Tenants Rights and Responsibilities
This is a summary of your rights and responsibilities as a tenant in private rental.
For detailed information and advice, contact the Tenancies Branch of the Office of Consumer and Business Affairs. They are located at 91 Grenfell St Adelaide. You can call them on 8204 9544. Their advice is free.
Before signing a lease it is important that you understand your rights and responsibilities with respect to:
- Tenancy Agreements (Fixed/Periodic)
- Residential Tenancies Act
- Security Bond
- Payment of Rent in Advance
- Inspection Sheets
- Water Charges
A tenancy agreement can be written, verbal or even implied, it does not need to be in writing to be binding.
There are two types of residential agreements:
- A fixed term tenancy - a specific time, e.g. six or 12 months agreed upon by the landlord and the tenant/s at the beginning of the tenancy. Most leases are for a fixed period.
- A periodic tenancy - an agreement (written, verbal or implied) for an indefinite period until it is lawfully terminated by either the tenant or landlord.
If you sign a lease agreement you must receive a copy of the agreement immediately. A fully copy signed by all parties should be provided within 21 days.
The Residential Tenancies Act 1995
The Residential Tenancies Act 1995 is state based legislation (law) designed to protect the rights of both tenants and landlords. It covers many areas including: landlord and tenant obligations, landlord right of entry to premises, payment and refund of security bonds, inspection sheets, rent in advance and rental increases, repairs and maintenance, lease agreements and termination of agreements and dispute resolution.
Further information on the Residential Tenancies Act 1995 is outlined in an Information Brochure available from the International Student Centre and from the Accommodation Officer, Student Care Office. Residential Tenancy Act 1995 information is also available on the Office of Consumer and Business Affairs website.
Bond Payment of a Security Bond is usually requested. For rental properties under $250 per week, the landlord cannot ask for more than the equivalent of four weeks rent as bond. For rental properties over $250 per week, a landlord can request an equivalent of six weeks rent as bond.
You should always receive a receipt within 48 hours of any security bond payment. Each receipt should show the date, the person's name, the amount and the address of the premises for which it has been paid.
A Landlord must lodge the security bond payment with the Residential Tenancies Fund using the Bond Lodgement Form within seven days of receipt. A registered Estate Agent must lodge the security bond payment within 28 days. Given that the security bond must be lodged with the Residential Tenancies Fund, offer to make a cheque payable to the Residential Tenancies Fund rather than provide the funds direct to the landlord or Estate Agent. After the period for lodgement of the security bond has passed (seven or 28 days) you can ring the Tenancies Branch on 8204 9555 to check that it has been received.
If you decide to enter into a residential tenancy agreement with others where each person is listed on the tenancy agreement, a co-tenancy is created. The Residential Tenancies Act 1995 covers your relationship with the landlord, but does not cover disputes between co-tenants.
Rent in Advance
A tenant can be required to pay the first two weeks rent in advance. If two weeks rent is paid at the start of the tenancy, you do not need to pay any further rent until the two weeks have passed. A landlord cannot ask for more than two weeks in advance. Some agents ask tenants to pay by calendar month. Remember to always get and keep receipts for any payments you make.
The inspection sheet is a record of the condition of the premises and contents prior to moving in. At the beginning of a tenancy the landlord must provide two inspection sheets, which are completed and signed by both the tenant and the landlord. When you complete an inspection sheet it is wise to note any pre-existing damage, for example, marks on carpets and walls, damage to flyscreens and blinds, just to name a few. Don't worry if your opinion of the condition of the property is not the same as the landlord's. It is important that you write down in your own words what you believe is an accurate description of the property and not just copy what the landlord has written.
It is important that you keep your signed and completed copy of the inspection sheet in a safe place throughout the tenancy. You will need to produce this sheet when you seek repayment of your security bond at the end of the tenancy or in the event of a dispute about the condition of the property and contents.
A landlord may, by agreement, pass any part or all of the charges associated with the supply of water onto the tenant. Sewerage charges are always the responsibility of the landlord.
Often landlords and tenants agree to share the costs of the water, with the landlord responsible for the charges for an agreed amount of kilolitres per year and the tenant then responsible for the rest. The landlord could be responsible for all of the water charges or conversely the tenant could be responsible.
