Ece Demir - 1 Jun, 2020

What can you do in a rental house?

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While many laws are the same or similar no matter which state or territory you are in, the residential tenancies differ. It is important to know about your states or territories specific rules and regulations and what rights you have as a tenant.

Here are a few differences between the states and territories and how it might apply to your rental agreement.

How often can your rent be increased and by how much?

If you are on a fixed-term tenancy agreement of two years or less your rent generally can’t be increased unless it is written into the agreement. However, once the term is up, you’ll move into a periodic agreement unless you sign another agreement. Currently, this right is absent in NSW and there is no limit to how often your rent can be increased.

Related: Hacks to make your rental property feel like home

When are you entitled to repairs and how long do you need to wait?

How and when repairs are completed in rental properties have differing laws depending on the state or territory. Repairs are generally classified as urgent and non-urgent.

Urgent repairs are usually an essential service and you should let your landlord immediately. In most cases, the landlord is obliged to fix urgent repairs within 24-48 hours.

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Non-urgent repairs are of a non-essential service. Inform your landlord or property manager in writing or by an official form if your state or territory has one. Tenants cannot withhold rent while waiting for repairs, but you may be able to terminate your lease if your landlord does not meet your obligations without a penalty.

Related: What are Sydney’s cheapest homes to rent?

What are the rules of keeping pets?

Rights in relation to having a pet in your rental property have been a sensitive topic. However, good news is that some states are giving the tenant the right to own a pet.

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Related: Pets and Apartments- the Ultimate Balancing Act

Can the landlord or agent enter your home when you’re not there?

Tenants must allow landlords, real estate agents and tradespeople to enter a rental property and carry out certain inspections, however, there are certain rules regarding when and how this can occur. The landlord can usually enter the property even if the resident is not at home, provided that an agreement has been reached or sufficient notice has been given.

These notice periods and routine inspections do not include other reasons for entry such as an emergency, repairs, maintenance, to show the property to prospective tenants or purchases, smoke alarm checks and property valuations.

Related: What to expect when being a landlord

Quick dos’ and don’ts when you are renting

These are some quick general dos and don’ts of renting a property. Renting provides convenience and independence, but there are limits to what you can do in a rental property. Each landlord has different specific rules but here are the general ones.

Do help maintain the property.

Your landlord is responsible for most repairs, however, you as the tenant are responsible for informing management when there’s something amiss in your rental property. Whatever it might be, either a leaky faucet or a broken stove knob, you need to tell your landlord as soon as possible. If a small problem becomes even bigger due to your negligence, the repair costs might now fall down on you.

Do consider purchasing renters’ insurance.

Renter’s insurance protects your valuables in the event of theft, fire, flood etc., the landlord is responsible for the rental property itself. However, you are responsible for your own personal items, whether it is your furniture, clothes or electronic equipment. Renter’s insurance is a wise investment because it protects you against unprecedented circumstances.

Do read over your rental agreement and ask for permission before making permanent changes.

The hole you’re about to put in the wall but might smaller than a speck of dirt, however it is best to check your rental agreement first and ask your landlords if you are allowed to place hooks up for example. This also includes renovations, usually in an agreement it states to return the home back in the same condition. Double checking with your landlord prevents issues from arising later.

Don’t go paint or wallpaper crazy.

Chances are, when you leave you have to change that feature wall with dark red paint, or the different shapes of wallpaper in your living room. Tenants may think to themselves, “I’ve updated the house, it looks better”, but the landlord’s perspective might be different. It also causes you extra work before leaving this rental property to make sure it is all returned the same.

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Don’t install permanent features.

This might sound obvious, but at the end of the day if you are renting, you are best off not installing an updated kitchen because what happens if you move? Are you taking the kitchen with you? But you paid for it right? There are too many complications with installing permanent features. If you need to add anything, ask your landlord.

Don’t use a hammer for every project.

Most landlords will let you hang a few pictures and you could probably hang curtains on decorative rods. If you want to mount a new cabinet, a good way to bypass hammer drilling holes in the wall is to use hooks, which can be easy to remove depending on the brand you use. Try have your decorative projects at a minimum of physical property damage.

Words by Ece Demir


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