Beginning a Tenancy
At the beginning of a tenancy there are key items that must be addressed by the lessor (or their property manager) and also the tenant:
- Both parties must sign a written tenancy agreement (Form 18a) that includes the standard terms and any special terms
- The lessor/property manager must provide the tenant with a copy of the RTA Form 17a – Pcket Guide for Tenants and the Bond Lodgement Form 2.
- The lessor/property manager must provide the tenant with a completed copy of the Form 1a – Entry Condition Report.
The tenant is then permitted three calendar days to note any additional comments and return a signed copy to the lessor/property manager. Take care in completing report, sign and return to the lessor/agent within 3 days.
Prior to occupying the property, a tenant is required to pay a bond and commonly the first two weeks rent.
There are two types of tenancy agreements that exist in Queensland – a ‘fixed term agreement’ and a ‘periodic agreement’. The main defining difference between these agreements is that a fixed term agreement has a start and end date, whereas a periodic agreement has a start date but no specified end date. It is common practice for all tenancies to initially commence on a fixed term agreement for either a six or 12 month period. However, a fixed term agreement can be for any time frame providing it has a start and end date.
It is important to note that rent may be increased through a fixed term agreement; however, this must be clearly outlined as a special condition of the tenancy. A lessor/property manager is still required to give the minimum two months’ notice of the increase even though it is written into the agreement already. Rent cannot be increased in a shorter time period than six months from when it was last increased. If there is no special term regarding an increase, the rent cannot be increased until the end of the current agreement. For a periodic agreement, rent can be increased at any time providing the lessor/property manager has given the tenant a minimum of two months’ notice.
ENTRY CONDITION REPORT
The Entry Condition Report is one of the most important documents in a residential tenancy. The successful and thorough completion of this document by both parties will go a long way to ensuring that at the end of the tenancy the transition goes as smoothly as possible for all involved. The Entry Condition Report notes the condition of the property at the start of the tenancy and is used by the lessor/property manager to ensure the tenant leaves the property the same as it was when they initially moved in (fair wear and tear excepted). Whilst it is encouraged that this form be completed by both parties at the same time, this is not possible in most cases. It is a legislative requirement that the lessor/property manager gives the tenant a signed copy of the condition report no later than the day of the tenant’s occupancy.
If a tenant has any concerns about the report or finds anything additional or different to what the lessor/property manager has initially noted, these issues should be discussed and clarified as soon as the report is returned to the lessor/property manager. Dealing with the matter promptly will avoid any possible conflict of opinion when the tenancy ends. Tenants should ensure they keep a copy of the report in a safe place so they are able to refer back to it at the end of the tenancy.
Tenants should be mindful that it is their responsibility to have adequate insurance for their personal possessions. A lessor’s insurance does not cover tenant’s personal belongings.
Rents, Bonds and Other Expenses
Most lessors/property managers will require a tenant to pay a bond at the beginning of the tenancy. As per the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act, the bond can be no more than four times the weekly rent if the rent is $700 or less per week. However, if the weekly rent is more than $700, there is no limit on the bond that can be charged. The lessor/property manager must forward the bond monies to the RTA within 10 days of receiving the monies. The tenant will receive a receipt from the RTA acknowledging receipt of the monies from the lessor/property manager. The bond will be refunded at the end of the tenancy if all obligations of the tenant have been met.
Should the tenant dispute a claim made against the bond by the lessor/property manager, the matter can be mediated through the RTA’s dispute resolution service.
PAYING RENT IN ADVANCE
Most lessors/property managers require tenants to pay their rent in advance. However, the lessor/property manager cannot request the tenant to pay more than one month’s rent in advance for a fixed term agreement, or more than two weeks in advance for a periodic agreement. The tenant can pay more rent in advance if they wish to, however tenants cannot be asked to pay more rent until the rent paid in advance has been used up.
A tenant will also be required to pay for expenses related to services connected to the property (eg. gas, electricity and telephone). The way water is to be charged must be stated on the special terms of the tenancy agreement. If the premises are individually metered for water, the property is deemed water efficient and there is a special term in the agreement, a lessor can pass on the total water consumption charges to a tenant. Refer to the RTA website for more information.
In some cases, a tenant living in a unit or flat may find there is only one bill for electricity, meaning that the service is not individually metered. In this instance, the tenancy agreement must state how the tenant’s share of the costs will be worked out.
Lessors are required to maintain the premises in such a way that it is fit for a tenant to live in, and must maintain the premises and inclusions in good repair. It is important that a tenant fully understands the difference between routine and emergency repairs.
Emergency repairs are works needed to repair any of the following:
- A burstwater service:
- A blocked or broken lavatory service;
- A serious roof leak;
- A gas leak;
- A dangerous electrical fault;
- Flooding or serious flood damage;
- Serious storm, fire or impact damage;
- A failure or breakdown of the gas, electricity or water supply to the premises;
- A failure or breakdown of an essential service or appliance on the premises for hot water, cooking or heating;
- A fault or damage that makes the premises unsafe or insecure;
- A fault or damage likely to injure a person, damage property or unduly inconvenience a resident of the premises;
- A serious fault in a staircase, lift or other common area of the premises that unduly inconveniences a resident in
gaining access to, or using, the premises.
Emergency maintenance must be attended to immediately. Tenants should refer to their tenancy agreement for instructions on who to contact if the emergency occurs out of hours.
Routine repairs are any matter other than the above mentioned. Most property managers may request the tenant to advise of any routine maintenance in writing to their agency. This is best practice for both parties.
