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Renting Basics: Understanding Real Estate Leases

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Knowing your way around a lease

Know the Time Period

As part of our ongoing renting basics series, we have been looking at the important aspects of choosing the right place to move into as a tenant. But once you agree that a place is right for you and your potential living companions, there is still a lot of ground to cover! If you have your finances in place, you need to make sure the lease is fair.

This can be a hefty document, and one that requires careful consideration. So what should you be looking for to properly understand a lease?



Too often, people get over-eager to move into a property immediately and sign themselves on without properly checking the length of a lease. This is generally 12 months, but can vary. Make sure you can afford to stay there for this period and pay rent. If not, some negotiating over the exit date might be necessary - this isn't always easy!

It's a legal document, so you can't just up and leave when you feel like it - once you sign, you're bound as a tenant for this time period. Make sure you know how long you're going to be there.


Read the Fine Print

A tenancy agreement, according to the Queensland Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA), should have the length of the lease, how much rent is paid and how it is paid, as well as special terms of the lease. This could be anything from not smoking on the premises to only having a certain number of people living in the house. Depending on the property, there will be specifics that you must be aware of.

You don't want to be caught out finding out too late you must clean the carpet once a month, or moving into a house with your pet cat only to find out that the tenancy agreement states no pets!


Check the Property

According to Fair Trading NSW, tenancy agreements in this state will outline any repairs or modifications that have been promised by the landlord. For example, if a window doesn't function, then this could be listed in the agreement. Make sure you get exactly what you agreed upon, and go over all of this before you sign on the dotted line.

Generally, a landlord will be happy to provide good living conditions for you - raise any concerns about the home you have and get these fixes down in writing.



Keep Good Records

A year can be a long time, and it's easy to lose documents or throw out old paperwork. Don't let this happen with your tenancy agreement. It's a vital document that you will need when the lease ends, and is effectively the rules you must live by in the house.

Keep this, any bond lodgment forms and copies of emails in a specific folder for safe keeping. Nine times out of 10 they won't be needed to resolve a dispute, but better safe than sorry! Taking photos of the residency before you move in is also an excellent idea, to prove the condition of the dwelling both before and after your tenancy.


Know Your Rights

The RTA states that you shouldn't put down any money before you sign a lease, while Fair Trading NSW reminds us never to be rushed into an agreement. Take your time and make sure you know exactly what agreement you are entering!

Renting is a fantastic way to live, and by following these steps to fully understand the paperwork in front of you it should be pain-free and fun. Engaging a legal professional to help you work through everything can always be a good idea.


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