Renting

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Renting under the age of 18

A person may enter into a Residential Tenancy Agreement in order to rent in the Australian Capital Territory. The agreement may be oral or in writing, although it is strongly recommended that tenants enter into a written agreement which will provide a clear record of your rights and obligations as a tenant.  A Residential Tenancy Agreement is a contract that will state the terms of your rental, such as the duration and rent payable.

Age may not be a restriction to renting in the Australian Capital Territory.  A person under 18 years of age may enter into a contract, so long as it is for their benefit and they understand the nature of the contract.  A lease is likely to be considered ‘for the benefit of’ a minor because it provides a necessary service. Therefore, a person under 18 years of age will be bound by such contracts unless they didn’t understand that the agreement would be binding when they signed it.

Parents have a legal responsibility for their children until they are 18 years of age.  Your parents have the responsibility of ensuring that you have a safe place to live. If you leave your home before you turn 18, your parents may seek assistance from the police or the ACT Government Community Services to have you return home. Whether you are likely to be required to move back home will be dependent upon many factors.  You will not be required to return home if it is unsafe for you to do so.

A landlord cannot discriminate against a potential tenant on the basis of age.  A landlord may, however, have a number of reasons for rejecting an application for tenancy.  It may therefore be difficult to prove that you have been discriminated against on the basis of age.  You may lodge a complaint with either the ACT Human Rights Commission or the Australian Human Rights Commission if you believe you have been discriminated against.

Applying to rent

People under the age of 18 sometimes have difficulty finding a landlord that is willing to rent them their property.  They may be worried that you will damage the property or cannot afford the rent. Here are some things to include in an application for rent that may help your application:

  • provide copies of identification, such as a driver’s license;
  • provide proof of income, such as payslips from your job or a statement from Centrelink; and
  • provide references (2 is recommended) to show that you are a responsible person. For example, you could ask your current or past employer or a school teacher for a reference.

Bond

A landlord may ask you to pay up to 4 weeks rent as a Bond upon entering into a lease.  This will provide the landlord with security in case you breach your rental agreement in certain ways, such as by not paying your rent. The landlord is required to deposit the bond with Access Canberra, who will hold the money until you or the landlord makes a claim for the bond to be paid.  Usually the tenant gets the bond back at the end of the lease.  . Your landlord can also ask you to pay up to 1 calendar months rent in advance, however they cannot ask you for a ‘holding deposit’.

There are two ways you can get your Bond back after your tenancy agreement has ended:

  • you can get a refund if both you and your landlord agree on how much you should get back. The amount will be calculated after the final inspection and will take into account anything that you have broken or needs cleaning. After you both agree, ask your landlord to sign the form and then send it to the Secretary; or
  • if you and your landlord can’t agree on the amount, you can challenge it by sending the above form anyways but without the landlord’s signature. If the landlord disagrees with your claim, you might have to go to an ACAT hearing.

Can landlords refuse to return your bond?

Your landlord can make a claim for: the cost of repair (other than for fair wear and tear), cost for any fuel (gas, oil, wood) they gave you, any rent you owe them, reasonable legal fees incurred in making you the tenant and any amount in the agreement and approved by the ACAT.  

Fair wear and tear includes:

  • Paint fading and discolouring over time;
  • Worn carpet due to day-to-day use;
  • Garden mulch breaking down over time.

Damage that you may be responsible for includes:

  • Cracked window panes or glass arising from careless slamming of the windows;
  • Paint discolouring due to candle smoke;
  • Garden mulch that has been dug up by a pet.

You have 2 weeks to respond to the claim.  Try to get your landlord to change their mind or lodge your own claim with ACAT.

If things do go to a hearing, make sure you have evidence to respond to your landlord’s claim.  Tell ACAT if you didn’t get an official condition report, you disagree with what’s written in it or that you didn’t get to go to the final inspection. Refer to this checklist on what you should have prepared before a hearing.

Issues with the landlord

Landlords must make sure the property is reasonably clean, provide quiet enjoyment of the property and make sure the property is in good repair.

Responsibilities when renting

Tenants must allow the landlord to enter when they have the right to, not cause a nuisance or disrupt neighbours, not damage the property or allow damage by anyone you allow on your property, tell the landlord as soon as possible if the property is damaged, keep the property in a reasonably clean condition and not make changes to the property without permission from your landlord.

For both landlords and tenants

If either you or your landlord do not do all the things you are responsible for, the other person may be able to terminate the tenancy, request compensation or apply for a Tribunal order to make the person in breach fulfil their responsibilities. Even if your landlord fails to fulfil their responsibilities, you should keep paying rent, otherwise they may be able to terminate your tenancy agreement.

