We regularly receive questions from estate agents about residential tenancy agreements, bonds, tenant requests and repairs.
This information will help you avoid potential costly and time-consuming disputes.
On this page:
Before a lease is signed
It is a good idea to:
- ensure you know whether the property has any faults - for example, if a heater or dishwasher is not working properly
- inspect the property and recommend any necessary repairs to the landlord before you agree to manage it
- be upfront with the landlord about any problems with a property that may affect your ability to find tenants
- get clear instructions from the landlord about what aspects of the property they are not prepared to repair or replace
- indicate in a condition report anything about the property that does not work and will not be repaired or replaced
- ensure you have up-to-date contact details for the landlord or their nominated representative, so you can contact them any time urgent repairs are needed
- obtain written authority from the landlord to spend money on their behalf for both urgent and non-urgent repairs, including the amounts agreed to. This authority must comply with the Estate Agents Act 1980
- have an established procedure for approving non-urgent repairs if the landlord or nominated representative cannot be contacted for an extended period of time - for example, if they live overseas, are on holiday or in hospital
- supply both the landlord and tenants with our Renting a home: a guide for tenants (PDF, 2.7MB) or Renting a home: a guide for tenants (Word, 362KB). To make a single or bulk order of this guide, download and complete our Renting publications and forms order (Word, 111KB). A summary of this guide is also available in 21 languages in our Other languages section
- recommend that both the landlord and tenants download our free renting app, available from our RentRight smartphone app page.
Residential tenancy agreement (lease)
If a residential tenancy agreement is in writing, you must use the form of the agreement set out in the Residential Tenancy Regulations 2008.
For more details, download the Residential tenancy agreement (PDF, 1.5MB).
Special conditions may be added to the prescribed agreement but only if they do not exclude, restrict or modify tenants’ and landlords’ rights and obligations, as set out in the Residential Tenancies Act 1997.
You must give a copy of a prescribed agreement - with the details of the proposed tenancy filled in - to a tenant before it is signed. Once both the tenant and landlord sign it, you must give a copy of the signed document to the tenant within 14 days.
You must also give the tenant (no later than the day they move in):
You must not charge tenants fees for:
- beginning, continuing or renewing a tenancy agreement
- preparing a lease
- supplying keys and security devices to each tenant named on the lease
- issuing a rent card for rent payment
- the establishment or ongoing use of direct debit facilities.
Residential tenancy bonds
Under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, you must lodge residential tenancy bonds (also called rental bonds or security deposits) with the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA). Generally, the maximum amount allowable for a residential tenancies bond is four weeks’ rent.
Generate a bond lodgement form in RTBA Online. Submit the form and bond payment to the RTBA within 10 business days of receiving the bond. For more information, view our Lodging the bond page.
The RTBA can accept bond cheques and money orders made payable either to you or the RTBA. The RTBA cannot accept bonds paid in cash.
Generally, you do not have to deposit a rental bond in your trust account. However, if you receive a cash bond from a tenant, you must deposit the money into your trust account and send a trust account cheque to the RTBA for the bond amount.
During a lease
- Only use reliable, competent tradespeople who are licensed appropriately.
- Make and keep appointments with tenants after they request repairs.
- Keep the landlord up to date when you inspect the property. Report on any damage, including wear and tear.
- Advise the landlord and tenant if a new property manager from your agency is assigned to the property.
Repairs and maintenance
The Residential Tenancies Act 1997 distinguishes between urgent and non-urgent repairs.
The landlord or agent must respond immediately if a tenant requests urgent repairs. These are:
- burst water service
- blocked or broken toilet system
- serious roof leak
- gas leak
- dangerous electrical fault
- flooding or serious flood damage
- serious storm or fire damage
- failure or breakdown of any essential service or appliance provided by a landlord for hot water, water, cooking, heating, or laundering
- failure or breakdown of the gas, electricity or water supply
- any fault or damage that makes the premises unsafe or insecure
- an appliance, fitting or fixture that is not working properly and causes a substantial amount of water to be wasted
- any fault or damage that makes rented premises unsafe or insecure
- a serious fault in a lift or staircase.
Non-urgent repairs are requests that fall outside the list above.
