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Tenants, get control of your rights!

by Chris Lang on November 16, 2008

House For Rent Sign
You’ve heard me – tenants have rights too. There may not be enough rentals on the market and 50 people compete on every single house that is advertised, but that is not an excuse to let the landlords and the agents push you into the corner. Here is what you are entitled to (in Victoria):

They can’t reject you because of your kids

It is against the law to discriminate against tenants with kids. The only exceptions to this rule are:

  • when if the property is unsafe for your little ones
  • when the property is owned by government and is intended for childless people or
  • when the property is place of residence of the landlord, who is temporarily renting it but will be returning

The bond

The bond can’t be higher than 1 month’s rent. If the landlord or the agent wants to get a higher bond, they have to go to VCAT (Victorian Civil & Administrative Tribunal) and get approval.

The only exceptions to this rule are

  • when weekly rent is higher than $350 and
  • when the house is landlord’s place of residence and the tenant will only live there until the landlord moves back in. There should be a clause in your tenancy agreement saying so.

In those two cases the bond is unlimited.

Another important thing to know is that the amount of the bond is only set once and can not be increased while you are renting.

What if they do demand a higher bond without any bases? You can complain to VCAT and they will be fined $500.

The rent

Rent is paid in advance, so the first question that rises – how much in advance?
If you pay on weekly bases – nobody can demand more than 2 weeks of rent in advance.
If you are not paying weekly and a week’s rent is less than $350 – only pay in advance for one month of rent.

If rent wasn’t paid on time

Even if you forgot to pay the rent and paid the next day or even next week – they can not throw you out. Only after 14 days of not paying the rent, agent/landlord has the right to give a tenant notice to vacate.

Ways of paying the rent

No matter how you pay, via direct debit, rent payment card or otherwise, they can not charge you for issuing a rent card or creating a direct debit agreement.

What if they do? Complain and they will get a $1000 fine.

Rent increase

If you have a fixed agreement – they simply can not increase rent. When you’re on periodic agreement, they can’t increase your rental payments unless there is a clause about it in your agreement. That clause should also say how much they can increase the rent.

You are completely safe in the first 6 months of tenancy and they can’t increase more than twice a year, 6 month between the increases. By law you must be notified 60 days before the increase in a written form.

Inspections

Neither the landlord nor the agent can come and inspect your rental during the first three months. After tat they can come once every 6 months and must give you at least 24 hours written notice. Also they can’t barge in on you any time – only between 8am and 6pm and never on public holidays.

Leaving your rental property

To leave a rental (in the middle or in the end of contract) all you have to do is to send a written notice to the agent by registered mail 28 days (at least) before the day you move.

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{ 96 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica July 7, 2012 at 6:30 pm

Hello Chris,
We’re in a pretty desprate situation at the moment where the landlord has sold the house on a rent-to-buy and we HAVE TO move when the lease ends. We have two months left on the lease and will have a one month old by then so we are very stressed.
Today we found the person who is buying the house and went to speak to them. They’re house will be coming up for rent and we we’re thinking if they renewed they could put us forward to take over the lease but i find this to risky for them as my partner is on the black list.
I was wondering what my rights are?? I’ve heard that the real estate agent has to give you three options (they can’t just kick you out).
We live in a tiny victorian town where there aren’t many rentals so very very worried about having to couch surf for months with a one month old and a three year old…
Please reply asap as i need to arm myself with information before approaching the real estate

Reply

Chris July 7, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Hi Jessica,
I am assuming you will try and find a rental, doing whatever it takes, but … If everything else fails, you can’t find a rental and decide to stay in your current house, the landlord will have to get a court order requesting you to move out. That is a time-consuming process on its own right, so another time extension is there for you, and also the court may take your circumstances into account (not guaranteed but possible) and allow you an extension to sort out your living arrangements.

But I sure hope it doesn’t come to that. Good luck with your search!

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Jessica July 20, 2012 at 7:25 pm

Who approves a rental application, landlord or agent?
Does the agent have to show the landlord the application or can the agent reject the application first?
What is happening behind the scenes?

Reply

Chris July 21, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Hi Jessica,
The applications are approved by the landlord. The agent has to show all the applications to the landlord, if they meet the requirements (meaning all the necessary forms and paperwork was submitted). Once the landlord has made the decision on the prospective tenant, the agent contacts that person.
The agents often run database checks searching for tenants with bad rental history and advise the landlord in advance, but ultimately the decision is up to the landlord.

Hope this helps,
Chris

Reply

Vangie September 17, 2012 at 11:54 pm

Hi Chris

I am renting on the Sunshine Coast in Qld. I have been renting at the same premises for three years. I did not want to commit to a fixed term lease as I was uncertain if my VISA would be renewed and as such negotiated a month to month tennancy which my landlord agreed to up until the end of January ,whereby if I chose to stay on I would go back on a fixed term. As a condition of the month to month I would have to give a months notice instead of the required 2 weeks notice. I have an email from her confirming this, however, I do not have a copy of the tennancy agreement which she is withholding from me and she is now saying that I signed a fixed term contract and not a month to month and is wanting to penalise me for breaking lease. She has also been very devious in that she sent me the wrong termination form to complete to see whether or not I had grounds for terminating. I feel I have been totally conned into believing that I was on a month to month and abided by the terms of the said agreement by giving a months notice and paying the increase in rent which was also a condition of the month to month agreement. Below is the agreement sent via email. I am so stressed about this, could you please advise my rights in this matter.

Much appreciated
Vangie

MY EMAIL TO THE LANDLORD

My lease expires towards the end of April and I would like to continue on a month to month basis until such time as I know my sponsorship will come through. Please advise if you have had any word back from the owner in this regard.

