Being aware of laws as they relate to renting will put you in good stead in the event of a dispute or problem during your tenancy.

Photo: iStock/Leks_Laputin

AS a tenant, the first thing you need to consider are your rights and obligations. Areas in which problems can arise include rent, repairs and maintenance, privacy and sub-letting.

Every state has a Department of Fair Trading or Consumer Affairs which offer a call centre that you can call to discuss your problem free of charge.

In the event of a dispute, pull out your lease agreement and find out what was initially agreed between you and the lessor. It’s best to discuss the matter with your landlord or property manager and try to come to an agreement first. When you do reach an agreement, get that new agreement documented and signed.

In the event you cannot reach agreement with your landlord or property manager, and after obtaining appropriate feedback from a call centre, you can escalate the dispute by approaching the consumer or rental tribunal in your state which governs rental disputes.

Lodging a dispute

There is an allowable time frame within which you can lodge your dispute. Within 2-4 weeks of you becoming aware of the dispute, complete a form and lodge it with the relevant tribunal to have a hearing date set, or the matter reviewed. Be prepared for the fact that this may require a small fee paid.

State tribunals are independent bodies which objectively review and resolve the dispute quickly and inexpensively. The tribunal may ask that you and the landlord try to resolve the matter between yourselves again.

If your matter goes to a hearing, you may be asked to table your facts and tell your side of the events. There is a possibility you may require witness statements. The other party will also be given the same opportunity.

The tribunal’s decision is binding and will clearly specify the outcome of a decision and what amounts need to be paid by whom and when. The tribunal also has the power to terminate an agreement.

At the end of the day…

Your best bet is to try to resolve disputes with your landlord or property manager first to save you time, money and a lot of emotion. You can also seek independent advice at any time during the process.