Rent

Increases in rent

Landlords can increase your rent but there are certain rules they must follow. If they do not follow the rules, then you do not have to pay the increase. Your landlord:

  • can only increase your rent once every 12 months; and
  • must let you know of any rent increases, 8 weeks beforehand, in writing and include details of the rent increase and the date of the increase.

You can challenge the rent increase by making a request to ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (you must make a request at least 2 weeks before the increase in rent is to come into effect). If you have lodged an application to the tribunal then there is a rent freezing, which means that your landlord cannot charge you the increased rental rate.  See Tenants ACT for more details.

Missed rent payments

Tips on what to do if you’ve missed a rent payment:

  • contact your landlord or real estate agent ASAP and tell them when you will be paying;
  • offer to pay the overdue rent over a period of time (if you can’t afford to pay it all at once);
  • keep written copies of all communication with your landlord or real estate agent as evidence; and
  • contact housing services that may be able to give you financial assistance on 1800 808 488.

If you are 7 days late on rent, your landlord may notify you and give you 7 days to pay. If you do not pay in that time, they can notify you in writing to leave the property within another 14 days.

Issues with other tenants

Co-tenants

Co-tenancy is when there are two or more tenants who have signed the same lease. If you are co-tenants then you will be Jointly and Severally Liable under that agreement. If you leave before your lease is up but your name remains on the tenancy agreement, then you may still be liable for the rent payments. You should make sure that you let your landlord know in writing if you leave your property, so your name can be removed from the lease. Your responsibilities as a co-tenant include:

  • all rent (including your co-tenants share if they don’t pay); and
  • damage to the property even if it is not caused by you.

Therefore you can be required to pay for rent and damage to the property and/or be evicted even if you haven’t done anything wrong.

Sub-tenants

Sub-tenancy is when one or more of the tenants are the Head-Tenant and the others are the Sub-Tenant.  Only the head-tenants’ name(s) will be on the lease. The head-tenant is responsible for all the actions of the sub-tenant. The head-tenant becomes the landlord for the sub-tenant and will be responsible for all the things a landlord is responsible for. A tenant cannot sub-let the property without the landlord’s written consent.

See Tenants ACT for more details.

Ending your tenancy

In order to end your tenancy, you may:

  • if in a Fixed-Term Tenancy Agreement, give your landlord at least 3 weeks notice that you want to leave at or after the end of the Fixed-Term. You can then leave the property at the end of the notice period and return the keys;
  • if in a Period Tenancy Agreement where the fixed term has expired or no fixed term has been agreed, notify your landlord by giving them a written Notice of Intention to Vacate at least 3 weeks before you want to move out, and leave the property accordingly;
  • ask ACAT to terminate your tenancy if there has been a serious breach of the Tenancy Agreement by your landlord;
  • ask ACAT to terminate your tenancy if they are convinced that you would suffer significant hardship if the lease were to continue;
  • ask ACAT to terminate your tenancy if your landlord is or is likely to cause or permit serious danger to your property or injury to yourself or your family; or
  • come to a written agreement with your landlord to end your lease.

Getting back property

If you leave anything behind, you should first try to contact your landlord and work out a solution. If your landlord writes to you and informs you that you have left behind personal belongings, you have 7 days to collect your items.

If you fail to collect your goods, your landlord can do the following, depending on the nature of the item/s left behind:

  • Perishable goods can be disposed of immediately;
  • Personal effects can be auctioned off after 3 months;
  • Goods of no value can be sold/disposed of after 1 week;
  • Goods of low value can be sold/destroyed after 1 month;

Goods of significant value can be auctioned off after 3 months.

Blacklisting

Blacklisting is a process that involves a tenant being added to a Tenancy Database.  A Tenancy Database may include information about you as a tenant that might make it harder for you to rent a property in the future.

You may be added to the Tenancy Database after your tenancy has ended. Your name will only be added if:

  • before leaving the property, you breached the tenancy agreement for an amount greater than the bond; or
  • a court or the ACAT ordered your tenancy to end because of something you did wrong.

Your Landlord must inform you if they want to put your name on a Tenancy Database and give you at least 14 days to review the information and object to the accuracy, completeness and clarity of the information.  A landlord considering your application who comes across your name on a database must also tell you.

You can request the Tenancy Database listing to be changed or removed.  Write to your landlord using the sample.

If that doesn’t work, you can appeal to ACAT.  You can appeal to ACAT if the listing is more than 3 years old.  You can also appeal to ACAT if you think the listing is unjust, inaccurate, incomplete, ambiguous or out of date (you have repaid the bond difference or ACAT’s termination order wasn’t enforced).  ACAT may then order for the listing to be removed or changed.

