Beginning a tenancy
At the beginning of a tenancy, the tenant will be required to:
- sign a written tenancy agreement that includes the standard terms and any additional special terms;
- receive a copy of the Form 17a (the information statement) – the lessor/agent is required by law to give this booklet to every tenant in Queensland;
- complete an ‘Entry Condition Report’, Form 1a and return it to the lessor/agent within three days of taking possession of the rental premises; and
- pay a bond and rent in advance (if required).
There are two types of tenancy agreements – a fixed term and a periodic. A fixed term has a beginning date and a definite ending date. A periodic tenancy has a beginning date and no definite ending date. The rights and obligations for both parties are the same regardless of what type of tenancy is in place. However, the only difference is the notice period for increasing the rent and the notice periods to vacate the premises. In regards to ending the tenancy, please refer to Ending a Tenancy section in this document.
However, in order to increase the rent for a fixed term agreement, the increase must be written in the special terms of the tenancy agreement. The agreement must state the amount and dates in which the increase will take effect from. If the increase is not written in the terms, the increase can not take effect until the end of the fixed term agreement. For a periodic tenancy, two months written notice must be given. For further information regarding rent increases, refer to the RTA.
The entry condition report could be said to be one of the most important documents in a tenancy. The successful and thorough completion by both parties will go a long way in ensuring that the end of the tenancy will go smoothly and satisfactorily for both parties. Begin with the end in mind. The entry condition report is a record of the property’s condition at the commencement of the tenancy. This report is used at the end of the tenancy. The property must be returned to the lessor/agent in the same condition it was in the beginning, fair wear and tear excepted. It is good practice for the lessor/agent and the tenant to complete this form together on or before occupation day, however this is not possible in most cases. However it is a legislative requirement for the lessor/agent to complete the form and give two copies to the tenant on the day they take possession of the premises, or the day they give the tenant the agreement for signing.
After taking possession of the premises, the tenant has three days in which to return the entry condition report to the lessor/agent noting any changes, additions or comments regarding the property. It is crucial at this point that both parties discuss any areas of concern and come to some agreement to help eliminate any dispute at the end of the tenancy.
It is very important to mention that the tenant is responsible for their own contents insurance. Some tenants believe that their belongings are covered under the lessor’s insurance, this is not correct.
Rents, bonds & other expenses
Most lessors/agents will require a tenant to pay a bond at the beginning of the tenancy. As per the Residential Tenancies Act, the bond can be no more than four times the weekly rent if the rent is $500 or less per week. However if the weekly rent is more than $500, there is no limit on the bond that can be charged. The lessor/agent must forward the bond monies to the Residential Tenancies Authority (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/agent. The bond will be refunded at the end of the tenancy if all obligations of the tenant have been met. Example: rent is paid up until the end date, and the property is not damaged. Should the tenant dispute a claim made against the bond, the matter can be discussed with the RTA’s Dispute Resolution Service.
Most lessor/agents require tenants to pay their rent in advance. However the lessor/agent can not request the tenant to pay more than one months 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 too, however tenants cannot be asked to pay more rent until the rent paid in advance has been used up.
The tenant will also be required to pay for expenses such as services connected to the property, like gas, electricity and telephone. How water is to be charged must be stated on the special terms of the tenancy agreement and the Residential Tenancies Act requires the owner to pay for a reasonable amount of water usage.
In some cases, a tenant living in a unit or flat may find that 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.
Ensure that you have your copy of the entry condition report and tenancy agreement in a safe and easily accessible place. However you could ask your lessor/agent for a copy of the documents if required throughout your tenancy.
Maintenance and access
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. Most real estate agents may request the tenant to advise of any routine maintenance in writing to their agency. This is best practice for both parties. The definition of routine repairs according to the Act is “routine repairs” are repairs that are not emergency repairs.
The meaning of emergency repairs as per section 123A, are works needed to repair any of the following:
- a burst water 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 premises
- a failure or breakdown of an essential service or appliance on premises for hot water, cooking or heating
- a fault or damage that makes 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 premises that unduly inconveniences a resident in gaining access to, or using, the premises.
Routine repairs are any matter other than the above mentioned. The lessor/agent must attend to routine maintenance within a reasonable timeframe. If the tenant has any concerns or questions in relation to maintenance, they can contact the RTA on 1300 366 311. Emergency maintenance must be attended to immediately. Please refer to your tenancy agreement for instructions on who to contact if the emergency occurs out of hours.
Most agents inspect rental premises every three to four months as per their duty of care to the lessor and to ensure that the premises is maintained in a reasonable condition. The lessor/agent will give no less than seven days written notice on the RTA-approved Form 9, (entry notice) the amount of notice needed depends on the reason for entering the premises.
The minimum notice periods are:
- to inspect the premises – seven days (lessor/agent 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 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/agent 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 Small Claims Tribunal – as stated in the order.
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 can not refuse entry. Under the Act, the tenant does not have an automatic right to be present when the lessor/agent enters. If you have any concerns or questions regarding entry contact the RTA.
If you wish to make any structural changes to the premises, (i.e. install air conditioner or picture hooks etc) you must seek permission from the lessor/agent in writing BEFORE any changes are made.
Should a dispute occur at any stage of your tenancy, it is important to remember that being patient and trying to see your lessor/agent’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 Act.
If however the dispute continues, the RTA’s dispute resolution service may help. A request for dispute resolution can be made by lodging an RTA Form 16 (dispute resolution request) with the RTA. If the parties can not reach an agreement with the help of the RTA an application can be made to the Small Claims Tribunal for an order about the dispute. For more information contact
RESIDENTIAL TENANCIES AUTHORITY (RTA)
33 Herschel Street OR GPO Box 390
Brisbane QLD 4001
Ph: 1300 366 366
Fax: 07 3361 3361