When a tenant requests non-urgent repairs:
- advise the landlord in writing by email, letter or a Notice to landlord of rented premises (Word, 1.9MB)
- gather all necessary information for the non-urgent repair, to prevent delays and potential disputes
- maintain communication with the landlord. Record (in writing or electronically) all contact with them in case there are questions over your responsibility to advise them or your authority to undertake repairs.
When a landlord wants to do their own repairs to the property:
- the tenant must be given the required notice and kept informed
- ensure the landlord is aware of their legal obligations regarding notice and entering a property
- remind landlords that certain repairs can only be done by licensed tradespeople; for example, electrical, gas or swimming pool repairs
- all repairs should be of an acceptable standard.
If a landlord says ‘no’ to a tenant’s request for a non-urgent repair
Make sure the landlord is aware of the consequences of their decision. For example, such a response may lead to the tenant making an inspection request to us and later, an application to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). The landlord may be liable for additional expenses, such as a fee for the property manager attending the VCAT hearing and compensation to the tenant.
Replacement of items
Sometimes items in rental properties need to be replaced - for example, an oven or heater. An identical replacement is not always an option and an alternative item may need to be installed.
The landlord does not necessarily have to replace an item in a rental property with an identical item - for example, if the same product is available in a different brand.
However, before the landlord decides on a replacement, the property manager should inform them of possible consequences if the replacement item significantly increases running costs for a tenant. For example, if a gas heater is replaced with an electric heater, there should not be a significant increase in running costs.
It is important for the landlord or property manager to communicate with the tenant about the proposed replacement and any additional running costs. This could prevent a dispute being taken to VCAT.
Gas appliances, such as heaters and stoves, should be properly maintained or they may pose a health risk through carbon monoxide poisoning.
Under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, a landlord must ensure rented premises are maintained in good repair. Good repair includes all appliances provided by the landlord as part of the tenancy agreement. These appliances must be safe to use and properly maintained.
Landlords should ensure that:
- tenants are provided with a copy of the manufacturers' instructions
- only a licensed gasfitter performs gasfitting work
- all appliances are safe for use before letting or re-letting a property
- all appliances, pipework and flue systems are installed and maintained correctly
- pipes are correctly sealed if appliances are removed
- all safety checks and details of work done on gas installations are recorded and certificates of compliance obtained when required.
Failure to ensure that appliances are in good repair can cause property damage, serious injury or death.
Energy Safe Victoria recommends gas heaters be serviced at least every two years. For more information, visit the Landlord and property manager responsibilities page on the Energy Safe Victoria website.
A gas leak is an urgent repair and must be fixed immediately. For more information, view our Urgent repairs page.
Family violence in a rental property
If a tenancy is affected by family violence, tenants, landlords and property managers have specific rights and obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997.
For example, a tenant who is a ‘protected person’ under a family violence safety notice, family violence intervention order or personal safety intervention order may:
- change the locks
- apply to VCAT to end the lease early
- apply to VCAT to end the lease early and start a new lease in the same property without the other person (respondent).
As a property manager, if the locks have been changed, you must not give keys to a tenant who you know has been excluded from the rental property under a family violence safety notice, family violence intervention order or personal safety intervention order.
For more information, download the Family violence in a tenancy - real estate agents and landlords (PDF, 221KB) or Family violence in a tenancy - real estate agents and landlords (Word, 39KB).
Ending a lease
Landlords and tenants can mutually agree in writing to end a fixed-term lease at any time before the lease's end date.
For more information on when a landlord can give the tenant a written notice to vacate, view our Landlord giving notice to vacate page.
If the tenant wants to end the lease, they must give 28 days' notice of their intention to vacate, with the 28th day falling on or after the lease's end date. If they are on a month-by-month agreement, the tenant can give this notice at any time.
If a tenant wants to end a lease earlier than the required notice period (break the lease), they can be charged re-letting fees, re-advertising fees and rent lost while the premises are vacant. You can find more information on our Tenant giving notice of intention to vacate page.
Retail, commercial and industrial leases
We do not have jurisdiction to deal with retail, commercial or industrial lease disputes. Our jurisdiction covers only residential leases.
Please seek legal advice or contact the Office of the Victorian Small Business Commissioner, which provides information and dispute resolution services for retail tenants. For more information, visit the Retail leasing matters section on the Victorian Small Business Commissioner website.