Blacklisting

Blacklisting is a process that involves a tenant being added to a Tenancy Database.  A Tenancy Database may include information about you as a tenant that might make it harder for you to rent a property in the future.

You may be added to the Tenancy Database after your tenancy has ended. Your name will only be added if:

  • before leaving the property, you breached the tenancy agreement for an amount greater than the bond; or
  • a court or the ACAT ordered your tenancy to end because of something you did wrong.

Your Landlord must inform you if they want to put your name on a Tenancy Database and give you at least 14 days to review the information and object to the accuracy, completeness and clarity of the information.  A landlord considering your application who comes across your name on a database must also tell you.

You can request the Tenancy Database listing to be changed or removed.  Write to your landlord using the sample.

If that doesn’t work, you can appeal to ACAT.  You can appeal to ACAT if the listing is more than 3 years old.  You can also appeal to ACAT if you think the listing is unjust, inaccurate, incomplete, ambiguous or out of date (you have repaid the bond difference or ACAT’s termination order wasn’t enforced).  ACAT may then order for the listing to be removed or changed.

Definitions

  • ACAT – ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal
  • Assignment – a transfer of a legal or equitable right.  In regards to tenancy, the right in question is the right to possession of the property.
  • Bondmoney the tenant pays as security in case they breach the residential tenancy agreement
  • Break Fee – A Break Fee is a specified amount that you have to pay your landlord for breaching your Tenancy Agreement.c
  • Compliance Order – If your landlord has failed to remedy a breach, VCAT may issue an order that they do so.
  • Co-Tenant – If someone else has signed your Tenancy Agreement as a tenant, you will be considered co-tenants.  This is usually the case if you are renting as part of a share house.
  • Exit Condition Report – In Queensland, you must provide your landlord with a report detailing the condition of the property when your tenancy ends.  The Exit Condition Report details the state of the property, noting any damage, and is vital for getting your Bond refunded.
  • Fixed Term Tenancy Agreement- when the landlord and the tenant agree that the lease will last for a specific length of time e.g. 6 months, 1 year.
  • Goods – items that are not perishable, not dangerous and are worth more than what it will cost to remove, store or sell them.
  • Head-Tenant – if you enter into a tenancy agreement with a landlord and then enter into another residential tenancy agreement with a tenant to let another person occupy the property for rent, you are a head-tenant and the person you allowed to occupy the property is a sub-tenant
  • Joint and Severally Liable – you can be sued for the actions of your co-tenant (even if you were not at fault).  However if you are sued and it was not your fault, you can then in turn sue your co-tenant. For example if your landlord sues you for damages to the property that your co-tenant caused, you may be asked to pay for the damages.  Then you can sue your co-tenant for the money that you had to pay in damages.
  • Mutual Termination Agreement – A written agreement between you and your landlord to end your tenancy.
  • NCAT – New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
  • Notice of Intention to Leave – A government form (form 13) that you must supply your landlord with before you can end your tenancy.
  • Notice of Intention to Vacate – A written notice detailing that you want to end your tenancy and leave the property at a set date.
  • NTCAT – Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
  • Occupation feeif the items you left behind prevents the landlord from renting the place to someone else, they can change you a fee each day equal to what your rent is per day.  They can charge you that fee for 14 days maximum.
  • Periodic Tenancy Agreement – the agreement that occurs when the landlord and tenant don’t specify a set period of time that the lease will last for, or where a Fixed Term Tenancy Agreement expires without the tenancy ending.
  • Personal Documentbirth certificate, passport, bank books, financial statements, photos, personal collectables (e.g. trophies), correspondence (e.g. mail), licenses, records or anything else a person might want to keep
  • QCATQueensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
  • Residential Tenancy Agreementan agreement under which a person grants to another person for value a right of occupation of residential premises for the purpose of use as a residence.
  • Residential Tenancies Authority – the Residential Tenancies Authority is a Queensland government authority that handles tenancy issues in Queensland.
  • SAT – State Administrative Tribunal.
  • SACAT – South Australia Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
  • Secretary – the Commissioner or Secretary for NSW Fair Trading.
  • Standard Tenancy Terms – All Tenancy Agreements in the ACT automatically include a set of terms contained in schedule 1 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (ACT).   Conflicting terms can only be added to the agreement if both you and your landlord apply to ACAT.
  • Sub-Tenant- if you have a residential tenancy agreement with a tenant (not the landlord) then that person is the head tenant and you are a sub-tenant
  • Termination Notice – A written letter that says that you want to end your tenancy.  It should detail the reason for why you are ending your tenancy, as well as providing a date that you intend to move out on.
  • Tenancy Databasedatabase containing personal information relating to you living at a rental property under a residential tenancy agreement
  • VCAT – Victorian Civil and Administration Tribunal

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