Renters’ Rights: What You Should Know

September 7, 2021

It isn’t always easy going through life living in other people’s homes. As a tenant, sometimes we lack the freedom to make certain changes. Perhaps some of us want to add to the interiors to suit our own personal style. Or maybe we’re bothered by some wear and tear in the corners that our landlord refuses to pay for. 

Sometimes a pipe bursts or your landlord calls you up to tell you they’ve got an offer on the house and you have to move out. Either way, things come up. And the best way for renters to stay safe is to stay informed. Renters’ rights, also called tenants’ rights, help you understand what to expect from the time you apply to the moment you claim your bond. 

Every renter should know their rights regardless of where they stand in the rental process. So let’s break it all down for you. 

What you can expect from your landlord vs What they can expect from you

As a renter, the ideal is that your landlord puts thought into preventing issues during your tenancy with regular maintenance. However, and unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. So when you’re inspecting the property, make sure to have a proper look, take photos of concerning areas, and bring up any issues you may have with them. Both parties need to be on the same page and this is the best preventative measure to take. Check out our Ultimate Guide for Renting for more tips. 

Soho Rental @ 2/1 Marne Street, South Yarra, VIC, 3141

Basically, these are the standard expectations your landlord should fufill: 

  • Making sure the property is in a state agreed upon in the contract when you move in. It should be clean and liveable, and include recent maintenance checks on gas and electricity, security, pests and smoke detectors.
  • Being responsive in the case of repair or maintenance issues
  • Allowing you, the tenant, to privacy and enjoyment of the property

In turn, this is what they’d expect from you:

  • Keep the property clean from the inside out. Don’t cause any damage intentionally. 
  • If there is any damage, alert your landlord immediately
  • Respect your neighbours
  • Respect what was laid out in the tenancy agreement

I’m a tenant. Which bills should I pay for?

Your landlord should have already installed water, gas and electricity services in the property. However, you still need to set up your utilities according to your desired provider. These bills you’re responsible for.

On the other hand, some apartment buildings nowadays have one meter that measures the water. So instead of an individual meter in each apartment, the one meter measures the water usage for the entire building. In this case, the landlord takes care of the bill, as you shouldn’t be responsible for paying for the water consumption of people who aren’t in the tenancy agreement.

Telephone and internet connection will be part of your bill as well. If there’s no existing line for the property, you could ask them to install one and negotiate a price. Because this adds to the value of the property, they might be willing to co-pay. A side-note about televisions: since they’re not considered an essential service in rentals, your landlord might not be interested in sharing the expense of installing the line with you. 

Lastly, the property might require bottled gas. Now, while the landlord is responsible for the hire of the bottles, the supply, and all governments taxes and levies, you have to pay for the actual gas. 

What happens if something bursts or breaks?

This property has 2 bedrooms and 2 baths with beautiful finishings.

If a repair is needed in the home, it’s usually categorised into urgent and non-urgent. 

Urgent repairs involve essential services and the landlord is responsible to organise repairs within 24-48 hours (more on this later), depending on your state. You might want to re-read your tenancy contract or visit specific government websites like this one for tenant’s rights in Victoria and this one for NSW. In general, they include:

  • Burst water issues
  • Blocked or broken toilet system
  • Flooding or serious flood damage
  • Bad roof leaks
  • Gas leaks
  • Potentially dangerous electrical faulting
  • Bad storm or fire damage
  • Failure of essential utilities like water, hot water, heating, laundering (air conditioning not included)
  • Failure of water, electricity or gas 
  • Failure of a security system ie: locks or smoke alarms
  • A faucet defect that causes water wastage
  • Building issues ie: elevator

If it’s an emergency, contact your landlord immediately. From there, they should take next steps to engage a tradesperson to organise the repair. If they don’t answer, you might have an emergency number. If the emergency contact isn’t available, go ahead and call up the repair services yourself. The last option is usually allowed under a pre-approved amount stated in your agreement. 

Non-urgent repairs are the non-essential services that might have been working when you moved in but have perhaps broken down since. Things like:

  • Broken electric appliances like the air conditioner or dishwasher
  • Failed stovetops or ovens
  • Faulty bathroom fans or exhausts
  • Broken fences

While you have the right as a tenant for your landlord to organise and pay for these repairs, they are not responsible for updates to equipment at the your wish. 

If something needs attention, inform your landlord or agent in writing and they’re obliged to respond within the timeframe put forward by the respective state. Their options are either to fix the issue for you and bear the cost, or object to your request. 

