Understanding the details of your lease agreement is critical because your tenancy agreement is a legally binding contract. Before you sign your next lease, talk with your landlord or property manager to make sure you’re comfortable with your commitment.
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Every renter will have a different set of preferences and priorities. Are you looking for a rental property close to public transport or supermarkets? What about the internet options? Do the windows open? No matter what you value, it’s important to focus on the amenities you want.
Here’s our 9-point guide to asking open-ended questions of your landlord or property manager. Carefully chosen questions will help you understand the lease agreement.
What is included in this lease agreement, do I need to pay for utilities?
Some properties come with utility bills (water, gas and electricity) included as part of the rental payments, while others don’t. Occasionally you’ll find a lease that also has garden maintenance included. There’s no one set format for lease agreements, and this decision comes down to the choice of the property owner. Ask the landlord/property manager which of these bills will be your responsibility.
What’s the best course of action if my property needs maintenance?
Many landlords have a preferred contractor who will deal with emergency situations at the property. If an agent manages your property, they may organise quotes and coordinate any required works to a pre-arranged financial limit. Discuss the situation that applies to your property with your landlord/agent to ensure you’re comfortable with the process.
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Will you accept RentBond? (*real estate agents only)
If you are approved for a property managed by a real estate agent, you may be able to use Rent.com.au’s RentBond bond payment solution. If you intend to apply for RentBond, ask the property manager if their agency will accept RentBond payments. The property must be listed on Rent.com.au to be eligible for RentBond. If it’s not, it’s free for agents to upload it to Rent.com.au. Find out more about RentBond.
How will you check my tenancy history – is there anything I can provide?
A good landlord or property manager will do their best to screen all tenants applying for their property personally. Assuming the landlord is present when you first inspect a property, they’ll use this as a starting point to assess your suitability. Ask your landlord or property manager whether they use a system that checks your creditworthiness and any breaches in your rental history. You can use Rent.com.au’s RentCheck tool to check your rental history proactively and then include this report with your application.
Should I get contents insurance to cover my possessions?
Never assume that your landlord’s insurance will cover the things you value most in life. It may offer some protection for the home you rent out, but a contents insurance policy for your possessions is something you need to organise.
What is your policy on adding people and pets to the lease?
Some tenancy agreements will require every individual over a certain age to sign the lease agreement; others only need a single tenant’s name. Some properties allow pets and children, and others don’t. If you’re considering expanding your family, be upfront with the landlord/property manager and ask the question. That way you won’t be left in a tight corner after the contract is signed.
What sort of lease duration are you looking for?
If the landlord is keen on keeping tenants on for a minimum of two years at a time, but you can’t see yourself staying past 12 months, now is the time to mention this. Being upfront will put you in good stead should they still wish to consider your application.
What should I do if I ever fall behind on rent?
The landlord or property manager should be able to provide you with a clear outline of their rental arrears policy. But remember, if you need to ask this at the outset of the tenancy, it could be a red flag for a lot of landlords and agents looking for a tenant with good financials.
What payment methods will you accept for rental payments?
A landlord or property manager should make it easy for you to pay your rent on a regular basis. Online payments (such as Direct Debit/bank transfer) are a reliable way to pay the rent because they allow for automation, security and convenience for both parties.
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Asking the right questions before the lease is signed, as well as conducting research will ensure you don’t find yourself out of pocket or disappointed when you move into a property. What other questions do you think are useful? Let us know!
Rent.com.au is Australia's largest company dedicated to renters and is owned and operated by ASX-listed Rent.com.au Limited (RNT:ASX). For over 15 years, Rent.com.au has exclusively focused on making renters' lives easier by making it easier to find a property, secure it, move in and pay rent.