The Australian Residential Tenancy Agreement (or lease document) is the most important document in your new tenancy.

signingup lease leaseagreement
Photo: iStock/valentinrussanov

The Australian Residential Tenancy Agreement (or lease document) is the most important document in your new tenancy. Make sure you receive a copy of the terms of your lease in writing, and do not sign the lease until you’re conversant with 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 state institute, or required under the terms of any state Act pertaining to rental agreements.

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.

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.

Signing the lease

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, and 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.

Rates, water and other services charges

Rates for water and sewage are generally paid for by the property owner, but ‘usage’ or ‘meter amounts’ is what you will normally pay for. Sometimes, these costs will be bundled into an overall rental rate, inclusive of usage charges as a ‘gross rental,’ but either way, the treatment of water usage is something that should be spelt out in your lease document.

It’s common for standalone properties with separate meters to have the meters read at the beginning of your tenancy, with usage charges payable by you as the tenant. In high rise apartments or properties without separate meters, these are payable by the landlord.

If water usage is payable, your landlord or property manager will provide you with a copy of the water bill for payment by a due date.

Additional lease terms

Finally, if there is any other matter to be discussed or agreed verbally between you and the landlord or property manager regarding your tenancy, these should be documented in the lease document or the PCR.

You will need written evidence to support any claims you make in the event of a dispute.