A lease is a legally binding agreement for which there is no cooling-off period. Read the lease thoroughly. If there are items you do not agree with or wish to change, negotiate with the landlord to see if they will agree to your requests before you sign.
You should only sign a lease when you can answer ‘Yes’ to the following statements:
- The lease is complete (not blank or incomplete)
- I have read the lease and any questions I had about things I did not understand have been satisfactorily answered
- I know the length of time for which the lease applies
- If the rent is under $350 per week, I am not being required to pay more than one month's rent as a rental bond; or more than one month's rent in advance (unless I freely offer to pay more)
- I can afford the rent
- The property contains the types of amenities that I require
- I have been offered at least one way to pay the rent which does not involve paying a fee to a third party
- I have negotiated any additional terms to the lease (for example, if the landlord or agent promised any repairs such as replacing the oven, painting a room or cleaning up the backyard) and these have been done, or I have received a written undertaking that they will be done
- I am not being charged for the cost of preparing my lease or for the initial supply of keys and security devices to each tenant named on the lease
- I have checked that all additional terms to the lease are legal (for example, the lease does not include a term requiring me to have the carpet professionally cleaned when I leave, unless I have agreed).
Tips to avoid disputes
If you do not understand any part of the lease, ask questions before you sign. You may want to discuss issues which may not be included in the lease, such as:
- the landlord's policy on pets
- who is responsible for gardening, mowing or general maintenance, and how frequently the landlord/tenant would like this done
- is there a telephone line connection to the property? If not, consider negotiating who will pay for this connection, and adding any agreement to the lease
- are changes to the property allowed; for example, you adding extra power points or TV co-axial points? Remember, the landlord must be notified and can say no to the change. There is no obligation for the landlord to contribute to the cost of such changes.
Receiving notices and other documents electronically
A lease can include terms that set out whether the tenant and landlord consent to receive notices and other documents from each other electronically (usually via email to a nominated address).
If you consent to receive notices from your landlord electronically, ensure you provide an email address that you can check regularly.
You can withdraw your consent at any time by notifying your landlord. We recommend doing this in writing.
If your email address changes during your tenancy, you must notify your landlord immediately.
Tenants smoking in rented homes
The Residential Tenancies Act 1997 does not cover smoking in rented premises. However, a landlord may include terms about smoking in the lease.
If a tenant smokes in a rented property and causes discoloration or other damage, the landlord may be able to claim cleaning or repair costs from the tenant’s bond.
If the property has gas appliances installed, ensure you are satisfied that they are operating safely. Consider asking for a condition or clause to be added requiring the landlord to have any gas appliances checked and certified safe every two years. For more information, view Gas appliances - safety advice for tenants and residents.