Rental leases and legal obligations
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here are a number of official things to attend to once your rental application has been approved, including signing the lease, paying the bond, paying rent in advance and assessing the home’s condition.

Before you move into your rental, find out what you’re legally obligated to do when you undertake a lease on a property.

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Rental leases come with a number of obligations.

Signing the lease

Before you actually move into your rental, you must sign a tenancy agreement or lease. A lease describes the rights and responsibilities you have as a tenant, as well as the rights of your landlord. Other details include:

  • The rental property address.
  • The amount to be paid as bond.
  • How much rent is to be paid and its frequency of payment.
  • The commencement and duration of the agreement.
  • The name and address of the landlord.

Australian states have their own laws governing tenancy agreements. It is wise to check these out for each state.

It is a good idea to request a copy of the lease for review prior to signing the document. Analyse all the conditions in the document. If you have any concerns, contact your state department of consumer affairs or housing. Remember that a lease is legally binding once signed by you and your landlord/agent, therefore make sure you understand and agree with every word on the lease.

Bear in mind that you are entitled to retain a signed copy of the lease. If you do not receive a copy, chase it up with the landlord or agent.

Paying the bond

The bond is the amount of money you must pay to the landlord/agent prior to moving into their residence. This money is retained as security against any substantial damage that may be caused to the property while you are the tenant, or to cover any rent owning at the end of the lease. Accordingly, the bond is often referred to as a security deposit.

The bond must be deposited into an approved trust account specifically set up to manage bond monies. Landlords/agents are required to lodge this money within 3 to 14 days of them receiving it – depending on the state in which the property is located. The full amount should be accessible at the end of the tenancy, when you may be entitled to a full or partial refund of this money.

The maximum amount of bond to be paid also differs from state to state. Again, it is important to check these out.

You can consult your state department of consumer affairs or housing if you believe your landlord is asking for too much in bond. Landlords can be fined for breaking state tenancy rules.

It is the landlord/agent’s responsibility to ensure you receive a receipt when you pay your bond. This receipt must:

  • Be signed by the person accepting the money.
  • State that it is a receipt for a bond.
  • Detail how much bond was paid.
  • Identify the approved trust account the money is going into.
  • Give the date the money was paid.
  • Give the tenant’s name/s.
  • Detail what property the bond is for.
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Make sure you know the relevant laws around rental bonds in your state.

Payment of rental in advance

The landlord may be entitled to receive some rent in advance when you pay your bond and sign the lease. The maximum amount that can be requested is again governed by individual state laws and therefore varies from state to state.

Remember – your periodic rental payments are paid in advance.

If the landlord exceeds these limits (each state has different payment periods), they are liable to be fined. You have the right to consult your state department of consumer affairs or housing if you believe the amount requested from you is excessive.

Also make sure you obtain a receipt. A receipt given for rent in advance must:

  • Be signed by the person accepting the money.
  • State that it is a receipt for rent.
  • Say exactly how much was paid.
  • Detail the period for which the payment was made.
  • Give the date of the payment.
  • Give the tenant’s name.
  • Detail the property address.

Read more: First time renters: what you need to know

Assessing the dwelling’s condition

Once you’ve signed the lease and paid the bond, you should be provided with a Condition Report (also called an Inspection Report). This document provides a record of the condition of the property when you move into the accommodation.

The report lists all the features of the premises, room by room. The inspection report should state the condition of, predominantly:

  •  The walls.
  • Roof.
  • Windows.
  • Painting.
  • Carpet.

The fixtures and amenities should all be itemised.

Each item is typically graded using a code to indicate good, fair or poor condition. Both the landlord/agent and the tenant are able to record their assessment of the premises – one alongside the other in two distinct columns. In most cases the landlord/agent will fill in the report with his inspection findings and then give you a copy to review.

As the tenant, it is up to you to assess each item listed. If you do not agree with the appraisal of an item, write down your preferred grading. Also, feel free to add extra items to the list if you feel these should be recorded. If there is room to add comments, you should elaborate on any specific details you believe deserve special attention.

Once you have filled in the condition report, sign it and return it to the landlord/agent. The landlord/agent must then provide you with a copy of the final report, which they should also have signed.

File your condition report away for safekeeping. Hopefully you will not need to refer to it again. However, it may be useful when you end your lease to prove to the landlord/agent that the condition of the premises has not deteriorated during your occupancy. Your condition report may protect you if the landlord/agent claims some or all of the bond money is needed for repairs. If the report says these repairs were necessary at the start of the tenancy, you can prove that the bond money should be returned.

*Handy tip – Photographs are a great way to record the condition of the premises. It is worth taking several photographs, especially of areas where there is existing visible signs of damage. Use the date stamp on a camera or send doubles of the images to yourself by post and keep unopened for proof of the date when the pictures were taken.




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