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Starting a tenancy

Author: There are many things to consider and take care of when starting a tenancy.

You are entering into a legal contract so it’s vital you know exactly what you’re signing as well as your rights and responsibilities during your tenancy.

A trap for some renters is they fail to adequately consider all upfront costs.

Before actively starting your rental hunt, think seriously about what you can afford.

As an example, if you were looking at renting a property for $420 a week, the upfront costs you’d be likely to pay are;

◦A security bond, which is usually four weeks rent ($1,680)
◦Two weeks rent in advance ($840)
◦Moving costs, which is dependent on how much you need moving and the distance the items need to travel
◦And if you own a pet and it has been approved by the owner, a pet bond ($260 is the maximum amount that can be charged)

Renting property involves a fair bit of paperwork with a number of forms required to be filled out prior to moving in.

These forms are designed to protect the rights of both you and the owner and to ensure you’re both aware of what your responsibilities are during the life of the contract.

Application forms and options fees
It’s not uncommon that an owner will request you complete an application form so they can formally assess your eligibility.

Information you’ll be asked to provide is;

◦Details of previous rental history

This application process may also include an option fee. Option fees are generally requested by owners as proof that an application is genuine. This fee is unlikely to be more than $50 to $100 per tenancy application.

Before agreeing to this fee, check whether this request is stated in the application and if all or some of the money can be kept if you decide not to move forward with the tenancy.

If you do take up tenancy, this money will be credited towards your first rental payment. If the owner denies your application, you will receive a full refund within seven days.

Tenancy agreements
The tenancy agreement is a vital document between you and the owner.

Its purpose is to clearly establish the agreed terms and conditions between both parties from the outset.

This agreement includes;

◦The address of the property
◦The name and addresses of yourself and the owner or property manager
◦Whether the agreement is fixed or periodic
◦Rent requirements i.e. amount, frequency and method of payment
◦Special conditions
◦A summary of key residential tenancy laws

Property condition report
The property condition report is prepared by the owner or manager prior to you moving in. You must be provided with two copies of this report within seven days of moving in.

This report details the condition of the home on a room by room basis and notes all contents within the property at the start of the tenancy.

As the tenant, you have the right to dispute anything that has been noted within seven days after receiving the report.

You should;

◦Check the premises for cleanliness and maintenance issues
◦Check the security of locks, doors, windows and fences
◦Describe the condition of the garden and lawn
◦Check the number and type of garden sprinklers and if they work.
◦Check the condition of the reticulation and bore and if they work
◦If there is a swimming pool, check everything is in working order, note the condition and list all equipment
◦Take photographs or video showing the condition of certain areas making sure to record the date
◦Check if the owner intends to fix any issues you discover and have this written into the agreement

If you do not return an altered copy within seven days, it is taken that you agree with everything that has been noted.

Keep a final copy of this report in a safe place so it can be used as evidence if the need arises.

When it comes to the payment of rent, owners or property managers are not allowed to request more than two weeks upfront. They are also unable to request a rent payment until the period covered by the previous payment is finished.

Alternatively, if you fall behind in rent and don’t remedy this within an agreed time, the owner has the right to apply to end your tenancy.

Rental increases
The type of lease you are on will determine how your rent can increase.

With a fixed-term lease, rent can only be increased in six month intervals and only if it has been stipulated in the tenancy agreement.

If your fixed-term tenancy agreement is being renewed, owners are not under any obligation to provide you notice of an increase. However, they are unable to increase your rent within the first 30 days of the renewed lease.

If you have a periodic lease rent can only be increased once every six months and you must be provided with 60 days notice in writing.

For both fixed-term and periodic agreements, you are under no legal obligation to start paying this increase until you have received proper notice on a form approved by the Minister for Commerce.

For more information about starting a tenancy, contact the Department of Commerce.

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