Whether you’re a landlord or a tenant, tenancy disputes can be costly, stressful and time-consuming. To avoid a dispute, it’s crucial to have a tenancy agreement and a solid understanding of your rights and responsibilities.
Before renting a home, or entering into a tenancy, it is important to ensure you have a written tenancy agreement in place. Tenancy agreements between landlord and tenant are essential, as they record in writing the rights and obligations of each party and provide clarification in case any misunderstandings or disagreements between the landlord and tenant arise.
A tenancy agreement records key information, such as the tenancy start date, the full contact details of the landlord and tenant, how much rent the tenant will pay, the amount of bond, the rent payment schedule, the bank account number the rent will be paid into and the chattels (i.e. furniture and appliances) that are to be provided with the rental.
The tenancy agreement should also state what type of tenancy the parties are entering into. Generally, there are two types of tenancies; fixed term and periodic.
A periodic tenancy continues until either the tenant or landlord gives written notice to end it (the requisite notice needed is described in more detail below), while a fixed tenancy is for a set period of time as stated in the tenancy agreement. It is important to be aware that neither a landlord or tenant can give notice to end a fixed term tenancy early.
The rights and responsibilities you have as a landlord or tenant in a residential tenancy arrangement generally stay the same, regardless of whether you have entered into a periodic or fixed tenancy. We have summarised the more important responsibilities for each party below.
- Ensure that the property is clean and tidy at the beginning of the tenancy
- Throughout the tenancy, ensure that the property is secure and safe, complies with all applicable building and health and safety standards (e.g. smoke alarms are installed and working correctly) and the plumbing/electrical aspects of the property are working properly
- Carry out any repairs on the property as necessary. If the tenant has carried out any urgent repairs on damage to the property, the landlord must reimburse the tenant for carrying out those repairs (as long as the damage was not the tenant’s fault)
- Appoint a property manager or agent to manage the property if planning to be away for more than 21 consecutive days
- Give the tenant 60 days’ written notice before increasing the rent. The landlord is legally allowed to increase the price of rent once every 180 days
- If planning to sell the property, the landlord must provide written notice to the tenant advising that they are planning to put the property on the market. Following this, the landlord must obtain the tenant’s consent before showing the property to real estate agents or prospective buyers
- Give 48 hours’ notice before inspecting the property. Inspections can only take place between the hours of 8am and 7pm. Similarly, if wanting to visit the property to carry out repairs, the landlord must give the tenant 24 hours’ notice and make those repairs between 8am and 7pm
- Provide at least 90 days’ notice to end a periodic tenancy. If the landlord is ending the tenancy because they or a family member wish to move into the property, or if the property is being sold and has gone unconditional, the landlord only needs to give the tenant 42 days’ notice to end the tenancy. If the landlord gives the tenant notice to end the tenancy and the tenant wants to move out sooner, the tenant must still give the landlord the requisite 21 days’ notice
- If the tenancy started after 1 July 2016, the landlord must meet the requirements of the Residential Tenancies Act relating to insulation levels in the property. This means that the tenancy agreement must contain a signed Insulation Statement from the landlord disclosing whether there is insulation in the home and information about its type and condition
- If the property is part of a body corporate, the landlord must supply a copy of the body corporate rules to the tenant at the start of the tenancy. In addition, the tenancy agreement must refer to these rules as being part of the terms of the tenancy agreement
Under no circumstances can a landlord do the following:
- Ask for more than four weeks’ rent as a bond, nor can they ask for more than two weeks’ rent in advance
- Increase the rent more than once every six months from either the start of the tenancy or the last rent increase
- Interfere with the tenant’s privacy or inspect the property more than once every four weeks, except to check on work that the tenant has done to remedy a breach of the tenancy agreement
- Change the locks on the property without the tenant’s permission
- Pay rent on time and keep the property clean and tidy
- Inform the landlord promptly about any damage on the property that needs to be fixed
- Replace smoke alarm batteries as necessary and fix any damage that the tenant or any of its visitors cause by being careless
- Pay the phone, electricity, gas and/or internet bills, plus any other utility charges attributable to them
- For a periodic tenancy, give at least 21 days’ written notice to end the tenancy, unless the landlord agrees to a shorter notice
- When the tenancy finishes, the tenant must ensure they leave the property in a tidy condition
Under no circumstances can a tenant do the following:
- Transfer the tenancy to someone else, unless the landlord agrees to it in writing
- Stop the landlord from coming onto the property in an emergency situation
- Disturb any neighbours unlawfully, or damage the property unlawfully, including renovating or altering the property in any way, unless the landlord agrees in writing
- House more people at the property than are specified in the tenancy agreement (unless for a short period of time, i.e. a visitor)
- Change the locks on the property without the consent of the landlord
- Stay at the property after the tenancy has ended
By having a clear tenancy agreement and an understanding of the general tenancy rules listed above, many disputes between landlord and tenant can be avoided.