Paying money to a landlord gives your family the right to live in the landlord's premises. But of course, there's a lot more to the story. By signing a residential tenancy agreement, both you and the landlord are accepting various legal rights and responsibilities.
Your primary duty as a tenant is to pay rent on time. What many people overlook, however, are the costs incurred even before they move in. Depending on state laws, you may be required to pay:
If you have a fixed-term lease (typically six or twelve months), the landlord cannot increase the rent during this period unless it is specifically provided for in the agreement. Make sure you read the agreement carefully.
Once the fixed term has expired, the tenancy may become a ‘continuing' tenancy, meaning it continues on the same terms and conditions if you remain in the home and the landlord continues to accept rent. Landlords can increase the rent during a continuing tenancy but must give appropriate notice (eg 60 days in New South Wales). In some states, further restrictions apply. For instance, in Victoria, landlords cannot increase the rent more than once every six months.
If your landlord tries to raise the rent and you think the amount is excessive, discuss the matter with the landlord or agent and/or seek advice from one of the bodies listed below.
Tenants have the right to ‘quiet enjoyment' of the property. This does not mean the premises cannot be noisy. Rather, it means the landlord and agent must respect your right to privacy. Although they have the right to enter the premises, this right is not unrestricted.
The landlord may enter at any time if you give your consent. Otherwise, their right to enter is restricted by law. Generally, a landlord or their agent can enter:
Unless there is an emergency, the landlord must give you adequate notice and enter at a reasonable hour. The period of notice varies depending on the purpose of the visit and the laws in your state or territory.
Finding out more
Tenancy laws vary significantly throughout Australia. See the following websites (government departments and tenants' unions/advice services) for information specific to your state or territory.
NSW: www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/Tenants_and_home_owners/Renting_a_home.html and www.tenants.org.au
QLD: www.housing.qld.gov.au/renting/info/taasq.htm and www.tuq.org.au
TAS: www.consumer.tas.gov.au and www.tutas.org.au
VIC: www.consumer.vic.gov.au and www.tuv.org.au
Also see the Fair Trading Laws Act for your state or territory at: http://www.business.gov.au/Business+Entry+Point/Business+Topics/Fair+trading/Fair+trading+laws+in+your+state+or+territory.htm
By Stella Tarakson, freelance author on legal and financial matters. Her books include "Everyday Law 2nd edn", "What to do When Someone Dies 2nd edn" and "Raising Kids Without Breaking the Bank".