Ask LH: Is My Lease Invalid Because My Landlord Lied?

I recently signed a lease on a new rental property in Perth. The signed lease states that I have gas, electricity and water included in my weekly rent however my property manager has just contacted me and told me that is incorrect and I need to pay for my own gas and electricity. Does that mean my lease agreement is void? Can I argue for either a reduction of my rent to account for the misinformation or force them to fulfil their end of the agreement and pay my gas and electricity? Thanks, Confused Renter

pictureElectricity/money from Shutterstock

Dear CR,

Once it's been signed by both parties, everything that was on the lease becomes a legally binding contract. The landlord can't decide to scrub stuff off that allegedly wasn't supposed to be there.

Could you imagine what would happen if you claimed there was an error in the rent you were willing to spend and adjusted your payments accordingly? In short, the lease is there for a reason and both parties need to stick to their side of the bargain.

If the lease says gas, electricity and water are covered, then they should be covered — at the very least, you certainly should score a reduction in rent, but the first push is to try and get what you signed up for.

For legal advice and support, contact the WA Tenant Advice line, which is a free service. It's office hours are between 9:15am and 3:30pm, weekdays. If any readers have had similar experiences, let CR know how you handled it in the comments section below.

See also: How To Avoid Getting Screwed When Renting An Apartment | Keep Dishonest Landlords At Bay With Your Camera

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    I would love to hear the outcome of this one!

    If WA is anything like Victoria, you're going to pay whatever's on the lease and not get Electricity or Gas included, or you will not have a home. Try and negotiate all you like, you're not going to get it, you'll just get kicked out.

      Same with NSW. I went to the tribunal with my real estate and when the judge (or what ever they are) said that he agreed with us, then real estate just gave us a eviction notice.. our lease was up but kinda make the tribunal pointless. We had been there for 8 years.

        Surely at that point you would have a valid claim for compensation of your moving expenses and possibly the difference in lease costs for the duration of your lease. It would not be hard to convince a small claims judge that you were evicted because you enforced your end of the lease.

        WA has a minimum notice of 67 days to evict a tenant without a breach of the lease
        Given the 2 months notice and the likelyhood of your lease being partially elapsed already, unless you have signed a 12 months lease (most are 6) then the difference in costs would be minimal.

        That said, the landlord can just vary the lease however they choose the next time it comes up; don't want to pay $50 more and no utilities when you sign up next? Tough, get out!
        In longer leases there is normally a provision to review the rent at the 6 month point as well, however I think there are limits to the increase allowable.

          He said that he's lease had expired. A landlord doesn't have to pay any compensation when a lease has expired. They don't have to renew it.

            Exactly, my lease was up so there is nothing that I can do. They are fully with in there rights. It just sucks for us as they only did that because the judge wanted them to do all this extra work. So tribunal only works if you are with in your lease as the agent can always pull this card if they want.

      If WA is anything like the rest of the country, if it's on a signed lease, it's on a signed lease. Much as the article explained, its a legally binding contract that has been agreed to by both parties.

        Yes, it is. But if you try to get anything on that contract enforced the landlord will just evict you using one of the many loopholes they have to get out of such contracts.

          probably better off somewhere else then -- and maybe see (if possible) if they make a habit of it, because that would be kinda illegal (though IANAL)

          I'd get advice from your state's tenancy advocate service.

          There's no way that you can get evicted using one of these 'loopholes' - and you can't be evicted by the landlord - a bailiff has to do it.

          Such as...?

            "My family member is moving in". Get out of lease free card for the landlord. Have your sister move in for 2 days then put it up for rent again.

              This is full of crap. As a landlord i have wanted to evict many tenants, its a arduous task that costs money, unless the tenant has obvious means to rehouse themselves, if the alternative is that the tenant would need to live in public housing it will take months to get them moved, it better they live on the private purse than the public one.

              The only way i've been able to remove a tenant is when the lease has expired and to raise the rent every month until they move out. That said if they are on centrelink even this method wont work as the courts will let them fall behind while 'public housing' opens up which takes months.

    In NSW it has been established that any agreement in an "additional terms" portion of a lease agreement can be held invalid if it directly contradicts something in the standard form portion of the lease.

    Presuming the same standard applies in WA, the standard form says tenant pays if the utility is metered separately. (Sauce: http://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/consumerprotection/PDF/Forms/Renting/1AAResidentialTenancyAgreement.pdf)

    I suspect CR might be unlucky in this case.

