Knowing your rights when signing an agreement (lease)

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A rental agreement is a contract between a renter and a rental provider (landlord). Once you have signed it, there is no ‘cooling off’ period. It is important to understand what you are agreeing to when you sign a rental agreement.

Other pages have information about rooming houses and caravan parks or things you check when starting a site agreement in a residential park or village.

On this page:

Other pages have information about paying the bond and unlawful discrimination.

Questions renters cannot be asked 

A rental provider is not allowed to ask for certain information from potential renters:

  • whether they have previously taken legal action or had a dispute with a rental provider
  • about their bond history
  • for a full statement from a credit or bank account with all the transactions (you can delete transactions that you don’t feel comfortable showing) 
  • certain protected attributes outlined in the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (e.g. ethnicity). If they do make such as request, they must provide the reason they are requesting that information in writing.

Using the correct agreement (lease)

You must use the ‘prescribed form’ when entering into a written rental agreement. A prescribed form is defined by Victorian rental law.

We recommend using the official form provided on our website.

You can read more about residential rental agreements, and find the forms on that page, before you sign.

Either a rental provider or renter can request that certain conditions be included in a rental agreement. For example, a rental provider might include a condition that says no smoking is allowed inside the property.

A rental provider or renter cannot agree to any terms which are inconsistent with the term of the Residential Tenancies Act or the standard rental agreement. This will be invalid. For example, the rental provider cannot include a term saying that they will inspect the property every month. 

You can see a list of conditions that are not allowed to be included on residential rental agreements.

Receiving notices and other documents electronically

Renters and rental providers can agree to receive notices and other documents from each other electronically (usually via email). This should be noted in the rental agreement.

If you consent to receive notices electronically, make sure you provide an email address that you check regularly.

A renter can withdraw their consent at any time by telling their rental provider. We recommend doing this in writing.

If your email address changes during your rental agreement, you must tell the other party immediately.

Paying rent and fees

Renters must be given at least one way to pay rent that does not require them to pay fees. For example, this might be by direct bank transfer or direct debit.

A rental provider cannot require the renter to pay more than one month’s rent in advance unless the weekly rent is more than $900. If you want to pay more, you can.

For more information, see paying rent and rent in advance.

Rental providers cannot charge for:

  • the costs of preparing the agreement
  • a set of all house keys for each renter on the agreement.

Bond amounts

Usually, a rental provider cannot ask for a bond that is higher than the amount of one month’s rent. Find out more about bond payments and amounts.

Before you sign

When you make an agreement with someone to rent their property to live in, you are entering a residential rental agreement. This is a legal document, and it can take time to end the agreement, so you need to be confident that the property is right for you.  

Before you sign a rental agreement, the rental provider must let the renter know: 

  • if they intend to sell the premises, and if so, whether they have engaged an agent to sell the property, or if there is a contract of sale
  • if a mortgagee is taking action to possess the premises, and if so, whether a mortgagee has commenced proceedings to enforce the mortgage  
  • if they are the owner of the property, or if they are not the owner of the property but they have a right to rent the property out  
  • if the premises are supplied with electricity from an embedded electricity network. If so, the rental provider must provide the trading name of the embedded network, ABN of the embedded network operator, the contact details, and electricity tariffs and any other fees applicable (or details where that information may be accessed)
  • if, to the best of the rental provider’s knowledge, the rental property or common property has been the location of a homicide in the last five years
  • if the rental property meets the rental minimum standards  
  • if, in the last three years, the rental provider has received a repair notice(s) seeking repair of mould or damp related to the building structure. (This disclosure requirement only starts after 31 December 2021)  
  • the date when an electricity safety check was last conducted at the premises  
  • the date when a gas safety check was last conduced at the premises
  • whether there are any outstanding recommendations from the electricity and gas safety checks 
  • if the rental property is a heritage listed place 
  • if, to the best of the rental provider’s knowledge, the rental property has been used for the trafficking or cultivation of a drug of dependence in the last five years  
  • if, to the best of the rental provider’s knowledge, the rental property has asbestos in it
  • if, to the best of the rental provider’s knowledge, the rental property is affected by any building or planning application lodged with a relevant planning authority
  • if the rental premises are subject to a notice, order, declaration, report or recommendation issued by a relevant building surveyor, municipal building surveyor, public authority or government department relating to any building defects or safety concerns associated with the rented premises or common property. If the answer is yes, the rental provider must provide a description of the order, notice or report
  • if there is a current domestic building work dispute under the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 relating to the rental premises
  • if there is a current dispute under Part 10 of the Owners Corporations Act 2006 (a dispute between owners, residents and/or the manager) which affects the rental premises
  • whether the rental premises is subject to the owners corporation rules (the rental provider must attach these the rules to the application form).  

