If you’re curious about the ins and outs of renting and your rights and responsibilities, we’ve put together some handy tips on how to protect yourself as a tenant.
When you’re renting there are some legal documents you’ll need to be familiar with. Understanding these documents means you’ll be well informed of your rights as a tenant and the terms and conditions of living in your rental property.
Understanding your lease
Your lease is the most important document of your rental agreement. Also known as a residential tenancy agreement, it’s a legal contract between you (and anyone else who is party to the lease such as your partner or housemates) and your landlord. It’s important to familiarise yourself with the lease as it sets out the terms of your tenancy and can help protect you against any issues that come up.
Your lease sets out a few crucial aspects of your tenancy such as:
- the length of your tenancy
- how much rent you need to pay, as well as how often you will have to pay it
- how much bond is required
- information on dealing with repairs and maintenance
- tenant’s rights including your right to privacy
- other important factors such as whether you can have pets or sublet your rental.
A condition report is a document that records the state of your rental property before you move in. It generally includes a checklist for each room and includes information on the condition of light fittings, carpets, windows and other features. It should mention whether there’s any pre-existing damage to take note of such as a crack in the wall or a dodgy floorboard.
It’s important to compare the condition report the landlord gives you against what you can see on the first day you move in. If there’s damage not included in the report that should be there you may be held responsible for repairs or cleaning when you move out. Go through each room and check off each item on the list, noting down any bits you disagree with. You should also take photos of any damage so you have evidence if you ever need to use it.
You’ll also have to lodge a rental bond before you move in which is usually the same amount as four weeks’ rent. This is a security deposit which financially protects the owner in case you breach your lease or damage the property.
For example, if you stain the carpet the owner can use a portion (or all) of your bond to cover the cost of cleaning or replacing the carpet once you move out. Make sure to get a receipt of the bond lodgement from your landlord or property manager so you have documented proof it was lodged.
Your bond will be returned to you after you move out and your landlord or property manager is satisfied by the condition of the property. General wear and tear is expected during a tenancy, and in most cases your landlord can’t withhold your bond to cover this.
Information on paying rent will be outlined in your lease. This includes how much to pay, how often to pay it and which methods of payment your landlord or real estate agent accepts.
Once you sign a lease you’re obligated to stick to the rental payment rules you’ve agreed with. If you have trouble paying your rent you should contact your landlord or property manager immediately. They may be able to figure out a payment plan and prevent you from being evicted.
As a renter you have a number of legal rights in place which give you certainty around issues such as privacy and rent increases. Tenant’s rights vary from state to state but there are some general entitlements you should know about.
Privacy and inspections
You have a right to a degree of privacy as a tenant. The landlord or property manager can’t just turn up unannounced for an inspection. If the landlord or property manager wants to enter the property they need to give you adequate notice in writing and can only visit at certain times. In Victoria, landlords or property managers can only enter your home between the hours of 8am and 6pm on any day except public holidays. Most of the time they can enter your home if you’re not there, but only with your permission.
The landlord must provide adequate security in the rental property including supplying and maintaining locks. But if anything gets stolen from your home they’re most likely not liable to replace anything.
To protect your belongings from theft you might want to consider taking out contents insurance. Valuable items such as jewellery, mobile phones, artwork, TVs or laptops are generally covered by contents insurance. (Be aware your policy may have a maximum payout amount which may not cover the entire cost of replacing a stolen item.)
For ANZ Contents insurance or ANZ Home and Contents insurance the maximum payout is $3000 per item for valuables, so if you have an individual item such as jewellery or a stamp collection worth more than this you may want to consider taking out the Specified Valuable option so as to ensure you are getting the right coverage for the right amount. Be sure to read the product disclosure statement to understand what items can be covered under this option.
You can take out portable contents insurance to ensure important items are covered while using them away from the home. At ANZ you may cover high-value items to a maximum value of $40,000, depending on where you live. This way you’ll have offered peace of mind knowing your treasured possessions are completely covered for what they’re worth.
If you’re curious about how you can best protect your belongings you can read our tips for getting more from your home insurance. You can also check out our home and contents insurance FAQs.
If you’ve signed a six or 12-month fixed-term lease then your rent can’t be increased during this time unless it was specified in your rental agreement when you signed it. If you’re on a month-by-month lease the rent can be increased, but the landlord or property manager will need to give you adequate notice in writing.
The rules around how much notice they need to give as well as how often they can increase the rent vary from state to state, so check with your relevant state body if you’re unsure.
Repairs and maintenance
If your home needs to be repaired in some way you’ll need to let your landlord or property manager know in writing so you both have a written record of your request.
The steps to take generally depend on whether a repair is urgent or non-urgent. In most cases urgent repairs such as fixing a burst water pipe should be carried out within 24 to 48 hours of receiving the request. It should be the responsibility of your landlord or property manager to organise these repairs, however you need to let them know if the incident (such as a burst water pipe) is damaging the property as well. This is to help ensure you don’t become liable for the damage caused by any unreasonable delay.
Non-urgent repairs include things such as a broken exhaust fan or a leaky tap and 14 days is usually the timeframe the landlord or property manager needs to organise repairs.
Make sure to check with the relevant state body so you’re fully aware of your rights and what your landlord or property manager is expected to do.
You can seek help from your state body on the links below:
Contents insurance for renters
When you’re renting there’s always a chance theft or damage to the property or your belongings from events such as fire or flood can occur. While your landlord may be protected by building insurance, and common areas of your residential complex may be covered by strata insurance, items inside your home usually aren’t covered by either type of insurance.
To protect yourself against damage or theft consider taking out contents insurance to protect the belongings inside your home.
Contents insurance is a fantastic option as it covers your personal belongings, as well as furniture, rugs, curtains and other items inside your home in case of theft or damage. Taking out contents insurance can help to ensure you’re financially protected and can recover the costs of replacing damaged or stolen items.
If you do take out contents insurance, just make sure to check out the terms of your provider’s insurance policy first to see what is and isn’t covered.