It’s important to note that even while you wait, you can’t withhold rent. You could be in breach of the agreement by doing so. Having said that, if the landlord doesn’t respond in the given timeframe or doesn’t meet their obligations in some way, you won’t have to pay the penalty if you choose to break the lease. This again depends on where you live. 

What happens if the landlord takes ages to respond?

This depends on your state and we recommend looking into the specific laws in each area. But in a snapshot, this is the timeframe your landlord should adhere to once you’ve notified them about the repair request. 

  • NSW: Not specified
  • VIC: 14 days
  • QLD: Not specified
  • WA: Not specified
  • SA: Varies according to urgency
  • TAS: 28 days
  • ACT: 4 weeks
  • NT: Varies according to urgency 

Can I just repair it on my own?

You can look into arranging the repairs on your own as well. Remember to check your agreement and state laws online first though! Because most but not all states allow you to do it for urgent repairs. 

If you want to pursue this route, first make sure it’s an urgent repair. Then hire a licensed professional and above all, keep the receipt! 

Through this time, keep updating your landlord. And if you don’t have the funds to cover the repair while you wait for a response, you can request an urgent hearing from the tribunal. 

What if I accidentally break something?

Contemporary large kitchen including a double Ilve oven with stone benches and the best from Bosch in dishwasher

Your landlord has the right to hold you accountable for any damage to the property. So if red wine spills on the beige rug or a window is broken during an aggressive round of handball, you’ll have to pay for it. But you still need to notify your landlord, even when you organise repairs on your own. 

This is where renter’s insurance is handy. If anything happens, you can make a claim and your insurance will cover it. 

However, if you don’t resolve the issue, your landlord can take this to the tribunal. Don’t forget that they have your bond and may use it to replace anything you damaged. 

Is my landlord allowed to enter the premises?

The short answer is yes. Your landlord, their agents and tradespeople have the right to come into your home, even when you’re not there. These can be for inspections or repairs. Double-check your contract for details.

Nonetheless, a notice period and maximum frequency of inspections is put forth in most states. You can look up other specifications on entry allowances, but here are those for inspections:

  • NSW: At least seven days’ written notice each time. No more than four routine inspections a year. In most cases, entry must be between 8am and 8pm on any day except Sundays and public holidays.
  • VIC: At least 24 hours’ written notice each time. Entry must be between 8am and 6pm on any day except public holidays.
  • QLD: At least seven days’ notice with a gap of at least three months between last entry. Entry to be between 8am and 6pm on any day except Sundays and public holidays.
  • WA: At least seven days’ notice. No more than four routine inspections a year.
  • SA: At least seven days’ notice. Must occur within a specified two-hour timeframe between 8am and 6pm on any day except Sundays and public holidays.
  • TAS: At least 24 hours’ notice. No more than one routine inspection every three months. Entry to be between 8am and 6pm.
  • ACT: At least seven days’ notice. A maximum of two routine inspections a year with an additional initial inspection during the first month of the beginning of a tenancy and a final inspection in the last month of a tenancy before tenants vacate. Entry to be between 8am and 6pm on any day except Sundays and public holidays.
  • NT: At least seven days’ notice and at least three months after the last entry. Entry to be between 7am and 9pm.

When can I ask for a reduction in rent?

Let’s just say you move into your new place and later down the line a huge construction project begins nearby, affecting the area’s noise and views. This is when you might ask for a reduction in the rent price. 

You can write to your landlord with the request. If they don’t oblige, you’re able to take it to the tribunal. 

Can my landlord increase the rent?

Private terrace

Again, this depends which state you’re renting in. Mainly, the landlord has the right to do this but the renter also has the right to refuse it. If you don’t come to a compromise, this can be brought to the tribunal.

If your landlord springs this on you, be sure to verify their rights on government websites. 

What if I miss paying rent?

Your state will decide how you’re liable so you should be armed with knowledge of the consequences. In NSW for instance, if you don’t pay rent for two weeks, your landlord can evict you. Diversely, in Victoria, if you’re not paying the agreed upon rent, your landlord can request compensation from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). The VCAT will pursue the issue with you and if you don’t comply, you’ll be forced to vacate within 14 days. 

That’s the gist of renters’ rights you need to know! And while there are many factors to consider before you rent, while you rent and when you leave a rental, Soho’s got you every step of the way. If you’re still on the hunt for your next great property, browse our search pages. And remember to shortlist and swipe our listings so we can curate better matches for you!

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