Renters and tenants need to be aware of their obligations when renting. They also should take safeguards to protect their interests.
The expert lawyers at Parke Lawyers have prepared this guide to assist in navigating and understanding these issues and how to address them.
Do a thorough condition report
A reliable condition report can assist you greatly in the event there is a dispute between you and the landlord in relation to any damage to the rental property. Take photos of the property at the start of your tenancy, particularly of any damage present and keep those photos with your condition report. You should also consider engaging a professional building inspector to assist you in completing the condition report. Check all the electrical appliances and plumbing in the property are in good working order. You may also wish to consider what the costs of replacing fused lightbulbs in the property would be, and enquire if the landlord will be responsible for such replacements.
Check the tenancy agreement conditions and owners corporation rules
Do not rely on representations from the agent with regard to what you are allowed to do with the property, for example whether you can keep pets there, sub-let the property to another person or smoke on inside. If you require certain things as part of your tenancy, make sure they are written into the tenancy agreement itself. They may be listed as “special conditions” in the agreement. If you intend to live in an apartment complex, it is good practice to review the owners corporation rules carefully before you sign up to a tenancy agreement. Owners Corporation rules can be quite restrictive – and sometimes unexpectedly so. For example, some rules may provide that clothes must not be hung on the balcony or that only curtains of a certain colour may be used, to maintain the aesthetics of the building.
What if the landlord sells or puts the property up for rent?
If the landlord wants to sell the property and needs to show the property to prospective purchasers, the landlord, through the real estate agent, will seek permission from you by giving you notice that viewings will be conducted on the premises. They have to ensure though, that your “quiet enjoyment” of your rented property is protected. They may insist on multiple viewings especially on weekends, and foot traffic in and out of your property may be high. This may obviously interfere with your “quiet enjoyment” of the property. You should work out reasonable time periods in which such inspections can be done. Any interference that is unreasonable and any pressure or aggression shown by a real estate agent with regard to property inspections should be recorded by you. Typically, the State’s consumer affairs agency can assist with problems of this kind but sometimes legal action may be required.
Ask yourself if you need to enter into a fixed or periodic tenancy
Your landlord may offer you either a fixed-term or periodic tenancy. A fixed-term tenancy has a specified end date, whereas a periodic tenancy continues (typically on a month to month basis) until it is brought to an end. Fixed-term tenancies that are not renewed “roll over” into periodic tenancies at the end of the fixed-term. It will usually be better for a tenant to have a fixed-term tenancy (fixed-term tenancies are generally more secure and they also fix the rent, so it can’t be raised unexpectedly). Sometimes, though, you might prefer a periodic tenancy. For example, a periodic tenancy doesn’t commit you to, say, a full year’s rent at a price you may not be comfortable you will be able to afford. It also gives you more flexibility about looking for a new home (because the tenancy can typically be brought to an end on a month’s notice). You can enter into a periodic tenancy at the commencement of the tenancy by stating a move in date with no expiry date.
If you intend to sub-let the property, ask the landlord
Tenants often rent properties with a view of sub-letting a spare room. Typically, under tenancy agreements, you cannot sub-let whole or part of the premises without the consent of the landlord. Such consent must however not be unreasonably withheld. If you are thinking of sub-letting a spare room, you should seek consent from the landlord in writing first before entering into the tenancy agreement. This will help you avoid any disputes with the landlord in relation to sub-letting during your tenancy. You should also ensure that you sub-let to someone who you can trust and is responsible – because you will usually be responsible for any acts or omissions by them that breach the tenancy agreement.