The lessor/property manager must attend to routine maintenance within a reasonable timeframe. If the tenant has any concerns or questions in relation to maintenance, they should contact the RTA.
If a tenant wishes to make any structural changes to the premises (e.g. install an air-conditioner or picture hooks), they must seek permission from the lessor/property manager in writing before any changes are made. The agreement with the lessor about any structural changes or improvements must be in writing.
Lessor and Property Manager Access
Most property managers inspect rental premises every three months as per their professional duty to the lessor and to ensure that the premises are maintained in a reasonable condition. The lessor/property manager will give a tenant no less than seven days written notice on the RTA Form 9 – Entry Notice. The amount of notice needed depends on the reason for entering the premises.
MINIMUM NOTICE PERIODS FOR INSPECTION
Minimum notice periods are:
- To inspect the premises – seven days (lessor/property manager allowed to enter no more than once in a three month period, unless the tenant agrees)
- To complete routine repairs or carry out maintenance – 24 hours
- To inspect after repairs or maintenance has been carried out – 24 hours
- To repair or carry out maintenance where the premises is in a remote area and there is a shortage of qualified tradespersons in the area – no notice
- In an emergency or to protect the premises from damage – no notice
- If the lessor/property manager believes that the premises is abandoned – 24 hours
- To show the premises to a prospective tenant or buyer or for valuation purposes – 24 hours ( if the property is for sale, a Form 10 – Notice of Lessor’s Intention to Sell must have been issued)
- By order of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal – as stated in the order
- If during a routine general inspection, a notice to remedy has been issued to a tenant for a “significant breach”, a 24 hour re-entry notice can be issued to ensure the breach has been remedied. The re-entry must be done within 14 days of the expiry of the notice to remedy (a significant breach is; the tenant using the premises for an illegal purpose, unapproved occupants, unapproved pets, or any other matter, if the cost of rectifying that matter exceeds one weeks’ rent)
- If a tenant agrees, anytime by negotiation.
The parties may wish to negotiate a time that is suitable to everyone. If entry is for a lawful purpose, the correct notice has been given and the entry is at a reasonable time, the tenant cannot refuse entry. Under the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act, the tenant does not have an automatic right to be present when the lessor/property manager enters. If you have any concerns or questions regarding entry contact the RTA.
Ending a Tenancy
How a tenancy agreement with the lessor/property manager ends will depend on the type of tenancy that is currently in place.
FIXED TERM TENANCY TERMINATION
For a fixed term tenancy, the tenant is required to give the lessor/property manager a minimum of 14 days notice and this is done by completing a RTA Form 13 – Notice of Intention to Leave. This minimum 14 days notice cannot end at any time prior to the fixed term tenancy expiring. A lessor/property manager is required to give a minimum of two months notice to the tenant should they wish to end the tenancy. This notice is given by issuing a RTA Form 12 – Notice to Leave.
VACATING BEFORE YOUR FIXED TERM AGREEMENT IS UP?
If a tenant wishes to vacate a property prior to the expiry of a fixed term agreement, this is commonly referred to as a ‘break lease’ situation. The tenant is liable for rent up to the expiry date of the agreement or when a suitable tenant is found and takes occupancy of the property, whichever is the earliest. A tenant may also be liable for additional costs in this type of situation, commonly a break lease fee and costs of advertising.
For a periodic tenancy, the tenant is required to give the lessor/property manager a minimum of 14 days notice and this is also done by completing a RTA Form 13 – Notice of Intention to Leave. This notice can be given to the lessor/property manager at any time as there is no end date to a periodic tenancy. A lessor/property manager must provide the tenant with a minimum of two months notice should they wish to end the tenancy. This notice is given by issuing a RTA Form 12 – Notice to Leave.
The only time a lessor/property manager is able to give a tenant a shorter notice period is if the tenant is on a periodic tenancy and the property has been sold. In this circumstance, the lessor/property manager can provide a minimum of four weeks’ notice. This notice is given by issuing a RTA Form 12 – Notice to Leave. Please note, a tenant must have previously been issued a Form 10 – Notice of Intention to Sell Premises at the time the property was listed for sale.
HANDING OVER THE KEYS
Once a tenant has vacated a property, they will be required to return all the keys and remote controls to the agent along with a copy of the RTA Form 14a – Exit Condition Report and any receipts for carpet cleaning and/or pest control that may be required.
The tenant should provide the property manager with their forwarding address and any alternate contact details when handing in the keys and Exit Condition Report to help with the vacating process. A property manager has three business days in which to conduct the vacating inspection and complete, sign and return the Exit Condition Report to the tenant. Although, common practice is that the property manager will conduct this inspection as soon as practicable.
A tenant has the right to be present at the vacating inspection but it is strongly recommended that a tenant pre-arranges this with their lessor/property manager prior to handing in their keys. If the lessor/property manager finds there are any items that need addressing by the tenant after this inspection (some cleaning still required, maintenance or damages caused by the tenant) they must give the tenant a reasonable time to address these issues.
Should a dispute occur at any stage of a tenancy, it is important to remember that being patient and trying to see a lessor/property manager’s point of view may resolve the matter more quickly. Often, tenants and lessors can resolve disputes by referring to their rights and responsibilities as set out in the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act.
If however, the dispute continues, the RTA’s dispute resolution service may be able to help. A request for dispute resolution can be made by lodging a RTA Form 16 – Dispute Resolution Request with the RTA. If the parties cannot reach an agreement with the help of the RTA, an application can be made to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
For more information regarding tenant rights and responsibilities, visit the Residential Tenancies Authority website.