In Victoria, for residential properties, a landlord is a property owner who gives another party the right to live in their property for a time. The person or people who have been granted the right to live in the property are known as the ‘tenant’.
The landlord must be informed of all tenants living in the property and all tenants should be named in the tenancy agreement. If a tenant decides to move out before the end of the lease, the consent of the landlord is required to replace the tenant.
A landlord/tenant relationship is established when the landlord confers the ‘right to occupy’ on the tenant. The right to occupy a property can be given by verbal or written agreement. However, where a written agreement is given (normally called a ‘lease’ or ‘tenancy agreement’) it must be in the standard form required by the Victorian Government.
Regardless of whether the agreement is referred to as a lease, rental agreement, or tenancy agreement, the same rules regarding residential rental properties will apply.
There are two types of leases: fixed term and periodic. A fixed term lease grants the tenant the right to live in the property for a set period of time and makes it harder for the landlord to evict the tenant prior to the end of the lease. A periodic lease is a month-to-month agreement, with either party able to end the lease at the end of each month.
Landlord and tenant rights and obligations in Victoria arise even before a landlord/tenant relationship is formed and continue after the tenancy ends.
The landlord’s obligations include:
- preparing a tenancy agreement (in the standard form)
- preparing a report concerning the condition of the property
- lodging the bond with the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA)
- respecting the tenant’s privacy
- ensuring the property is in a liveable condition
- organising repairs to the property
- ensuring any pools or spas are fenced
- ensuring replacement water fittings are three-star rated
- completing a final inspection at the end of the tenancy
- refund the bond.
The landlord’s rights include:
- to receive a damage (or rental) bond
- to receive rent on time
- to be able to complete inspections of the property
- that the tenant keep property maintained and clean
- that the tenant report any damage or any necessary repairs
- to claim a portion of the bond where damage is done to the property.
The tenant’s obligations include:
- completion of a condition report
- payment of damage (rental) bond
- payment of rent on time
- allowing the landlord to complete inspections of property
- keeping the property clean and free from damage
- reporting any repairs to the landlord
- complying with any other conditions agreed upon
- cleaning the property at the end of the tenancy
- returning all keys and remotes to landlord upon vacating.
The tenant’s rights include:
- to receive a signed copy of the tenancy agreement
- to receive a condition report
- to have quiet enjoyment of the property
- that the property be properly maintained and suitable for living in
- that repairs are done within a reasonable time frame
- to receive bond back once the tenancy has ended.
To resolve a dispute between a landlord and a tenant, the parties should first have a discussion about the issue. If the landlord has appointed a property manager, communicating the issues through the property manager will sometimes lead to an agreed outcome without the hassle of formal proceedings.
If an agreement can be reached, it is important to avoid further disputes by putting the agreement in writing and having both parties sign it.
If no agreement can be reached, Consumer Affairs Victoria provides a free conciliation service. During conciliation, Consumer Affairs will assist both parties to voice their opinion and come to an agreement. However, the conciliator cannot force the tenant or the landlord to do so or even to attend the meeting.
The final option is to file an application with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). VCAT is similar to a court; however, the proceedings are less formal as the parties represent themselves. VCAT will hear both parties’ arguments and then come to a final decision. Once VCAT makes a decision both parties are bound by the decision regardless of whether they agree.
During the dispute process, the tenant can seek free assistance from the Tenants Union of Victoria.
This article reflects the state of the law as at 1 March 2016. It is intended to be of a general nature only and does not constitute legal advice. If you require legal assistance, please telephone 1300 636 846 or request a consultation at gotocourt.com.au.