General tenancy agreements: things to look out for

Autumn 2017

The General tenancy agreement (Form 18a) specifies that the property manager/owner must ensure the property is in good condition and fit for you to live in, and you must keep the place clean and undamaged.

Also called a lease, the General tenancy agreement is a legally binding written contract between you and the property manager/owner.

It must include standard terms (e.g. when, how and where rent must be paid) and may include special terms (e.g. keeping pets).

You and the property manager/owner must sign the agreement and you should be given a copy.

As a tenant, you should be wary of any special terms inserted in the tenancy agreement that may breach the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 (the Act).

Recently a property manager was convicted and fined $8,400 for two charges of creating special terms that defeated the operation of the Act and two charges of unlawfully charging penalties.

The property manager was charging a fee for unauthorised occupants, changing the timeframe for ending the tenancy, not giving the appropriate notice for rent increase as well as charging for professional carpet cleaning.

RTA CEO Darren Barlow said special terms which require the tenant to pay a cleaning charge or other payment could be in breach of the Act.

"Examples of breaches include charging tenants a fee for overnight guests, charging a fee for organising cleaning at the end of the tenancy or charging a penalty fee for overdue rent," he said.

Another important document that needs to be filled out by you and the property manager/owner at the start of the tenancy is the Entry condition report (Form 1a). You should fill it out clearly and accurately, taking photographs or videos to support what you have written on the report.

The Exit condition report (Form 14a) should be completed by you and the property manager/owner at the end of the tenancy. If possible both parties should do the final inspection together.

Contact the RTA if you are unsure about any terms included in the lease before you sign the tenancy agreement. Phone 1300 366 311 or visit the website.