1. How Leases Work

When you’re renting a property, your lease is the most important thing to understand. It’s the legally-binding agreement between yourself and the landlord that defines how long you’ll be renting the property, how much you will pay each week, and what your responsibilities are. Signing your lease means you agree to everything that’s set out in it, so be sure to read it thoroughly – because if you breach the conditions of your lease, the landlord may have the right to evict you.

2. What Your Rights Are

When you’re  named on the lease, you are entitled to certain rights. For example, the landlord can’t force you to pay for things like general repairs and maintenance. You also have the right to privacy, meaning the landlord can’t show up to the property unannounced to pester you. Different states around the country may have different laws regarding your rights as a tenant, so find out what your tenancy rights are you should download and review the Tenancy Information Brochure which is available from Consumer and Business Services https://www.cbs.sa.gov.au

3. Leaving The Property

Upon the expiration of the lease, you may be offered a lease renewal or you can move out. If you do intend on leaving the property, you’ll be required to provide a 28 days notice in writing prior to the end of a fixed term lease or 21 days notice in writing for a periodic lease.

As we know, life is full of the unexpected, and unforeseen circumstances could require you to move out prior to the expiration of the lease. Unfortunately, this can require you to pay compensation to the landlord for the loss of income caused by you ending the tenancy agreement early. These costs can include re-letting fees, advertising costs, and rent until a new tenant is found.

It should go without saying that you should leave the property in a clean, well-maintained state. You’ll need to do this in order to get your bond back (see below). Make sure you go through your Entry Condition Report checklist with a fine-tooth comb to check that the “end condition” of the property matches how it was when you first moved in.

4. Bond

A rental bond is the money you pay at the start of a tenancy to provide financial security for the landlord in case you breach the terms of the lease. Essentially, it’s designed so that if you damage the property at all during your lease, the landlord can keep the bond and use it for repairs and cleaning when you leave.

The bond money is held by a regulatory body such as Consumer and Business Services until you claim it back at the end of your tenancy. For most properties, the most a bond can cost is the equivalent of 4 weeks rent (tenancies under $800 per week).

If by the end of the lease you have left the property unclean, damaged (besides ‘fair wear and tear’), or with rent owing, you may not be able to claim back your bond. This is because the landlord has a right to claim the reasonable costs of cleaning and repairs from your bond – hence the importance of leaving the property as you found it.

5. Paying Rent

The method for paying rent should be stated in the lease. Approved methods may include electronic bank transfer, EFTPOS, credit card, cash, cheque, or deductions from your pay. If you pay with cash, you should be given a receipt. At DB Philpott we use the DEFT BPAY System.

The landlord/property manager will keep a record (ledger) of your rent payments. You can request a copy of this record.

If your rent is late by a specified amount of time (usually 14 days) your landlord usually has the power to evict you. If you’re unable to pay overdue rent, repayment plans for the outstanding amount can be organised with your landlord or real estate agent.

6. Repairs and Maintenance

While it is your duty as a tenant to keep the property clean and undamaged, it is the responsibility of the landlord or the landlord’s property manager for keeping the property in a good condition for the tenant to live in. Your landlord needs to organise and pay for repairs when necessary, including emergency repairs. If notified problems aren’t fixed within a reasonable amount of time, you may have a right to end the tenancy or claim compensation from the landlord.

7. What Not To Do Without Permission

In the lease it should generally state what you can and cannot do without explicit permission from the owners. You usually need permission from your landlord to do things like keeping pets or making changes to the property (e.g. painting walls and doing minor renovations).

8. The Importance Of Neighbours

Establishing a relationship with neighbours can be extremely valuable when renting, particularly when renting in an apartment block or complex where the landlord manages multiple properties. When you know your neighbours, they will be more likely raise issues (such as too much noise) directly with you instead of dobbing you in to the landlord or the police.

9. Housemate Etiquette

You’ll also need to establish good relationships with those within your home so that you can all live in harmony. Most of us know someone who’s had a rough experience with a particularly bad housemate, which is why it is important for housemates to establish firm rules together. These house rules should include informal agreements about how to deal with things like parties, letting friends stay over, food sharing, shopping, cooking, paying bills, cleanliness, and privacy.

10. How To Manage Housemate Disputes

Even with rules and agreements, there is still a strong chance you’ll have a dispute with a housemate over something at some stage. Disagreements often arise regarding bills, rent, room allocation, chores, and property damage.

Knowing how to manage and resolve these disagreements peacefully has a lot to do with clear, relaxed and open discussion. If disagreements persist, you could seek out free dispute resolution services.