Thanks
Vangie

No the owner hasn’t replied do I will do a monthly lease for you for the next 6 months, we would just like minimum 4 weeks notice to vacate, all other conditions remain the same.

We would also recommend increasing the rent to $370 pw if on this basis as other centre units are rented for this amount.

If you are happy with this please let me know and I’ll draw up this for you to sign.

Reply

Chris September 18, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Hi Vangie,

A fixed term lease must be signed by you to be valid. An email between you and the agent doesn’t replace a proper lease. If you stay and rent after the initial fixed term lease ends, without signing a new fixed term lease, you’re renting on month to month basis.

Reply

Vangie September 18, 2012 at 11:00 pm

Hi Chris

I signed an agreement to extend end date – fixed term tenancy
5.1 Term extention 6 months commencing on 01.08.12

The condition under comments on the lease states
Due to visa application, tennant may give one months notice to vacate for the duration of this fixed term agreement.

OMG…Just realised its very Conspicuous.

Reply

Ash September 18, 2012 at 4:51 pm

What if tenant doesnt leave after 14days and hasn’t paid for last 3weeks?
what are the legal actions landlord can take?

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Chris September 18, 2012 at 10:04 pm

Landlord has the right to go to court and eventually get the tenant evicted. Why isn’t your real estate agent(property manager) handling this for you? That’s exactly the kind of situation you pay them to deal with…

Reply

Jessica September 23, 2012 at 4:10 pm

we recently moved out.
I paid rent up to the 22nd of this month which is when they gave us to move out, i also gave notice up to this date. The lease was to the 5th.
We handed the keys back on the 19th. Should i get the rest me my rent back?

Reply

Jessica September 23, 2012 at 5:08 pm

also we are in victoria and i just found out that the maximum rent in advance is two weeks but we paid three.
Also when we moved in the house was in shambles, unvaccumed and not steam cleaned, dirty windows, mouse poop in the cupboards, over grown yard and when i questioned them about moving out they demanded that the house had to be steam cleaned even though it states in the lease that the house ‘needs to be steam cleaned to the original condition’. It also states that ‘the landlord needs to make sure the house is in reasonably clean condition upon moving in’. I’ve heard this certain real estate doesn’t like giving back bonds and i’m worried i’m going to get screwed, i’ve cleaned the house, its in a much better condition to when we moved out, apart from two small ‘wear and tear’ holes. Also the house has been sold on rent to buy and as of the 25th the new owners take over. Can they keep my bond?

Reply

Matt January 8, 2013 at 11:40 am

Hi Chris,

I need advice about lease agreements. The Real Estate I am renting with presented myself and my housemate with a new lease 4 months ago for an additional 12 months. However only I signed the agreement, not my housemate. So my question is, does that make my lease valid? My housemate is moving out and I wish to move out in a months time. I am not sure whether the lease that only half of us signed is legal.

Thank you for your help.

Reply

Chris January 12, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Hi Matt,

If your name is on the lease and you signed it, I’m afraid that makes it valid. Your housemate who hasn’t signed the lease seems to be off the hook.

Reply

Bill February 6, 2013 at 11:34 am

Hi, I am so overly distressed and depressed, I need urgent help. My partner has decided to leave the rental property. We have 3 kids, 17,15,9. I am left in this house, however my kids stay with me a few nights a week, which is a good thing i suppose as its their home, they have their stability, freedom, own room, friends come over etcc.
The problem is i am unemployed at present and could not afford to pay the rent from here on. The lease is in both names and is on a month to month for now, however been offered a further 12 months, but we have not signed as I really do not know what to do. My ex is now living between her best friends and her mums, and has told me that she wont be contributing to any rent from here on.
We have been excellent tenants and rent always paid on time, as to why a further 12 months was offered. The rent is paid up until 20/2/2013, but beyond that, I am stressed. I have no savings, and all the furniture and goods in the place will need to be moved out of here and I have no where to put them. She has refused to take any herself. As far as I’m concerned, she just wants to be Scott’s free.
What are my rights? What options do I have? I really have no where to go from here, I do have friends and family and have explored and spoken about such option , but unfortunately they could not help me. I am trying so hard to find work, so I can save the place, but my emotional state is beyond breaking point.

Please help!!!!!

Regards,
Bill

Reply

Alana H. March 25, 2013 at 8:57 pm

Hi there,

Great advice. I’d just like to add that most people don’t take the time out to read the tenant agreement when they first move in. I know that most of these agreements contain legal jargon, so many people feel intimidated. If you’re not sure about your rights, it’s probably a good idea to fork out some cash to have a lawyer look it over for you. It’ll save you a lot of heartache and stress later on when something unexpected happens.

Alana

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Bobby July 14, 2013 at 7:07 pm

We have been renting a unit for 10 years and the landlord said we are impecable tenants we payed our rent 3 months in advance. Now landlord is selling the place and we have until september we are aged pensioners so how much time does the agent have to give us to get out.And how long do we have to put up with “inspections” every saturday as this doesnt give us anytime and prcticlly every week he has someone coming through We are depressed so if it is sold does the new owners have to give us 2 months notice please.

Reply

Chris July 21, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Hi Bobby,

Sorry to hear about your situation. If you’re on a fixed term lease, whether the owner is selling or not, they can’t make you move out before your end of lease date (neither the old nor the new owner). If you’re on a periodic lease (month to month), they can give you just 1 month notice. Any inspection – they need to notify you in advance, but they do have the right to conduct these inspections.

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