If you’re currently renting in Australia, knowing what rights you have as a renter can be pretty confusing. Particularly when the Australian rental market is always changing.
Even knowing what you should avoid doing if you want your rental bond returned can be tricky.
Alya Stephan, COO of Sorted Services, Australia’s first all-in-one home services marketplace, says that just because the market is tough, doesn’t mean that rental providers hold all the power.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, some parts of the country temporarily gave their renters extra rights. These rights were aimed at a plethora of different things. The most notable was the moratorium on evictions for residential tenancies who were in financial distress and were unable to meet their renting commitments due to the pandemic.
Although the eviction ban has already been lifted in some states, this doesn’t mean that rental providers have the ability to come down hard on renters unfairly.
As a renter, you are entitled to a range of rights, more than you probably realise you have. So it’s important to know exactly where you stand. Rental laws will vary from the state and territories, so it’s important to check which ones apply where you live.
Alya Stephan gave us a handy list of 5 renting rights you have that you might not even know you have.
1. Your rental provider can’t continue to hike up the rent
This one is an important one to know as a renter. If you’re on a fixed-term tenancy agreement of two years or less, your rental provider actually cannot increase your rent.
The only way this can happen is if it’s written into the agreement.
Something that’s important to note here, according to Alya, is that if the agreement is for more than two years, your rental provider can increase the rent at any time. This is provided they give you appropriate notice and not more than once within a 12 month period.
Wherever you live in Australia, you are entitled to a notice period before a rent increase. For most places, it’s 60 days but again, check up on where you live.
Rental providers are allowed to increase your rent once your rental agreement is up and you have not signed another one. This is because you will then move on to a periodic agreement or a rolling lease. They can only do so once every 6 to 12 months, with NSW being an exception, where there is currently no limit of how often a rental provider can increase your rent.
An interesting fact that Alya told us was that there are no official limits on how high the rental provider can set your rent. The only rule is that they can’t increase it “excessively”.
This is where it can get a bit tricky because there is no clear definition of what exactly “excessively” means. If you think that your rent has seemingly increased at an excessive rate, you can dispute this rise through your local administrative tribunal or commissioner.
Alya says that one thing that can help you make the case that your rental provider is being unreasonable is to cite the typical rent in your area, the time since your last increase and the conditions of the property.
2. Your rental provider must provide a fee-free way to pay your rent
This is an interesting one that not many people know about. However, this isn’t a blanket rule across Australia.
In New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania, you’re entitled to at least one fee-free way to pay your rent.
3. Your rental provider can do more than just “urgent” repairs
You’d naturally expect your rental provider to make urgent repairs to keep you safe from things like electrical faults, burst water pipes, gas leaks or even a busted toilet.
Turns out, their obligations to their renters actually go further than just “urgent” repairs.
Rental providers must also maintain that the property is in a “reasonable” condition. However, just like with “excessively”, “reasonable” is also subjective and can change depending on which state or territory you’re in.
For non-urgent repairs, your rental provider is allowed to take a little longer to respond. Depending on the age and state of the property when you moved in, the standard of repairs you can expect may vary.
4. Your rental provider can’t evict you on the spot without good cause
This is a really important renting right to know to stop you from being suddenly evicted.
According to Ayla, in most of the states and territories, you can’t be asked to vacate before the end of a fixed-term lease. Not unless you’ve done something to break the terms of the lease.
In most places, you’re entitled to at least 28 days notice of a “no grounds” eviction. If you’re on a periodic lease, you’re still entitled to at least 14 days notice.
This means that even if you do fall behind on your rent, you won’t end up helpless without a place to live straight away. Your rental provider can issue you with a Notice to Vacate or Termination Notice which is just one step in the eviction process. This doesn’t mean you’re forced to leave if you receive one of these notices. As Ayla notes, you still have options.
5. Your rental provider can’t blacklist you for standing up for your rights
A lot of renters are scared to speak up for their rights and tell their rental providers what they need to be done in fear of being evicted or blacklisted.
Whilst the National Tenancy Database does keep a list of problem tenants that real estate agents can review when conducting tenant history checks, there are still rules around how names are added.
According to Ayla, you can only be listed once your tenancy has ended and you’ve breached your agreement. Or if your rent is in arrears by more than the bond that you paid.
This stops rental providers from blacklisting you in retaliation because of a dispute.
So contesting a rent increase, requesting repairs or just standing up for your rights doesn’t mean that you’ll be blacklisted by your rental provider.