The lease or residential tenancy agreement is an agreement between you (the tenant) and the landlord. It is made up of two parts. The first part sets out both the tenant’s and the landlord’s rights and responsibilities. If you sign the lease it means that you agree to abide by its terms and conditions. It is a legal document and you should read it before you sign it. The second part of the lease is the condition report.
There are two types of tenancy agreements – fixed-term and periodic. A fixed-term agreement is for a set period of time, whereas a periodic agreement goes from week to week or month to month.
Before you sign the lease you must be given a written copy of the lease. You should ask for a copy of the booklet ’Guide to Renting in the NT’. This booklet explains both your rights and responsibilities as a tenant and those of the landlord. It is available online or free from Consumer Affairs (1800 019 319).
You should check the following on the lease:
- the amount of rent that is payable;
- the amount of bond money required;
- the term of the lease;
- if any tradespeople are nominated on the lease to call in case of an urgent repair;
- any additional terms.
An inspection and condition report should be done which you can attend. A copy of a condition report must be given to you no later than 3 business days after you take possession of the property.
The lease term
A lease (residential tenancy agreement) will usually be valid for a specified period of time and this will be noted on the lease itself. This period can be 3, 6, 12 months or longer and is called the fixed term of the lease. Once the fixed term ends the tenancy itself continues and it becomes a continuing or periodic agreement. If you choose to stay in the place under a continuing or periodic agreement you must still abide by the terms and conditions of the lease.
In the Northern Territory, under a periodic tenancy, a tenant can give 14 days notice in writing to leave the property without stipulating a reason. A landlord can give a tenant 42 days notice in writing requesting the tenant leave the property without stipulating a reason.
To terminate a tenancy at the end of a fixed term, the tenant or landlord may give 14 days notice in writing. A tenancy may be terminated during the fixed term if either party does the wrong thing under the lease agreement.
For further information, refer to the booklet ‘Guide to Renting in the NT’ available online or call Consumer Affairs on 1800 019 319.
Additional terms in the lease
Most of the lease (residential tenancy agreement) is made up of standard terms that have been taken from the Residential Tenancies Act (NT). They cannot be changed or deleted. However, you as the tenant or the landlord can add additional terms to the lease as long as these terms do not contradict the Act.
One common additional term added by the landlord is that no pets are allowed. If you intend to get a pet or already have one, then ask the landlord’s permission to keep the animal(s) before you sign the lease and have it mentioned as an additional term.
Your rights and responsibilities under the lease
If your name is the only one nominated on the lease (residential tenancy agreement) then you are a head-tenant. If you are one of a number of people listed on the lease then each of you are co-tenants. The head-tenant and co-tenants all share the same rights and responsibilities under a lease.
- To start the tenancy with the premises in a reasonable condition (clean and fit to live in and meet all health and safety requirements)
- To be given a copy of the lease
- To be given rent receipts if you pay rent in person
- To be given appropriate notice of inspections
- To be given 30 days written notice of a rent increase during a fixed term lease if your agreement allows for a rent increase
- To be given the required notice if the landlord/agent wants to end the lease
- To enjoy peace and privacy
- To have the bond lodged in an account in a financial institution in the Northern Territory. Or, if lodged with a Real Estate Agent, to have the Bond held in a trust account until the end of the tenancy.
- To keep the place that you are renting reasonably clean, including the garden
- To pay rent on time
- To let the landlord/agent know of any repairs that are needed or damage that has been caused
- Not to change the place you are renting or add anything without the written permission of the landlord/agent
- To return to the landlord/agent a signed copy of the condition report within five business days of receiving it
- To leave the premises in the same condition as set out in the condition report (except for normal wear and tear)
- To ask the landlord/agent to allow someone else to take over your place on the lease if you want to move out
- Not to interfere with the peace, comfort and privacy of the neighbours.
Whenever you start a tenancy you will have to sign off on a condition report. The report describes the condition of the place you are renting at the start of the tenancy and it will be used again at the end of the tenancy to check if the property has been left in the same condition as it was at the beginning.
Initially, within 3 days of the start of the tenancy, the landlord or agent will complete the report and then give you, the tenant, one copy. You need to indicate on the report if you agree or don’t agree with their description of the house and its contents. If you don’t agree then you need to mention this on the condition report and give a reason. You can attach a separate page to the report if you need to.
You must return the completed condition report to the agent/landlord within 5 business days of moving in. If the landlord returns the condition report with any changes initialled within 5 business days, the report is taken to be accepted. It is also taken to be accepted if the condition report is not returned.
You should keep a copy of the condition report until the end of the tenancy when you and the landlord/agent will make a final inspection of the place. You will need to compare the final inspection with the inspection made at the start of the tenancy, and if there are any differences you may have to do more cleaning or pay for cleaning and repairs that can be taken from your
Things to include on the condition report are:
- any promises that the landlord or agent makes about a repair or to have the place painted;
- the water meter reading, particularly if the lease asks you, the tenant, to pay for excess water usage.
At the beginning of a lease you will need to pay a security deposit, commonly known as a bond, which is equivalent to 4 weeks rent.
Once you give the landlord or real estate agent the bond, they must give you a receipt and deposit your money in a bank or other financial institution account in the Northern Territory.
The bond money is held for the time that you are renting the place. At the end of your tenancy you and the real estate agent carry out a final inspection on the place. If there are no disputes over the condition of the place at the end of the tenancy the agent shall return your bond within 7 business days of you moving out.
Avoiding problems with the bond
You can do a few things to avoid having problems with the refund of the entire bond money at the end of the tenancy.
- Within 3 days of you moving in to the property, the landlord may give you a signed condition report. The report describes the condition of the place you are renting at the start of the tenancy and it will be used again at the end of the tenancy to check if the property has been left in the same condition as it was at the beginning. Make sure you note on it any damage, faults or repairs that are needed and remember to sign and return the condition report to the real estate agent within 5 days of receiving it. If the landlord returns the condition report with any changes initialled within 5 business days, the report is taken to be accepted. It is also taken to be accepted if the condition report is not returned.
- Take photographs of faults/repairs that you think may cause a dispute later.
- Look after the place and leave it in the same condition to when you moved in (fair wear and tear excepted).
Getting the bond back at the end of the tenancy
As soon as the tenancy ends, if there is no dispute over the condition of the place, the landlord/agent must return your security deposit within 7 business days of you vacating the premises.
If the landlord/agent is withholding security deposit (bond) monies for such things as unpaid rent, damages, cleaning, electricity or gas, he/she must advise you in writing within 7 business days after you vacate the premises. This notice must be accompanied with copies of receipts or quotes proving the costs incurred by the landlord that he/she is wanting to withhold.
If you do not agree with the reasons the agent or landlord has given for withholding the bond, you should first discuss the matter and if you still cannot agree phone Consumer Affairs on 1800 019 319 for further advice.