Renting

Renting

There are laws about renting property, including rights and responsibilities for the tenant and owner. These cover:

  • tenancy agreements and bonds
  • what happens if you don’t pay your rent on time
  • rent increases
  • repairs.

The laws for renting property are set out in Consumer Affairs Victoria’s booklet called Renting a home: a guide for landlords and tenants (PDF, 773KB). A landlord or their agent must give a copy of this guide to tenants on or before the day they move in.

Consumer Affairs Victoria now provide much of this information on their website, and have also developed a smartphone app called RentRight.

Other services such as the Tenants Union of Victoria also produce a range of resources and fact sheets about renting a property. For more information, see the Tenants Union of Victoria website.

Tenancy agreement

A tenancy agreement can be written or verbal. The agreement can be for a fixed term (often six or 12 months) or periodic (from month to month).

If the agreement is in writing it is known as a 'lease', and tenancy laws require it to be on a form printed. It is important to read and understand your lease agreement before signing.

Keep a copy of any agreement you sign.

Paying rent

If you pay rent in case or to a private landlord, always insist on being given a receipt to avoid disputes about payment. On request, your landlord is required to give you either a rent receipt or a rental ledger.

If your rent is overdue

If you owe at least 14 days' rent the landlord or real estate agent can give you 14 days' notice to vacate the property. The notice must be in writing.

If you get a Notice to Vacate you may not have to move out. Try to negotiate with the owner or agent to repay the money owing. Ask for any agreement you make to be put in writing.

If owner or agent wants you to move out they must apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a possession order.

You will get a notice telling you when the hearing is. It is important to go to the hearing. At the hearing you will be asked why you have not paid. If the tribunal is satisfied you can pay the rent owing and you are not likely to fall behind in your rent again, they might not make the order. However, if the order is granted, you must leave the house.

Rent increases

An owner or agent must not increase the rent payable under a tenancy agreement more than once in any six-month period.

If the tenancy agreement is for a fixed amount of time, the rent can't increase before the end date, unless the agreement states otherwise.

The owner or agent must give you at least 60 days’ notice of any rent increase, in writing.

Consumer Affairs Victoria can assess the rent increase if you believe:

  • it is too much compared to current rental prices for similar properties
  • the owner or agent has reduced or withdrawn services, facilities or other items that are part of the premises.

If you think the rent increase is too high you can request a rent assessment. To request a rent assessment download the ‘Request for repairs inspection or rent assessment’ form from the Consumer Affairs Victoria website. You must make this request within 30 days of receiving notice that the rent is being increased.

If you disagree with Consumer Affairs Victoria’s assessment, you have 30 days from receiving the report to apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a hearing. The tribunal may set a maximum rent, which stays in place for 12 months.

Arranging repairs to a rental property

Owners are required to keep rented property in a safe and liveable condition.

Tenants aren’t responsible for fixing things that need repairing because of 'fair wear and tear' (things that are expected to wear out over time, like paintwork or carpets).

If the property you rent needs repairs, write to the owner or agent asking for these to be fixed. Keep a copy of the letter. You should make your request using a ‘Notice to landlord of rented premises’ form from the Consumer Affairs Victoria website.

Urgent repairs

Urgent repairs include problems with water services, electricity, sewers and gas leaks.

If the owner won't fix these, you can get them fixed as long as they don't cost more than $1800. You must pay for these repairs. Make sure you keep the receipt. To get the money from owner or agent, send them a ‘Notice to landlord of rented premises’ form on the Consumer Affairs Victoria website. They then have 14 days to pay.

If you can't afford to pay for urgent repairs and the owner hasn't acted, you can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal requesting the work to be done. Applications for urgent repairs must be heard by the tribunal within two days.

Non-urgent repairs

If the owner refuses to do non-urgent repairs after 14 days' notice, you can ask Consumer Affairs Victoria to inspect the property. If the owner hasn't done the repair work after the inspection, you can ask the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to order the owner to do the repairs.

Getting your bond back when you move

Usually when you move into a new place you will be asked to pay a bond of one month's rent to guarantee that you perform your obligations under the tenancy agreement. Bonds must always be lodged with the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority. You can check if your bond has been lodged by phoning them on 1300 137 164.

If you have paid all your rent and the property is left in good condition when you move, the bond should be refunded in full.

An owner or agent can make a claim on the bond for:

  • damage caused by tenants or their visitors which has been intentionally caused or caused by failing to take reasonable care
  • cleaning expenses (if you failed to return the property in a reasonably clean condition)
  • the tenant abandoning the premises
  • bills that the tenant should have paid
  • loss of the landlord’s goods
  • unpaid rent.

Claims can’t be made for ‘fair wear and tear’, such as carpets wearing out over a long time.

However, a landlord always has a duty to mitigate loss. This means that if they make a claim against your bond, they need to show that they have taken reasonable steps to keep their costs down. The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal will generally only award compensation for the depreciated value of goods rather than their replacement cost or original purchase price. Guidance about the depreciation rates for different items can be found on the Australian Taxation Office website.

Disagreements about bond refunds can be heard by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

A landlord has 10 business days to make a claim to the tribunal for your bond. The tribunal can extend this time limit, however you should always raise your objection to this and ask why they think it is appropriate. Applications to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for the return of your bond are free.