Rights and Responsibilities
Be prepared: know your rights and responsibilities as a tenant. Aim for all communication with any agent or landlord to be in writing, signed and dated. Keep all receipts and a copy of all relevant documents.
Some useful information on your rights and responsibilities:
- The Renting Guide
- Residential Tenancy Agreements (Leases)
- Different ways of signing into a Residential Tenancy Agreement
- Condition report
- Condition of the property: things to think about
- Your responsibilities as a tenant
- The landlord's responsibilities
- Ten steps to starting a tenancy
- Tenancy information and advisory services
- What to do if things go wrong
The Renting Guide
This document is issued by the NSW Office of Fair Trading. It outlines your basic rights and responsibilities as a tenant and is available in 23 languages. We strongly recommend that you read this document before entering into any agreement. You can view The Renting Guide online, or call into the Off-Campus Accommodation Office in the Student Services Centre to pick up a copy.
Residential Tenancy Agreements (Leases)
If your application for a rental property is successful, you will probably have to sign a written fixed-term Residential Tenancy Agreement (also known as a lease). A tenancy agreement can either be in writing or verbal. It can be fixed-term (eg for a set period of six or twelve months) or it can be periodic (eg month to month).
It is advisable to enter into written agreements. Regardless of whether a tenancy agreement is verbal or written, it is a legally binding contract between you and the landlord.
It can be expensive if you break your lease before the end of the fixed term. Evaluate whether you are prepared to stay at the property for the full period of the lease before you enter into a fixed-term tenancy agreement. You should get a copy of the lease, take it away and think about it carefully.
Ensure you fully understand the terms and conditions before you sign. Don't be afraid to ask questions or clarify your understanding of the information before you sign the lease. You will need to read all the fine print and know all the costs involved in each housing option, including any hidden or unexpected costs.
Different ways of signing into a Residential Tenancy Agreement
If you are the only tenant (occupant) you will have the tenancy in your name only and be the only lawful occupant of the premises. You are liable for the entire cost of the tenancy. You are answerable to the landlord or Real Estate Agent directly.
Joint tenants /shared tenancy
If two or more people are signed onto the tenancy agreement as "tenants" then all the parties listed as "tenants" are liable jointly and severally for the tenancy. All tenants are answerable to the landlord or agent directly.
If you have a tenancy in your name and want to have other people live with you, you become their landlord and they become your tenants (known as "sub-tenants"). You have the same responsibilities as a landlord.
As a sub-tenant, you may not sign an agreement. You are still considered a tenant and have the same responsibilities as a tenant. You are answerable to the head tenant with whom you have moved in with.
Boarder and lodger
Some boarder arrangements are actual tenancies, but may not consider themselves to be. If you rent a room in a house and are provided a linen service, meals or other services, you may be a boarder and lodger. If you are not provided any services and have a separate lock on your bedroom door, it may be arguable that you are a tenant as you rent and have exclusive use of your room.
Bond (security deposit)
A bond is payable at the beginning of the tenancy. Bonds can be no more than four weeks rent for both unfurnished and furnished premises. It is designed to act as security for damage to the property or unpaid rent. When you pay your bond, you and the landlord must sign a completed Bond Lodgement form. The agent/landlord must pay your bond to the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA).
At the beginning of each tenancy, you will be provided with a condition report. The condition report is very important. It may already have writing on it; this is where the landlord/agent has marked what they believe to be the condition of the premises. There is provision for you to also make comment on what you believe to be the condition of the premises and hand in the condition report within seven days.
If you do not complete the form and hand it back in within seven days you may not be able to dispute claimed damages at the end of the tenancy. This could result in a bond dispute.
When completing your condition report:
- Do it when the house is empty
- if possible, take someone with you to help you see things that you may not notice be very thorough and write down everything that is damaged, broken or marked
- Take your time and check through one room at a time
- Take photos, if you wish
Condition of the property - things to think about
When you visit the property, you need to look closely at its condition. Here are some things to look out for:
- Does the property smell fresh and clean, or musty and dirty?
- Are the walls clean and freshly painted or dirty with paint peeling off?
