Renting in Australia can sometimes seem like a battle. From the expensive rents and the lack of pet-friendly properties to the horror stories of terrible landlords, renting can seem like navigating a minefield of issues just waiting to explode.
However, the key to renting successfully and without issues is to fully understand your rights as a renter, and your obligations to the landlord under your tenancy agreement. We spoke to Jim Parke, Managing Director of Parke Lawyers, about the five most common legal issues renters face and how to solve them.
The problem: condition dispute
The answer: do a thorough condition report
According to Jim, a reliable condition report can assist you greatly in the event that 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,” says Jim Parke, Managing Director of Parke Lawyers. “You should also consider engaging a professional building inspector to assist you in completing the condition report. Check that 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.”
The problem: you discover unexpected restrictions
The Answer: check the tenancy agreement conditions and Owners Corporation rules.
Jim says renters should not rely on representations from a real estate agent in regards to what you are allowed to do with a rental property, such as whether you can keep pets there, sub-let the property to another person or smoke inside.
“If you require certain things as part of your tenancy make sure they are written into the tenancy agreement itself,” says Jim. “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 Owner’s 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.”
The problem: the landlord sells or puts the property up for rent
The answer: work out a mutually beneficial viewing schedule
“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,” says Jim. “However, they have to ensure 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.”
The problem: you are offered the choice between a fixed-term or periodic tenancy
The answer: ask yourself which ones suits your lifestyle better
“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,” says Jim.
“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 years’ rent at a price you may not be comfortable with or 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.”
The problem: you want to sub-let the spare room
The answer: 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,” says Jim. “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.”
You might also like: