Renting usually involves a legal agreement between the property owner (the landlord) and the renter (the tenant). This agreement aims to protect the interests of both parties.
A lease, or Residential Tenancy Agreement, is the written legal agreement between the tenant and the landlord. A real estate agent usually represents the landlord.
When you sign a lease you are bound its terms which can include things like how long you can rent the property, how much rent you pay and whether pets are allowed. The terms aren't just for the landlord, they also make sure that you know and understand the exact conditions of your tenancy.
It's important to read the lease carefully before you sign it and make sure that you understand, and agree with, all of its terms. Never sign a blank form, and make sure the lease is filled in correctly before you sign. Find out more about renting and leases on our Signing a lease page.
If you're unclear about what the terms in your lease mean or feel uneasy about signing contact the Victorian Tenants Union to find your local tenancy advisory service for information and help.
Rights and responsibilities
In Victoria, the main law that outlines the rights and responsibilities of tenants, estate agents and landlords is the Residential Tenancies Act 1997.
When you sign a lease, make sure the landlord or real estate agent gives you a booklet called Renting - a Statement of Rights and Duties: a guide for landlords and tenants. This outlines your rights and responsibilities as a tenant and the rights and duties of your landlord.
Property damage and maintenance
In most cases, you'll be responsible for any damage done to the property during the time of the lease and your landlord has certain responsibilities to maintain the property, such as repairing a leaky roof or broken heater.
Some things are not so clear-cut so it helps to get as much information as possible. The Tenants Union of Victoria provides fact sheets covering everything from sub-letting to repairs to breaking a lease.
If you believe you have been refused accommodation or treated unfairly by your landlord or real estate agent because of your age, race, religion, sex, marital status, impairment, sexual preference, political beliefs, or because you have children, this could be discrimination.
The law protects you against these kinds of discrimination. Find out more and what you can about it on our Discrimination & harassment page.
When resolving a problem, talk things out with your landlord or estate agent and reach an agreement about what action will be taken. Preferably, this agreement will be in writing and signed by you and the landlord or agent.
If you want to exercise your rights under the law, you usually need to give written notice outlining the issue, what you want done and when you want it done by. There are a number of standard forms that you can use to give notice on different issues. Contact your local tenant advisory service through the Tenant's Union of Victoria for help.
Tenants Union of Victoria - Advice
See the 'Services' section for a PDF document listing local tenant advisory services in your area.
This free app has heaps of advice for renters, including email templates for requests like repairs to the property that can help smooth communication between renters and landlords/property managers.