- Are the sink, stove, cupboard and exhaust fan in the kitchen clean?
- Are the blinds and curtains clean, and are they in good working condition?
- Is the bathroom clean, or is it dirty, and does it have a problem with mould?
- Is there an exhaust fan near the shower, and does it work?
- Is the toilet clean? Does it leak? Is the toilet cistern working properly? Are the toilet bowl and seat damaged or in good condition?
- Can you open all the windows? Are there any broken or poorly repaired windows?
- Is there at least one good fly-screen on the window of each main room?
- Do all the doors on the wardrobes and to the rooms look in good repair and are they working?
- Can you see any evidence of window or roof leaks or water damage from under the front and back door?
- Does the property have a security screen door on the front and back doors, and are they in good repair and working?
- Does the property have deadlocks on the external doors, and do they work properly?
- Do the rooms have individual locks?
- Does the property have smoke detectors and do they work?
When you are viewing properties, and you see something you are not sure about, always ask the landlord or real estate agent to explain it.
Your responsibilities as a tenant
- Pay your rent on time. Always get a receipt when you pay rent.
- Do not damage the premises. As a tenant, you are liable for the cost of the repair.
- Notify the agent of repairs
- Maintain the premises. This includes cleaning the house and may include the upkeep of the garden.
- Be aware of your neighbours. Do not disturb the peace, comfort and privacy of your neighbours.
- Do not allow guests to cause a disturbance or damage the premises
- Do not use the house for any illegal purposes
The landlord's responsibilities
The landlord must:
- Provide the house in a clean and habitable state
- Provide rent receipts
- Keep the ledger of rental payments
- Not attend the premises without notice
- Make good any repairs within a reasonable time
You've found a property: Ten steps to starting a tenancy
- Your application is accepted
- The agent or landlord gives you the tenancy agreement to read, understand and sign. You should keep a signed copy.
- You pay the bond and an agreed amount of rent in advance
- The agent or landlord gives you a Bond Lodgement form to complete and sign. Retain the yellow copy.
- The agent or landlord forwards the bond to the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA) within ten days of receiving the bond money.
- The RTBA sends you a receipt within seven days of receiving the bond. Keep this in a safe place - you need this to claim your bond money at the end of the tenancy.
- The agent or landlord fills in the condition report and then gives it to you to complete.
- As you move in, inspect the property and add your comments to the condition report; you will use this at the end of your tenancy to help identify the changes in the condition of the property during your residency there.
- Return a copy of the condition report within three working days to the agent or landlord. Keep a signed copy.
- Settle in!
Tenancy information and advisory services
It is important to be informed about your legal rights and responsibilities before committing to a lease or moving into share accommodation. A number of organisations provide useful information about your rights and responsibilities as a tenant or share householder under the Residential Tenancies Act.
Our staff are available to offer advice and information about issues relating to share housing and rental accommodation. If your problem is a legal one, we will be happy to refer you to the appropriate organisation.
The Tenants Union of NSW
This organisation publishes the very useful Tenants Rights Manual as well as Tenants Fact Sheets, dealing with everything from how your Rental Bond should be managed to how to end your tenancy agreement. You can find out more information at the Tenants Union of NSW website.
Redfern Legal Centre: The Share Housing Survival Guide
This guide provides detailed information and advice about living in, and managing relationships within, shared housing. You can access this information online.
The NSW Office of Fair Trading
Provides tenancy and rental bond information - visit their website for more information.
What to do if things go wrong
To minimise the risk of things going wrong, you should try to do as much research as possible about your rights and responsibilities before you sign lease agreements and related documents. However, if you are having issues regarding tenancies or accommodation, we will be happy to refer you the appropriate organisation.
Hunter Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service
5 William Street
PO Box 115
Hamilton NSW 2303
Central Coast Tenants Advice & Advocacy Service Inc
PO Box 293 Wyong 2259
Ph: (02) 4353 5515
Fax: (02) 4353 5525
These organisations can help you with information about starting or ending a tenancy and your rights and obligations as a tenant. They can also assist tenants in matters relating to tenancies in NSW where there is an issue with the landlord about rents, bonds and tenants rights.