Sunday, February 4, 2007

Beginning and Ending a Tenancy

Renting a home can be a mind field of lessons and red tape, the most cautious times however tend to be at the beginning and end of your lease. Last month we talked about how to best go about applying for a property. This month is all about how to secure the tenancy from beginning to end and being aware of your rights.

Paying the Bond
Once a date has been set to ‘sign leases’ you will be required to pay the bond amount and first months rent upfront. Many real estate agents will require the payments be made in two separate bank cheques or cash rather then credit or eftpos cards. Bonds are calculated on rent per weeks. For properties with rent under $350 per week the bond may be up to four weeks. Properties over $350 per week may be asked to pay up to six weeks rent.

Lease Names
It is important that everyone living in the flat put their name on the lease. This ensures that each tenant has equal rights for basic things such as collecting keys and receiving access to the property to larger issues such as abandoned goods and rental references.

Completing a Condition Report
Completing a condition report is one of the only formal opportunities for tenants to record any damage or wear on the property. You must fill in two copies of the report for each room noting any issues such as marks on the walls, stains on the carpets etc. to ensure that when you vacate you are not held responsible for them. You must hand in the landlord copy to your property manager and HOLD ONTO their own copy incase any disputes arise.

Maintence and Keys
The beginning of the lease is the best opportunity to have any maintenance requests followed out by the landlord. Bring attention to the issues noted on the condition report and make sure they are followed up. Once you have been in a property for a while it can become more difficult to draw attention to smaller non essential maintenance issues. Also make sure you are happy with the amount and quality of keys you are given. Make sure all remotes and security passes work well as later in the lease you will be required to pay for them yourself.

Ways of Ending your Lease
There are a few general opportunities to vacate the property. You may:
- complete the fixed term of your tenancy and give 28 days notice in writing to the landlord before your lease completion date
- stay on in the property after your fixed term and give 28 days notice in writing to your landlord once you are on a periodic lease
- transfer the rest of the fixed lease or periodic lease to someone else
- break your lease by notifying the landlord in writing and allowing the landlord to find new tenants
As long as the correct amount of notice is given in the first two scenarios no cost is incurred.

Transferring a lease can be tricky as the property manager must approve the new applicant and draw up new lease amendments, some property managers can take a long time to do this possibly causing you to pay two rents while you wait. Tenant transfers also become difficult in practice as the new tenant must pay the outgoing tenant their share of the bond and put their name on the bond form. Often we find disputes then arise at the end of the tenancy if bond money is not received.

Breaking a lease is the most expensive way of choosing to end your lease. Some agencies will require you conduct inspections at the property until a new tenant is found or pay for advertising costs. You may need to pay rent until a new tenant is found which could potentially be until the end of the original lease agreement. And finally, breaking a lease does not look too good on your rental history.

Claiming Your Bond
When you vacate you must leave the house in a clean state, effectively in better condition then you began the lease. This will ensure your full bond is received. Most real estate agents will require you steam clean the properties carpets and supply them with a receipt when you hand back all keys and remotes. You must leave on the day you say you will or you may be required to pay for the extra days.

When completing a bond claim for everyone on the original bond lodgment or those whom have transferred onto it must sign the claim form. Be careful to sign exactly as you did on the original lodgment form (refer to your copy to check signature) as they are processed by a computer that demands very high similarities. Do not fill in the bond claim amount until AFTER your property manger or landlord has done the final inspection and tells you how much you will receive.

I hope all of the above is helpful as it important not only to know your rights as a tenant but to make your time in each property easy and ensure you receive a glowing rental reference for your next property.

Good luck

And happy renting!