    Buy an antfarm. Take the bottom off it. Fill it with white-ants and keep it under the stairs. Don't get caught.

      In Perth, they make houses out of bricks and concrete, so the white ants would just eat the guy's furniture.

      Last edited 19/07/13 4:27 pm

        Chuck them up in the roof space. Termites love jarrah :)

        Depends how old the house is. A lot of older ones, like mine, have jarrah floorboards, roof beams, doors, window frames, etc.

    While you could probably fight it, you won't be on the good side of the agent or landlord by doing so - it's simply not worth the hassle.

    If you want out, then get out, otherwise suck it up.

      Considering the difference in outlay, I would say it's very much worth the hassle. Are you willing to pay that much money just to have somebody like you?

      'Sucking it up' is exactly how dodgy landlords and salespeople get away with bait and switch type tactics.

    Try to achieve an amicable outcome. Remember, when you apply for your next lease, they generally ask to contact your current agent. While you could deny providing those details, you *might* be bumped down the list of potential tenants.
    Think long term and ask for an adjustment to rent etc. Good luck!

    I've discovered the joys of paying 12 months rent up front. It's expensive, but if you're in a position to do it, it gives you so much more power.

    ProTip: Wait a month or two and give them a chance to spend most of the money before raising any grievances.

    Is there a registry for shitty landlords? If not, start one. Make $1,000,000, send me 10%

      I wish there was, my previous landlord arrived unannounced at least 4 times in the 14 months i was there and helped themselves to their sheds without even talking to us first 3 times (because those times), then as we were cleaning up after moving our stuff out (got a "landlord wants to move back in" letter while on honeymoon) he rocks up and asks us how much longer till we move out, we ended up giving the keys in top the agent the next day with the place about 90% cleaned cause we had had it with them (still got full bond back, luckily for them).

      While i know i would be in my rights to kick up a huge stink (after all he was trespassing) i knew if i did it would be a hard task getting a new place being labeled a troublesome tenant, i complained to the agents but they didn't do anything about it. Once i called up about a maintenance request for a minor gas leak under the stove, they wanted me to email the request in, despite my objections i did so and never got a response) and generally took months to get anything fixed.

      With my new place i got a garage door opener (half paid for by me and half by the owners) installed, took less than 2 weeks from first request to it being installed and other maintenance requests dealt with lightning fast. Its a completely different experience.

      If i were in CR's place id be tempted to find a new place preferably with different agents using the violated agreement as a get out of jail free card and possibly moving expenses paid. Its not worth putting up with sub standard landlords and agents, they are an unnecessary stress and will screw you when they can.

        Certain types of problems require a response by the agent or landlord within a reasonable time frame or you can do the repairs yourself and send the bill through to your landlord (which they must then pay within 14 days). Make sure you keep an audit trail of your notifications if you do this.

          Yeah i read up about that at the time, i was going to do that for the gas leak but they finally did something about it. At the time i wanted to stay there for longer than the first year, and didn't want to rock the boat.

    Any breach of the written conditions by either party terminates the lease (if you want to play that). You are within your rights to move out. I'd be concerned about a spiteful property agent then putting me in to the bad tenant's databse, however. Tenant's have little power, but its been a while since I experienced a landlord that was as dishonest as in this case.

      No, it doesn't terminate the lease.

      Please, people who know what they're talking about should be giving advice, not armchair lawyers.

      Sweet Jesus.

      I used to work at the Tenancies Tribunal in Melbourne.

      BREACHING THE CONTRACT DOESN'T TERMINATE THE LEASE.

      MAKING ASSUMPTIONS AND JUST MOVING OUT ON THE SAY SO OF SOME INTERNET LAWYERS WILL END BADLY FOR YOU.

      Contact a tenancy advocate service, or your state's Residential Tenancies Tribunal.

    The real estate agent has made a material mistake.
    Any reasonable person should know that electricity and gas included would be a very unlikely bargain.
    Your only remedy is termination of the lease.
    You will not get re-moving expenses.

    Be nice, ask him for a few quid off. Take him to tribunal and be out of a house.

      Not at all, it depends how much he's paying. Just because it's included in the rent doesn't mean it's a bargain, the rent may have been jacked up an extra 30% because of it.

    HI everyone it's 2017 and I have been renting my house for more than 3yrs and recently my landlord told me verbally that I had to pay for my water bill out of the blue now I have my lease and it still says landlord pays for water but I have been paying it since can you guys help me I know he is wrong

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