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Avoiding rotten rentals

CHOICE says knowing your rental rights can help you avoid a rotten rental

31 October 2014

Renting a roof over your head can be the most affordable and often only option for millions of Australians but if you don’t know your rights lazy landlords can leave you languishing in damp, dangerous and dingy digs.

A recent CHOICE survey found that 45% of renters are finding it difficult to get by and many are seemingly unaware of their rights when it comes to bonds, rent increases and repairs. [1] 

“We’ve all heard rental horror stories of tenants being slapped with unexplained rent increases and struggling to get repairs completed, so it is important to know your rights to avoid being treated unfairly or exploited,” says CHOICE spokesperson Tom Godfrey.

“To help consumers navigate the tricks and traps of renting we have identified five rights which will help ensure consumers get the most out of their  tenancy and don’t end up out in the cold,” says Mr Godfrey.  

Five rental rights worth knowing:

1. Rental increases

Your rent cannot be increased during a fixed-term tenancy agreement (less than two years), unless it is written into your contract. For a periodic lease, in most states and territories your rent can only be increased every six to 12 months. Plus, in most states and territories you’re entitled to a notice period of 60 days.[2]

Landlords are also not allowed to increase your rent by an excessive amount. While there is no set amount that is regarded as excessive, if you believe the rent increase is too large, you can dispute it through your state’s appropriate service.    

2. Fee-free rent payments  

Renters are often charged fees through third-party rent collection companies. In South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland, you’re entitled to at least one fee-free way to pay rent.[3]

3. Right to repairs    

Landlords are required to conduct repairs to keep the property in a reasonable condition. If your landlord does not take care of a repair or maintenance request, you may be able to apply to a tenancy tribunal to have your rent paid into a special account until the repairs are completed.

4. Right not to be on tenancy databases    

You can only be put on the tenancy database for two reasons: if your rent is overdue by an amount larger than the bond, or if you’ve breached your tenancy agreement.[4] Your agent or landlord is required to inform you if they plan on listing you, giving you time to consider and dispute the claims.  

5. Right to get your bond back 

Unless your landlord can make a legitimate complaint to the bond board, you have the right to get your bond back as soon as your tenancy is over.[5] 

If you have experienced a rental horror story, tell us about it on Facebook:  facebook.com/choiceaustralia.

For more information on rental rights, please visit http://www.choice.com.au/money/property/renting/articles/rental-rights

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