Property management - Agreements and bonds

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International students affected by the coronavirus travel ban – February/March 2020

This information is for property managers whose student renters are unable to travel to Victoria. These students may need to either:

  • delay occupation of their rental accommodation, or
  • cancel it altogether.

There is related information for students on International students.

If the student has signed a rental agreement

If the student asks to delay occupation or to cancel the rental arrangement (effectively terminating it), you can do these things by mutual agreement. Make sure you put this in writing.

If a student who cancels before moving in has paid any rent in advance, they may ask for a refund or partial refund. If they paid a bond, you must instruct the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA) to release it back to the student.

If you and the student cannot reach an agreement, either you or they can apply to VCAT to terminate the rental agreement due to severe hardship. You can read more about renting laws and support during the pandemic.

If the student paid a deposit or bond but has not signed a rental agreement

This may be considered a verbal agreement. You can change or cancel it by mutual agreement. Make sure you put this in writing.

If a student who cancels before moving in has paid any rent in advance, they may ask for a refund or partial refund. If they paid a bond, you must instruct the RTBA to release it back to the student.

If you and the student cannot reach an agreement, either you or they can apply to VCAT to terminate the lease due to severe hardship.

If the student has paid a deposit, but is not entering into a rental agreement, the deposit must be returned.

If the student has not signed a rental agreement or paid any money

The student can cancel the arrangement by notifying you. They are not required to pay any money.

Residential rental agreements (leases)

If a rental agreement is in writing, it must be in the prescribed standard form. We provide the following prescribed forms for residential rental agreements:

Long-term agreements must be in writing, using either of the above forms. For more information, view Residential rental agreements.

If a long-term agreement is not in the prescribed form, the renter can end the agreement by giving 28 days’ notice.

Special conditions may be added to the prescribed agreements but only if they do not exclude, restrict or modify renters’ and rental providers’ rights and obligations, as set out in the Residential Tenancies Act 1997.

There are some terms that are prohibited from being used in a rental agreement. A rental agreement will be considered invalid if it contains a term which:

  • binds the renter to a contract that they did not agree to in writing after having a chance to review it
  • requires the renter to indemnify the rental provider
  • prevents the renter from claiming compensation where the premises are not available at the start of the agreement
  • requires the renter to pay rent in advance using a payment method which involves additional costs
  • forces the renter to use a third party service provider nominated by the rental provider other than an embedded network
  • imposes fees for, or delegates, safety-related maintenance that is the responsibility of the rental provider
  • makes the renter liable for the rental provider’s costs when filing an application at VCAT
  • makes the renter liable for any insurance excess paid under the rental provider’s insurance policy.

Note: The rules on prohibited terms only apply to new rental agreements signed from the 29 March 2021. If an agreement was signed before this date, you can find more information on Transition to new renting laws.

You must give a copy of the agreement – with the details of the proposed tenancy included – to the renter before it is signed. Once both the renter and rental provider sign it, you must give a copy of the signed document to the renter within 14 days.

Questions which the rental provider must not ask the potential renter

When someone applies for a rental property there are certain questions that the rental provider is not permitted to ask them. This includes:

  • Whether the applicant has previously taken legal action against or had a dispute with a rental provider.
  • Questions about the applicant’s bond history.
  • Requests for detailed bank statements- renters can redact transactions from their bank statement to protect their privacy.
  • Questions that require the renter to disclose attributes protected under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (such as ethnicity, gender identity, disability). If the rental provider wishes to ask about an attribute that is relevant to the tenancy, they must detail the reason for the request in writing.

Misleading or deceptive representations

You must not encourage someone to enter a rental agreement by misleading or deceiving them. This includes making false or misleading statements about:

  • the rental provider's interest in the land
  • the rent payable under the agreement
  • the location of the property
  • the characteristics of the property
  • how the property can be used
  • the existence or availability of facilities.

Before the renter moves in, you must give them:

Fees

You must not charge renters fees for:

  • beginning, continuing or renewing a rental agreement
  • preparing a rental agreement
  • supplying a set of keys or any other security devices to each renter named on the agreement
  • issuing a rent card for rent payment
  • the establishment or ongoing use of direct debit facilities.

Mandatory disclosures

You must tell a renter the following information before starting a rental agreement:

  • if there is an ongoing proposal to sell the property
  • if a mortgagee is taking action for possession of the property
  • if the rental provider is not the owner of the property, you must tell the renter that the rental provider has a right to let the property and the nature of the rental provider’s interest in the property
  • if electricity is supplied to the property from an embedded electricity network, you must tell the renter details of the embedded electricity network
  • if the rented premises or common property is known by the rental provider or their agent to have been the location of a homicide in the last 5 years
  • if the premises meets the rental minimum standards
  • the date of the most recent gas safety check, electrical safety check, and pool barrier compliance check, if one was required
  • any outstanding recommendations for work to be completed resulting from a gas or electrical safety check
  • if the property is a registered place under the Heritage Act 2017
  • any notice, order, declaration, report or recommendation issued by a relevant building surveyor, public authority or government department that applies to the rented premises or common property at the time of disclosure
  • if there is a current domestic building work dispute under the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 which applies to or affects the rented premises
  • if there is a current dispute under Part 10 of the Owners Corporations Act 2006
  • a copy of any owners corporations rules
  • if the rented premises is known by the rental provider or their agent to:
    • be contaminated through prior use of the rented premises for the trafficking or cultivation of a drug of dependence in the last 5 years
    • have friable or non-friable asbestos based on an inspection by a suitably qualified person
    • be affected by a building or planning application that has been lodged with the relevant authority.

From 1 December 2021, you must tell also a renter if the rental provider or their agent knows if there have been issues with mould or damp related to the exterior of the building in the last 3 years.

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 one month's rent. For more information on bond amounts in short-term and long-term rental agreements, view bond amounts and payments and lodging the bond.

Property managers should lodge bonds electronically through RTBA Online. Learn how with our guide to lodging a bond for property managers.

In cases where a renter does not have an email address or is unable to complete an electronic transaction, you can generate a bond lodgement paper form through RTBA Online. You must submit the lodgement and bond payment to the RTBA within 10 business days of receiving the bond from the renter.

When lodging electronically, the bond money is debited from the nominated agency bank account. These withdrawn funds are automatically deposited into a bank account held by the RTBA and held in trust by the RTBA until a bond claim is submitted. The RTBA is only authorised to withdraw funds if the appropriate process for claiming the bond is undertaken. If the RTA receives notice that a bond claim is being disputed at VCAT, the bond claim will not be paid until the proceeding is finalised.

The RTBA accepts:

  • direct debits from the bank account registered on the property manager or rental provider’s RTBA Online account (electronic)
  • bond cheques and money orders made payable either to you or the RTBA (paper form).

The RTBA cannot accept bonds paid in cash.

Ending a rental agreement

Rental providers and renters can mutually agree in writing to end a fixed-term agreement at any time before the agreement’s end date.

For information on how and when a rental provider can give the renter a written notice to vacate, view Notices to vacate.

If the renter wants to end the agreement, they must give 28 days’ notice of their intention to vacate, with the 28th day falling on or after the end date. If they are on a month-by-month agreement, the renter can give this notice at any time.

If a renter wants to end an agreement 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 Breaking a rental agreement.

For information on bond claim processes at the end of a tenancy, view Claiming the bond.

Retail, commercial and industrial leases

Consumer Affairs Victoria does 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 Retail tenants and landlords - Victorian Small Business Commissioner.