT)

Advice & information:

Tenants Union of Victoria

Consumer Affairs Victoria

Queensland

Disputes: Queensland Civil & Administrative Tribunal (QCAT)

Advice & information: 

Tenants' Queensland

Residential Tenancies Authority

Western Australia

Disputes: Magistrates Court of Western Australia

Advice & information: Tenancy WA

South Australia

Disputes: South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT)

Advice & information:

RentRight SA

Consumer & Business Services

Tasmania

Disputes: Residential Tenancy Commissioner

Advice & information:

Tenants' Union of Tasmania

Consumer, Building & Occupational Services

Northern Territory

Disputes:  Northern Territory Civil & Administrative Tribunal

Advice & information: Tenants' Advice Service

 

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