Terms that should not be in your rental agreement 

A rental provider or renter must not prepare or authorise the preparation of a rental agreement of up to five years which includes a prohibited or invalid term.  

List of conditions that will be invalid

If a rental agreement contains additional terms aside from the ones in the standard form rental agreement, these terms may be invalid if:  

  • the term has been prohibited (see below)  
  • the term seeks to exclude, restrict, or modify or has the effect of excluding, restricting or modifying the application of the Residential Tenancies Act, including the exercise of any rights under that Act, to the rental agreement.  

This includes a term that is not set out in the rental agreement but is mentioned in the rental agreement.  

If you think an invalid term has been included in your rental agreement, seek advice from us. VCAT may declare that a term of a rental agreement is invalid.  

Note: the requirements relating to invalid terms do not apply to a term of a standard form rental agreement of more than five years.  

List of conditions that cannot be included

Renters cannot be required to:

  • take out any form of insurance
  • pay additional rent or penalties if they break the rules in the agreement 
  • pay for the rental provider or agent to prepare the agreement
  • pay rent in advance in a way that requires additional costs (other than bank fees or account fees payable on the renter’s bank account)
  • use the services of a third party service provider nominated by the rental provider other than an embedded network
  • pay for or organise maintenance of safety equipment that is the rental provider’s responsibility 
  • indemnify the rental provider.

The agreement also cannot say that:

  • rent will be reduced if the renter does not break the rules in the agreement
  • the renter will be paid rebates or other payments if they do not break the rules in the agreement
  • the renter will be bound by a contract that they did not agree to in writing after having an opportunity to review it before entering into the rental agreement 
  • the renter cannot make a claim for compensation because the rented premises are not available on the start date of the agreement
  • the renter has to pay the rental provider’s costs of filing an application at VCAT
  • the renter has to pay an insurance excess for a rental provider’s policy
  • the renter is liable by default for an insurance excess to be paid under an insurance policy of the rental provider (each situation has to be considered)
  • the renter has to pay a fixed fee for terminating an agreement early (unless the basis for calculating the fixed fees has been set out in the agreement)

There is a penalty for including a prohibited term in a rental agreement.   

Minimum standards for a rental property  

Rental providers must make sure their property is maintained according to rental minimum standards. This includes making sure: 

  • the property has no mould, pests or vermin 
  • existing appliances like ovens and stoves are in working order 
  • there is a safe, working heater 
  • there is a reasonable supply of hot water to the kitchen and bathroom 
  • the property’s structure is safe and weatherproof.  

If the rental property does not meet the minimum standards, renters can end the rental agreement before they move in. Renters can also request an urgent repair to make the rental property meet the minimum standards at any time after they move in.

Note:this only applies to new rental agreements signed from 29 March 2021. If your rental agreement was signed before this date, you can find more information on Transition to new renting laws.  

This is not a full list of the minimum standards. For more information about minimum standards, see Minimum standards for rental properties.  

What rental providers must give renters

At the start of every rental agreement, the rental provider or agent must give renters:

  • a copy of the rental agreement if it’s in writing
  • a copy of our Renters guide either as a paper copy or digitally if you have agreed to receive documents electronically
  • a phone number in case you need urgent repairs done out of business hours
  • the rental provider or agent’s full name, a postal address for sending them documents, and an email address (if they agreed in writing to receive notices and other documents electronically)
  • a set of keys for each renter who signed the agreement.

If renters had to pay a bond, the rental provider must give them:

  • two copies of the condition report (or one electronic copy)
  • a bond lodgement form to sign, so the bond money can be lodged with the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority.

If there is an owners’ corporation, renters must be given a copy of their rules.

Checklist for signing a rental agreement

  • The agreement is not incomplete or blank.
  • The bond is not more than one month's rent unless the rent is more than $900 per week.
  • You are not required to pay more than one month's rent in advance (unless you choose to or your rent is more than $900 per week).
  • There is at least one way to pay the rent where you do not have to pay a fee to a third party.
  • Negotiate any additional conditions that you want in the agreement (for example, that the rental provider will replace the oven within 6 months).
  • There is no charge to prepare the rental agreement.

You might also want to check that you agree with negotiable terms in the agreement about things like:

  • pets
  • cleaning
  • gardening, mowing or general maintenance
  • changes to the property.

Renting law reforms

Victoria made significant changes to renting laws in 2021.

You can read about the changes in a summary of the reforms or in detailed fact sheets and guides.

Some language also changed:

  • Landlords are now called rental providers
  • Tenants are now called renters
  • Leases are now called rental agreements.