Property & Planning Law

Leases: Top 5 tips for Tenants

Renting is a great experience, especially if it is your first time. It allows you to develop personal skills that are an extension from those that you either learned when you live with your parents, or in some cases (including mine), that were done for you!
Once you sign a lease, you take on many responsibilities to the landlord and the property. A lease is quite a complex document if you have never seen or read one before. It is really important that you are fully informed about what a signed lease means for you.
These are my top 5 tips for tenants, from a legal and personal perspective:

1. Documents to be provided by landlords and agents

Your landlord or agent must provide you with the necessary documents at the start of your tenancy including:
  • a Statement of Rights and Duties (booklet from Consumer Affairs Victoria)
  • a signed copy of your tenancy agreement
  • 2 copies of a signed Condition Report (if you have paid a bond)
  • the landlord or agent’s full name, address, telephone and fax numbers
  • an emergency number for urgent repairs that can be used outside business hours
  • where an agent is used, a statement as to whether or not they can authorise urgent repairs (and if so, the maximum cost they can authorise and their phone or fax number for urgent repairs)
It is an offence for the above documents to not be provided.

2. Store all of your documents in a safe place

In the event that there is a dispute between you and the landlord or agent, it is important to have any documents, especially signed ones, that you can refer to if needed.
I advise to keep a folder with the lease, utility bills and any other important notices that come your way throughout the life of your tenancy.

3. Be prepared for the bond

When you move into a new place, you are expected to pay a bond. This is a one-time security deposit that serves as protection for the landlord in the event of property damage or skipped rent payments. In most cases, the bond will cover the equivalent of four weeks of rent. At the end of your lease, this money will be refunded to you unless there are any damages to cover.

4. Challenging a rent increase

If you think that the rent increase is too high, you can request that an inspector from Consumer Affairs Victoria come and inspect the property and assess whether or not the increase is reasonable. You must make the request within 30 days of receiving the notice.

5. Put it in writing

I strongly advise that any form of communication you have with your Landlord or Agent is done so via e-mail. Sometimes, promises are made which aren't kept. Having these promises in writing allows for you to enforce them and prove them during the course of the tenancy.
There is plenty to know about how a lease works, but this should not make you feel uncomfortable. Never be afraid to ask questions, even if you think they seem stupid. It seems like only yesterday when I was dealing with my first lease and wondering if I would ever understand it too. The key is to be responsible enough to educate yourself.
Click here for much more information on being a tenant, or feel free to send me any query you have!