Written By Sally Norton for Vogue Real Estate Australia
When it comes to becoming a homeowner, almost every buyer is extremely cautious and wary of many loopholes. That’s why it’s so surprising that people aren’t treating tenancy with the same caution. It might sound to you like signing a property rental agreement isn’t as legally binding as becoming a property owner for the first time – and you would be right to some extent. But that still doesn’t mean you should not dot your i’s and cross your t’s before putting your signature on a piece of paper. After all, legal documents are well-known for their ambiguity and fine print which usually holds crucial pieces of information.
Checking important things and pieces of information before signing the deal is important in all cases and circumstances – but it’s of special importance if moving from another country and trying to find a humble abode in a different state. Then you might take it for granted that the same rules apply in the new country as they do in the old one, creating confusion right after moving. Luckily, all you have to do is pay attention to the following items and you will be all settled into your new place soon enough.
Check the deposit terms and conditions
It’s no secret or surprise that almost all property owners will require a deposit to be paid before moving in. In most cases, the deposit is equivalent to 4 weeks’ worth of deposit bond and 2 weeks’ worth of rent and can be used by the landlord in case you cause any damages to the property or leave the premises without cleaning up. A deposit bond acts as a substitute for cash, making it very useful when you don’t have money at hand.
However, the deposit is there as sort of a safety net – not a gift your landlord receives. In case you hold up your end of the deal, the landlord is obliged to give you your deposit back.
When it comes to your duties and obligations in relation to the deposit, this is where it gets tricky. You need to ensure that the property rental agreement covers all the reasons that allow your landlord to withhold the deposit or a part of it. As of late, landlords are required to secure their tenants’ deposits in government-backed deposit schemes. For your protection, make sure that these terms and conditions are met. That will make it safe for you to vacate the rental property down the line without having to lose the deposit.
Check who is responsible for paying the bills when signing the property rental agreement
Obviously, you will be the one that will have to foot the bill for the property for the time that you are occupying it. However, sometimes, the price of the bills will already be calculated and included in the rental price. In other situations, you will be responsible for paying all the utilities you are using and even setting them up. Finally, you could stumble upon a combination of both. So in order to prevent any confusion, check to see who exactly is responsible for paying the bills, and when.
Also bear in mind that you might be obliged to set up some extra commodities. If that’s the case, never forget that you will also be the one responsible for canceling them before closing the deal with movers and vacating the property. Being a tenant is never easy as there are simply too many scenarios to worry about.
Get to the bottom of the maintenance issue
No matter how well you take care of the property, things are bound to get broken sooner or later. And for a lot of tenants, problems begin when things stop working. To prevent those problems from affecting your life, all you have to do is get it in writing whose responsibility the repairs and maintenance are. Naturally, it should be your landlord’s obligation to pay for repairs and to get them resolved quickly on top of that. However, we will leave that up to you to clear up.
But before putting your signature on the dotted line, make sure you include all the repairs your landlord is responsible for. Pay special importance to structural damage that would impair your safety and the water heater which breaks down frequently.
Your responsibilities also play an important role
In order for a landlord-tenant relationship to be successful, both parties need to know what their end of the deal is. In other words, both the responsibilities and rights need to be clearly stated. But these rules aren’t an individual thing as much as they are already stated by law. In essence, the tenant is responsible for:
- Taking good care of the property and everything on/in it
- Paying the rent and bills on time
- Repairing or paying for the damage which was caused due to your negligence
The only way to do right is by knowing what is expected of you. So don’t make a mistake due to being misinformed and check your rights and responsibilities before signing the property rental agreement.
The do’s and don’ts of living on the property
As a tenant, you are only renting the property. That means that it’s in someone else’s possession. That being said, the landlord has every right to set his/her own rules of what is permitted and what is not. As a tenant, it is your duty to abide by them. For that reason, you have to ensure that no rule is too much for you.
For example, what would happen if you had a pet but your landlord had a strict no-pets policy? Or if you were a smoker but your landlord won’t allow smoking on his property? So as not to get yourself in a sticky situation, it is strongly advisable to check the ‘smaller agreements.’ Of course, they will ultimately turn out to be of huge importance. And that’s why they need to be included in the property rental agreement. It will spare you a lot of trouble and it will only take a few minutes out of your day. So be careful and have an honest conversation with your landlord before signing anything.