Tenants – Knowing Your Rights

If you’ve ever rented a home, you’ll know that there are countless conditions and expectations placed upon you as a tenant. Understanding these obligations is important for the success of a tenancy. Equally as important is knowing your rights as a tenant.

While tenancy agreement details may change from state to state, there are a number of rights that protect all Australian renters. Here are four of the most important.

Right #1 – A safe, secure home

As a tenant, you have the right to live in a home that is safe and secure. The property must have windows and doors that are in working order; it must be free from pests and vermin, and it must be fitted with at least one working, and regularly tested, smoke alarm. If you are renting a property in Western Australia, the home must also be fitted with a residual current device (RCD).

While it is your responsibility to keep your home in good condition, there may be a time when urgent maintenance or repairs are required. In these cases, it’s important to contact your landlord as soon as possible. Essential and urgent repairs must be attended to by your landlord within 48 hours.

Right #2 – No unexpected costs before moving in

It’s common practice to pay some money up front before you move into a new rental property. Pre-moving expenses include:

  • a security deposit
  • pet bond (if applicable)
  • two weeks’ rent in advance.

The security deposit, or bond, is usually the equivalent of four weeks’ rent. This bond is held in trust during your tenancy and is released to you once the condition of the property has been assessed at the final inspection, after you’ve moved out.

In some states, like Western Australia, you may have to pay a pet bond if your pets are capable of carrying parasites that may be harmful to humans. This pet bond is used for fumigating the property after you leave, and it is capped at $260.

You’ll also need to pay two weeks’ rent in advance before you move in.

Right #3 – A cap on rent increases

While the details may differ slightly from state to state, most fixed-term tenancies have very similar rules related to rent increases.

  1. If you have signed a fixed-term tenancy, any rent increase must be noted and approved in your lease agreement. No unplanned rent increases are allowed.
  2. You must be advised of a rent increase in writing. In most states, you must be given at least 60 days’ written notice.
  3. The number of rent increases allowed per year differs depending on your location. In the ACT, Tasmania and SA it’s once per year. In Victoria, Queensland, WA and NT your rent can’t increase more than once every six months. In NSW, no increases are allowed for fixed-term agreements of less than two years.

Right #4 – Access by property manager or landlord

As a tenant, you have the right to quiet enjoyment of your home, which means your landlord or property manager can’t pop by without warning.

The most common reason for requested access is so that the landlord can carry out a routine inspection. In WA, ACT, NSW, SA, Queensland and NT you must be given at least seven days’ written notice for an inspection. In Victoria and Tasmania it is 24 hours’ notice.

If you’re unsure about any of the conditions in your tenancy agreement, there are renters advocacy groups in all Australian states and territories. To learn more about your rights and obligations as a renter, visit the regulatory body in your state: Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia.