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First time renters: what you need to know

By George Hadgelias

You’ve been to the inspections, completed the application forms and been approved for your first rental property. Next up is the residential tenancy agreement.

Here are the top three things you need to know before signing on the dotted line.

What is a residential tenancy agreement?

A residential tenancy agreement is a legal contract between you, the tenant, and your landlord. It is also commonly called a lease.

A residential tenancy agreement should outline:

  • the amount of rent and how it is to be paid
  • the length and type of tenancy
  • the amount of bond required
  • other conditions and rules
  • What is a bond?

    A bond is a deposit that serves as security for the landlord or owner in case you don’t meet the terms of your lease agreement.

    Your landlord or owner may claim some or all of the bond for cleaning, repairs, or replacement of missing items at the end of your agreement.

    The bond and rent are separate payments. You cannot use any part of the bond as rent, which means when you move out, you can’t ask the landlord to deduct your final rental payment from your bond.

    In Victoria, the bond is paid to the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA), where it is held in trust until the end of your residential tenancy agreement.

  • What is a condition report?

    A condition report is a document that notes the state of the property when you first move in.

    The landlord or owner must prepare a condition report for you to check and sign within days of moving into your home. It should include detailed information on the condition of the property’s walls, doors and floors, and cover existing damage or issues with any furniture and appliances.

    Take photos before you move in to help record the property’s original condition.

    The condition report is important because it can be used as evidence if there is a dispute about who should pay for cleaning, damage or replacement of missing items at the end of the agreement. Which means it’s very important that you and the landlord agree on the contents of the condition report before signing it.

    Landlords can claim a portion of your bond if you fail to leave the property in the same condition as when you moved in. They must, however, account for wear and tear.

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