Residential Tenancy Agreement in Australia: What Should Be Included in a Lease Agreement?
Residential Tenancy Agreements, or lease agreements, are the legally binding document that a tenant and property manager or owner agree to at the start of a tenancy. If you’re looking to rent in Australia, understanding what a Residential Tenancy Agreement is and what should be included can help you better understand your rights and responsibilities as a tenant, and the rights and responsibilities of your property manager. Even before you start thinking about moving house, make yourself familiar with the basics of lease agreements. To learn more about Residential Tenancy Agreements, as well as what should be included when you agree to rent a property, continue reading below.
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What is a lease agreement?
A Residential Tenancy Agreement, also known as a lease agreement, is a legally binding written agreement between a tenant or resident of a property (you), and a property manager or landlord. A Residential Tenancy Agreement outlines the terms and conditions of a tenancy for a specific period of time.
What should be included in a Residential Tenancy Agreement?
All Residential Tenancy Agreements need to have the same basic information, regardless of the type of lease and state or territory the property is located in. This information includes:
- The name and address of the tenant
- The name of the landlord/owner/property manager
- The type and terms of the lease (if it’s a short or long term fixed-agreement it will state the start and end dates of the tenancy, if it’s a periodic tenancy then it will state that the lease is periodic)
- The amount of rent, how often rent should be paid, and how the tenant will pay it
- Standard terms: What the tenant/owner can and cannot do
- Special terms agreed upon in advance such as pets, smoking, or guests
Renting with your pet If you want to rent a home in Australia with your four-legged friend, you will need to get written agreement from your property manager. Western Australia is the only Australian state that legally allows for the payment of a pet bond, which is usually a one-off fee of $260.
Types of lease agreements
There are different types of lease agreements you might decide to sign. While most standard lease agreements are fixed-term, meaning there is an agreed up start and end date to the tenancy, this isn’t the only agreement you can sign when it comes to renting your house.
Fixed-term lease: A standard lease with a set, and agreed upon, start and end date to the tenancy. Ending the fixed-term agreement early might incur a financial penalty.
Long fixed-term lease: Like a standard, fixed-term lease but with more flexibility in the terms of the lease, including rent increase, rental bond “top ups”, and modifications to the property over a longer period of time.
Periodic lease: A tenancy agreement on a rolling basis, with no fixed end date. Rather, the terms of the lease apply on a month-to-month basis, and either the tenant or owner/property manager can end the agreement with one month’s notice.
Rent to buy: Unlike other tenancy agreements, a rent-to-buy or rent-to-own agreements include the ability for the tenant to purchase their home at an agreed upon price at the end of the tenancy.
Signing a Residential Tenancy Agreement
Before signing your Residential Tenancy Agreement, you’ll first be given a Property Condition Report. This Property Condition Report will note any damage, repair, and the general physical condition of the property. Once you receive this report, it’s important to take the time to inspect the property yourself for any discrepancies between it and your own inspection. If there is any further repair or maintenance needed, ensure they’re added to your tenancy agreement with a specific time frame for the issues to be fixed.
Once you and the property manager agree upon the Residential Tenancy Agreement to be signed, you will legally need to be given a signed copy. In cases of dispute, or other issues, your signed agreement will act as a reference to come to a resolution, so make sure you hold onto your copy and any other relevant documents.
Landlord / agent responsibilities when preparing the tenancy agreement
There are certain things your landlord or property manager will need to be held responsible for during the preparation of the Residential Tenancy Agreement. This includes:
- Making sure the correct form is being used and signed
- Paying for all the costs associated with preparing the tenancy agreement
- Ensuring that the property is in an acceptable state, and ready for the tenant on the agreed upon start date.
As a tenant, your biggest legal responsibility is to keep your copy of the Residential Tenancy Agreement, Property Condition Report, bond lodgement forms, and any other relevant documents somewhere safe and easily accessible. When your lease comes to an end, you’ll be better off having these documents to ensure a speedier move-out or lease-renewal process.
Ending a Residential Tenancy Agreement
If you’re on a fixed-term lease, your Residential Tenancy Agreement is legally binding and, if broken, might result in financial penalties.
Depending on the situation surrounding your termination of the Residential Tenancy Agreement (whether it’s fixed or periodic, if you’re breaking the agreement early or it’s the end of the agreement term, the state you live in etc), you will have a minimum amount of days you can give notice you’re leaving the property. It’s best to consult your state’s housing laws to find your specific situation and notice period.
Residential Tenancy Agreement termination notice
Once you and your landlord have agreed to terminate the Residential Tenancy Agreement, you will need to give notice in writing with your intention of vacating the property. This termination notice must include information including:
- The address of the property
- The day the tenancy agreement is to be terminated and the tenant moved out
- The reason (if applicable) for the termination
- Signed & dated by the party giving notice (tenant or owner)
Getting back your rental bond when terminating a tenancy agreement
When you leave the rented property, it’s best to ensure it is as clean as possible and in a good state of repair. While the property manager cannot keep your rental bond without just cause, some reasons a property manager might keep your rental bond include:
- Any debt including unpaid rent or water bills
- The lease was broken early and compensation has not been paid
- The tenant has not returned all copies of the keys, so the locks needed to be changed
- Damage to the property, the property was not left in a reasonably clean condition, or anything outside of the usual wear and tear