The Top Ten Questions Tenants Should Ask

Finding a great property to rent is always exciting, but it’s best to be fully informed of your rights as a tenant before you start planning a shopping trip to furnish your new home.

Here are some key things you should know and some questions you need to ask the landlord or property manager prior to signing the lease.

1. What do I need to know about the property?

It’s always important to ask this question and to take your time looking over the property – to check things like the locks, whether appliances work, to look for signs of pests, leaks or mould. Taking a checklist like this one with you is a great idea. But remember: no property is 100% perfect. There’s always a compromise or a quirk in any property, but it’s great to be well-informed about any existing problems.

2. What security features does the property have?

It’s up to your landlord to provide ‘reasonable security’ in a rental property. This minimum level of security includes a deadlock or lockable security screen on the main entry door and other external doors and locks on the exterior windows so they cannot be opened from the outside. There must also be a light installed at the main entry to the property, and a functioning smoke alarm.

3. I’m moving in with two others. Are we all on the lease?

There are various types of shared tenancies but if, say, you and your two friends are moving into the property together, you’re probably going to sign the lease as co-tenants – which means all your names will be on the agreement. This also means you’re all liable for any damage that might occur to the property unless stated otherwise on the agreement. For example, if one tenant negligently trashes the carpet in the living room, the landlord can seek damages against all the tenants, rather than just the tenant responsible for the damage.

4. Are bills included in the lease agreement?

Tenants need to budget for rent, as well as utility bills like electricity, gas, phone and internet and water bills if they’re separately metered. If there is no separate metering for any of these services, you need a written agreement about how the charge will be calculated. Generally, you’ll be responsible for setting up utilities in your name at the start of a tenancy. Water is a little different, as the landlord is typically responsible for paying the water rates and the tenants pay for their consumption.

5. Who covers repair costs?

When you sign the lease check the property condition report is current and any maintenance issues have been addressed. If repairs or maintenance are required, the landlord is generally required to pay unless they were caused deliberately by the tenant. Communication is key here, so as soon as you are aware of any problem, get in touch with your landlord or property manager and, if you don’t hear back, follow up your request in writing. Standard rental agreements allow for “fair wear and tear” but tenants also have a responsibility to keep the property reasonably clean and hand it back in a similar condition to how it was at the start of the agreement.

6. When can the landlord enter the property and how regular are the inspections?

Landlords or property managers are entitled to enter the property after giving you notice, to conduct up to four routine inspections in any 12 month period. A landlord must also give you reasonable notice if they’re attending to collect rent or undertake repairs. The exception to this is during an emergency.

7. As a tenant, do I need home and contents insurance or do you cover that?

Most landlords will pay for insurance on the property itself but your possessions won’t be covered, so taking out a separate contents insurance is essential. This will ensure you are covered in case there’s a fire, damage to the property or you’re burgled.

8. How much is the bond and will I get it back when I move out?

A security bond is a deposit you give to the landlord when you start living in the property. The bond can only be a maximum of 4 weeks’ rent unless the rent is over $1200 or there’s a pet bond/agreement in place (this can be a maximum of $260). It needs to be lodged with the Bond Administrator (Consumer Protection). At the end of your tenancy, if there’s been any damage to the property or there are outstanding water bills or rent, the landlord has the right to take these costs out of your bond. If you owe nothing at the end of your tenancy you’re entitled to receive the full bond amount back. Make sure when you hand over your bond you get a receipt and take photos of the property for the property condition report.

9. What are my rights as a pet-owning tenant?

Always ask if your furry (or feathery) friend is allowed, rather than sneaking them in. Whether pets are allowed is at the landlord’s discretion, but if they do let you have one they may ask for a pet bond (maximum of $260). If your pet is prone to carrying fleas, ticks or other parasites, the pet bond may be used at the end of your tenancy to fumigate the property. The only exception to the pet bond is if you require a guide dog.

10. How often does the rent go up?

If you are in a fixed-term tenancy, the rent can only be increased during the fixed term if it is stated in the tenancy agreement. If you have a periodic lease (where you pay rent month to month without an end date in place), the rent can only be increased once every six months and you must be notified of the increase 60 days prior.

If you have questions about renting in Perth, contact our team of property management professionals today.

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