Residential rental agreements

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A rental agreement used to be called a lease or a residential tenancy agreement. It is a contract between the renter (tenant) and rental provider (landlord).

There are 3 types of rental agreements for residential properties such as houses, units and apartments.

There are different agreements for rooming houses, caravan parks, and site tenants in residential parks and villages.

On this page:

Other pages have information about renewing agreements, notices to vacate, and renters giving notice.

What should be in a rental agreement (lease)

Rental agreements should include:

  • the amount of rent and how it is to be paid
  • how rent increases will be calculated
  • the length and type of agreement
  • the amount of bond
  • other conditions and rules
  • any special terms.

Read more about renters’ rights when signing a rental agreement.

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

You can include extra terms and conditions that are not in the form, as long as they are not prohibited by the law. You must not include terms which take away any of the rights and responsibilities provided for by the law.

There is no cooling-off period for a rental agreement, so you should make sure you understand it and accept the conditions before you sign one.

Different types of residential rental agreements (leases)

There are 3 types of residential rental agreements:

  • short fixed-term agreements 
  • long fixed-term agreements 
  • periodic (month to month) agreements.

Short fixed-term agreements

Most fixed-term agreements are short-term. They might be for 6 or 12 months, but they can be up to 5 years.

Short-term agreements can be written or verbal, but we recommended using written agreements.

You should use this form:

If a short fixed-term agreement ends, and you stay in the rented premises without signing a further agreement, it will automatically turn into a periodic (month to month) agreement.

Long fixed-term agreements

Long fixed-term agreements are for more than 5 years.

People might choose a long-term agreement because it offers more security and stability. It also lets people agree before they sign the agreement about things like how rent increases will be calculated and making changes to the property.

There are some different laws for long-term agreements. These include:

  • Bond top ups. Rental providers can ask for additional bond after the renter has been living in the property for 5 years and there is a long-term agreement for another 5 or more years.
  • Renters installing fixtures and altering the property. A rental provider and renter can agree on some changes before signing a long-term agreement. If those changes are written into the agreement, the renter does not need to get any other permission from the rental provider before making them.
  • Breaking the agreement. Renters who leave early may have to pay one month’s rent for every full year remaining on the agreement up to a maximum of 6 months.

Long-term agreements must be in writing. If not, the renter can end the agreement at any time by giving the rental provider 28 days’ notice. The renter will not have to pay a penalty.

You should use this form:

If a long fixed-term agreement ends, and you stay in the rented premises without signing a further agreement, it will automatically turn into a periodic (month to month) agreement. The rules of that periodic agreement will be the standard fixed term agreement of 5 years or less at the time the agreement ends.   

Periodic (month to month) agreements

Month to month agreements do not have an end date.

When a fixed-term rental agreement ends, it will automatically turn into a periodic agreement, unless either the rental provider or the renter gives notice to end the agreement or chooses to start a new fixed-term agreement.

Usually, the renter does not sign a new agreement when a fixed-term agreement becomes a month to month agreement. However, if a rental provider or renter wish to enter into a written period agreement, they must use the prescribed form: Form 1 - Residential rental agreement (Word, 1.5MB).

If the fixed-term agreement was for 5 years or less, the terms and conditions of the original agreement still apply to the new periodic agreement.

If a long fixed-term agreement ends, and it rolls over into a periodic agreement, the rules of that periodic agreement will be the standard fixed term agreement of 5 years or less at the time the lease ends. 

Before moving in

Before a renter moves in, the rental provider or agent must give them:

  • a copy of the rental agreement if it’s in writing
  • a copy of the Renters guide either as a paper copy or digitally if the renter agreed to receive documents electronically
  • a phone number in case the renter needs 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 to receive notices and documents electronically)
  • a set of keys for each renter who signed the agreement
  • a condition report (2 copies or 1 electronic).

Changing agreements (leases)

Renters and rental providers can agree to change from one kind of agreement to another. They can:

  • mutually agree to end the current agreement early and start the new agreement
  • wait until the current agreement ends and then start a new agreement.

When a fixed-term rental agreement ends, it will automatically turn into a periodic agreement, unless either the rental provider or the renter gives notice to end the agreement. However, you can both agree to start another fixed-term agreement.

Conditions that cannot be in an agreement (lease)

Agreements can include additional conditions if the renter or rental provider requests them, but there are some conditions that are not allowed.

If one of these prohibited conditions is included in the agreement, it is not valid. The rental provider may also have to pay penalties for including a prohibited term in the agreement.

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.

As well, the agreement 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 fee has been set out in the agreement).

Forms you might need

Agreements must be in the ‘prescribed form’. A prescribed form is defined by Victorian rental law. We recommend using our official forms:

Renting law reforms

Victoria made significant changes to renting laws in 2021. This includes setting a list of conditions that cannot be included in a rental agreement.

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.

Sections of the Act

If you want to know what the law says about residential rental agreements, you can read these sections of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997:

  • Part 1, Division 1, Subdivision 1 – Application to residential rental agreements
  • Part 2 – Residential tenancies – Residential rental agreement.