Your Residential Tenancy Agreement (RTA) is a legal document, so it’s important to read and understand what you’re signing.

Photo: iStock/andresr.

A tenancy agreement (commonly referred to as a lease document) is a written agreement between a tenant and a property manager / owner.

Once you’ve received a copy of the terms of your lease in writing, do not sign the lease until you understand the terms and what is expected of you as a tenant.

The lease document will be provided to you by your landlord or property manager during the sign-up process. It’s usually a copy endorsed by the relevant real estate institute.

Each state and territory’s regulations do vary slightly, but all tenancy agreements must include the following:

  • The tenant’s name and address, and the name of the property manager / owner
  • The dates when the agreement starts and ends (if it is a fixed agreement), or state that the agreement is periodic:
    • Fixed term agreement – where a tenant agrees to rent a property for a fixed amount of time (for example, 6 or 12 months); and
    • Periodic agreement – when a tenant lives in a property for an indefinite period.
  • Details about how the tenant should pay the rent
  • Details about how much rent is to be paid
  • Details about what the tenant and the property manager / owner can and cannot do – These are called ‘standard terms’.
  • Any special terms. Special terms must be agreed in advance and could include things such as ‘No smoking,’ or ‘Dogs must be kept outside of the property’.

A standard lease document contains clauses and terms which cannot be changed. The reason for this is to protect you and the property owner. In some instances, additional clauses can be added to standard documents and will be subject to your individual agreement.

It’s important to ask questions and seek advice to be sure of your understanding of the lease terms, especially if you notice that clauses have been struck out.

Signing the tenancy agreement

The lease you will be asked to sign is a contractual document. It has been drawn up in a certain way to protect you as a tenant, as well as the owner of the property.

It will act as a reference in the event of a dispute during your tenancy. Make sure you keep your own copy of the signed lease document and a copy of any relevant attachments in a safe place.

In addition to this lease document and any further documentation you are required by your state law to receive from the landlord or property manager, you will normally be given a Property Condition Report (PCR) to review and sign.

Your landlord / agent’s responsibilities

When signing your tenancy agreement, it’s worth noting that your landlord / agent is responsible for:

  • Ensuring the correct form is used and completed.
  • Meeting all the costs of preparing your tenancy agreement. It is normal for a landlord to pay for costs associated with the preparation of your lease document. All costs you will be expected to incur will be detailed in the document.
  • Ensuring that the premises are in a good state of repair and ready for the tenant to move into on the agreed date.

Keep good records

You’ll be surprised just how quickly 6 or 12 months passes. In that time, it’s easy to lose documents if you don’t carefully file them away. Whatever you do, don’t let this happen to your tenancy agreement. You will need this document when your lease comes to an end.

Where possible, keep your tenancy agreement, your bond lodgement forms, your property condition report and copies of emails in a specific folder somewhere safe.

Related stories