The agreement you reach with a landlord should be included as an additional condition in the residential tenancy agreement (lease agreement) at the commencement of the tenancy.
In the absence of an agreement, the Residential Tenancies Act 1995 sets out responsibilities. If no agreement exists the landlord bears all charges for the first 136 kilolitres of water per year, including the quarterly water supply charge. The tenant is responsible for the charges relating to water usage over the first 136 kilolitres.
It is important that the water meter is read at the beginning and end of the tenancy agreement if you are going to bear any or part of the water charges.
You are also required to comply with certain rules, including:
- pay the rent on time;
- keep the premises clean;
- notify the Landlord or Estate Agent of any damage caused by a tenant or guest (It is likely that you will need to cover the cost of repairing any damage);
- notify the Landlord or Estate Agent when repairs are needed;
- abide by the requirements of the Residential Tenancies Act 1995;
- not make any alterations or add fittings to the premises (including picture hooks, shelves, fences & gates) without the Landlord's permission;
- not interfere with the peace and privacy of neighbours;
- pay for water charges as per your agreement or in the absence of an agreement, pay for the amount of water used in excess of 136 kilolitres per year; and
- not use the premises for any illegal purposes.
Landlords, property owners and real estate agents must comply with the Residential Tenancies Act. The Landlord is responsible for:
- notify the tenant of their name and address;
- provide the premises in a clean and reasonable state;
- maintain and repair the premises;
- respect the tenant's right to privacy, peace and quiet afforded to any homeowner;
- lodge the security bond within seven days (or 28 days if through a registered Estate Agent);
- complete and provide two signed inspection sheets and an information brochure at the commencement of the tenancy;
- provide and maintain locks;
- pay council rates and land taxes;
- pay for water charges as per your agreement or in the absence of an agreement, as set out in the Residential Tenancies Act 1995; and
- keep records of the rent received and provide proper receipts for any money received from the tenant (If a tenant pays rent into an account that is kept by the landlord or agent at a financial institution, and the landlord or agent keeps a written record containing the information normally required on a receipt, then a receipt does not have to be given to the tenant. However, when you deposit money into an account at a financial institution you can request a receipt from the institution which details the date and amount deposited).
Landlords have a right to enter a rented premises in the following circumstances:
- In an emergency (no notice required);
- To collect rent;
- To make necessary repairs; and
- To make inspections and show the house to prospective tenants or purchasers.
You will find detailed information about the Landlord's right of entry in the Information Brochure on the Residential Tenancies Act 1995, provided to you at the commencement of the lease. Copies are also available from the International Student Centre or from the Accommodation Officer, Student Care.
Maintenance and Inspections
At the beginning of the tenancy, your landlord should make a time to walk around the premises with you to fill out an inspection sheet. The inspection allows you and the landlord to agree on and record any damage or marks that exist at the time you moved in. This is your guarantee that the Landlord will not expect you to pay for any repairs to these items which were damaged before you moved in. In addition, the landlord usually inspects the premises every three or six months to make sure that you are looking after it.
If you rent a furnished property, you must leave the premises in the same way as when you moved in. This means that if there are ten glasses and bowls when you move in, there should be ten when you move out! You must replace items that you break. However reasonable wear and tear on appliances is acceptable. This means that if the electric kettle breaks down, the landlord should replace it for you.
Ending the Tenancy Agreement
The period of notice that you must give to the Landlord before you move out varies depending on the type of Agreement that you have signed. If you or the landlord break any of the terms of the Tenancy Agreement, the Agreement can be terminated. This means that if for example you do not pay the rent on time, your landlord can give you notice that you must leave the property by a certain time. On the other hand, if your landlord fails to respect your privacy or does not maintain the premises, you can do the same. The Tenancies Branch can provide help, advice and assistance.
When choosing a tenant, your landlord may not discriminate on the basis of race, age, gender, culture, language or nationality. If you think that you have been unfairly treated on these bases, you can call Equal Opportunities Commission on 8207 1977 or Freecall 1800 188 163.
The Tenancies Branch of the Office of Consumer and Business Affairs is there to provide you with free advice and assistance about any aspect of renting. They are located at 91 Grenfell St or phone 8204 9544.