I need somewhere to live. How do you get a house or unit in Australia?
You do this through an agent or direct from the owner. You enter into an agreement called a “tenancy” agreement.
What is a tenancy?
A tenancy is where a person pays someone else to live in their property. There are a few types of tenancies and each one has different rights and responsibilities. It is important to understand which one you are agreeing to so you know what you need to do and what rights you have.
OK. If I find a place I would like to live in with my family and I have spoken to the real estate agent, what then?
The real estate agent must give you a written agreement. This is the same if you rent direct from the owner as well. Even if you are going to rent a room or go to a caravan park for a long term stay. There are different forms but they all have to give you a written agreement.
How do I know if I have the right form given to me?
You can get free help from a group in Queensland called Tenants Queensland. They provide advice and help with all steps in renting. The community legal centre also gives free advice and information.
That is good to know. Do I have to pay upfront?
There is usually a bond to pay.
What is a bond?
The bond is like an insurance payment for the owner. It is usually a few weeks or a month’s worth of rent in case the tenant damages the property or does not pay the rent.
That sounds like a lot of money – 4 weeks rent. Who holds onto that money? Do I lose that money?
In Queensland, the residential tenancies authority (the RTA) holds the money until you move out. The rights and responsibilities in the tenancy agreement affect whether you get the whole bond money back or only part of it.
Will the RTA decide on that?
If you have paid all your rent on time and there is no damage to the property you should get all your bond back. If you and the real estate agent disagree about anything, like damage or whether the property was not clean, the RTA gathers all the information from you and the agent and makes a decision.
What do you mean by damage?
When you take the keys to the property for the first time, the agent goes through an initial inspection with you. This is called an Entry Condition Report. You also go through the property and check that anything that is missing, marked or broken is noted on the form. At the end of your tenancy, another report is completed. If there is anything found other than fair wear and tear, that is damage that you might have to pay to fix it.
If I have lived somewhere with my family for a year, the carpet is not going to look the same as it did when I moved in. Does that mean I have to pay for new carpet in the house?
No. If the carpet is worn as it would normally have been worn within a year, that is called normal wear and tear. If the carpet has a burn mark on it or a bit cut out or paint on it that cannot be cleaned, then you may have to pay to replace or buy a new carpet.
What if the hot water system breaks down? Do I have to pay for that too?
Not usually. The conditions will be in your tenancy agreement but normally things like the hot water system, the cooling and heating systems are the owner’s responsibility. You should replace blown light bulbs and keep the property clean and maintained otherwise.
What about the lawn?
If your tenancy agreement states that the owner will do the mowing, you don’t need to mow the grass and keep it tidy.
Do I pay the rent to the owner?
Your tenancy agreement will state where the rent is to be paid. It can be to the real estate agent or if you are renting from the owner directly, you might pay the owner directly. You should always get a written receipt for every payment. If you have proof in writing that you have paid for something, then no one can say that you haven’t paid.
I am going to rent with my friend. Is that OK?
You need to make sure you understand who is responsible for rent and maintenance. If your tenancy agreement only has your name recorded, then you are the one who the owner can come after if there is unpaid rent or the property has not been maintained or has been damaged.
But if have agreed with my friend that my friend will pay half the rent and do half the maintenance, then I am only responsible for half of everything?
Only if both of you are mentioned in the tenancy agreement.
What if the owner sells the house while I am in it?
You can stay in the property until the end of your term. The new owner can either move in after you left or you can apply to rent it again, if the new owner wishes to rent it out again.
Are there any other ways I can be kicked out?
Yes, lots. If you don’t follow the tenancy agreement, if the property is considered un-liveable, and lots more.
So if I don’t pay the rent on time, I can be kicked out?
There are rules that the owner must give you a notice which is called a Notice to Remedy Breach. This is a written notice to tell you that you must pay the overdue rent and gives a due date for the payment. If you haven’t paid the unpaid rent by the due date, you can be issued with a Notice to Leave. So you do get notices but yes, you can be kicked out if you don’t pay rent.
What do I do when I want to move out of the property?
Give the right amount of notice on the right form and keep a copy of everything! If you don’t know how much notice or which form, you can ask Tenants Queensland. Pay your rent up to the date you have said you will end the tenancy. Make sure you have moved out completely before that date. Make sure the property is clean, tidy and maintained. If you get a professional carpet cleaning in, keep receipts. Fix anything that has been damaged and keep receipts. Complete an exit condition report, taking photos or videos. Return the keys. Apply for a refund of your rental bond.
What if I move out and leave some of my things in the property?
This depends on what you leave behind. Personal documents must be returned to the owner or the public trustee. Depending on the value of other goods depends on what the owner can do with them. You should get advice from Tenants Queensland.
What if I disagree with the owner or the agent during the tenancy about something?
There are steps to take and the idea is to try to settle any disagreements as soon as possible. Disagreements are called disputes. First try to negotiate with the agent or the owner. Either the owner or the tenant can issue a Notice to Remedy Breach, depending on who or what has been done or not done. There is a dispute resolution service you can access with the Residential Tenancies Authority (the RTA). You can get advice and help from Tenants Queensland. You can apply to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal to resolve the issue. There are some situations where an offence can be reported to the RTA, such as an owner or agent not lodging a bond with the RTA. Then of course you can try to end the tenancy, by following the rules about times and correct forms.