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When can I rent a flat or house?

1    Pre tenancy

1.1    I’m under 18, am I old enough to rent?   

1.2    Applying to rent   

1.3    Do I need to provide a bond?   

2    During tenancy

2.1    Issues with landlord   

2.2    Issues with other tenants   

2.3    Ending your tenancy agreement   

3    Post tenancy

3.1    Blacklisting   

3.2    Retrieving Your Bond   

3.3    Recovering things you accidentally left behind   

 

1    Pre tenancy

1.1    I’m under 18, am I old enough to rent?

A person may enter into a written Residential Tenancy Agreement in order to rent in the Northern Territory.  The agreement may be oral or in writing, although it is strongly recommended that tenants enter into a written agreement which will provide a clear record of your rights and obligations as a tenant.  A Residential Tenancy Agreement is a contract that will state the terms of your rental, such as the duration and rent payable.

A person may rent if they are 16 years of age or older.  A person aged 16 to 18 years will be bound by a Tenancy Agreement, so long as the agreement is not harsh or unconscionable.

A family has a legal responsibility for the children until they are 18 years of age.  Your family has the responsibility of ensuring that you have a safe place to live.  If you leave home before you turn 18, your family may seek assistance from the police or the Territory Families Northern Territory Government to have you return home.  Whether you are likely to be required to move back home will be dependent upon many factors.  You will not be required to return home if it is unsafe for you to do so.

A landlord cannot discriminate against a potential tenant on the basis of age.  A landlord may, however, have a number of reasons for rejecting an application for tenancy.  It may therefore be difficult to prove that you have been discriminated against on the basis of age.  You may lodge a complaint with either the Northern Territory Anti-Discrimination Commission or the Australian Human Rights Commission if you believe you have been discriminated against.

 

1.2    Applying to rent

People under the age of 18 sometimes have difficulty finding a landlord that is willing to rent them their property.  They may be worried that you will damage the property or cannot afford the rent.  Here are some things to include in an application for rent that may help your application:
•    provide copies of identification, such as a driver’s license;
•    provide proof of income, such as payslips from your job or a statement from Centrelink; and
•    provide references (2 is recommended) to show that you are a responsible person. For example, you could ask your current or past employer or a school teacher for a reference.

 

1.3    Do I need to provide a bond?

A landlord may ask you to pay up to 4 weeks rent as a Bond upon entering into a lease.  This will provide the landlord with security in case you breach your rental agreement in certain ways, such as by not paying your rent.  The landlord is required to deposit the bond into a bank account and immediately give you a receipt. Your landlord will hold the money until a claim is made for the bond to be paid. Your landlord can also ask you to pay up to 1 payment periods rent in advance, for example, 1 week or 1 month worth of rent depending on how often you pay your rent. This is often called a ‘holding deposit’.

 

2    During tenancy

2.1    Issues with landlord

Responsibilities

(i)    Key things your landlord is responsible for: make sure the property is reasonably clean, provide quiet enjoyment of the property and make sure the property is in good repair.

(ii)    Key things you’re responsible for: allow the landlord to enter when they have the right to, not cause a nuisance or disrupt neighbours, not damage the property or allow damage by anyone you allow on your property, tell the landlord as soon as possible if the property is damaged, keep the property in a reasonably clean condition and not make changes to the property without permission from your landlord.

If either you or your landlord do not do all the things you are responsible for, the other person may be able to terminate the tenancy or request compensation. Even if your landlord fails to fulfil their responsibilities, you should keep paying rent, otherwise they may be able to terminate your rental agreement.

Rent

(i)    Rent increases:  Landlords can increase your rent if your tenancy agreement allows them to do so but there are certain rules they must follow. If they do not follow the rules, then you do not have to pay the increase. The rules are:
•    your landlord must let you know of any rent increases, 30 days beforehand, in writing and include the amount of the rent increase and the date of the increase; and
•    your landlord cannot increase your rent more than once in 6 months

You can challenge the rent increase by making a request to the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal. However, if the landlord complies with the rules above, you should pay the increased amount even if you are in the middle of challenging it. If your challenge is successful, your landlord may be made to return your money.

(ii)    Missed rent payments:  Tips on what to do if you’ve missed a rent payments:
•    contact your landlord or real estate agent ASAP and tell them when you will be paying;
•    offer to pay the overdue rent over a period of time (if you can’t afford to pay it all at once);
•    keep written copies of all communication with your landlord or real estate agent as evidence; and
•    contact your local housing services that may be able to give you financial assistance.

If you are 14 days or more late on rent, your landlord may notify you and give you at least 7 days to pay. If you do not pay in that time, your Landlord can apply to the tribunal to terminate the tenancy.

 

2.2    Issues with other tenants

Co-tenants

Co-tenancy is when there are two or more tenants who have signed the same lease. If you are Co-Tenants then you will be Jointly and Severally Liable under that agreement. This means that if you leave before your lease is up but your name remains on the tenancy agreement, you may still be liable for the rent payments. You should make sure that you let your landlord know in writing if you leave, so your name can be removed from the lease.  Your responsibilities as a Co-Tenant include:
•    all rent (including your Co-Tenants share if they don’t pay); and
•    damage to the property even if it was not caused by you.
Therefore you can be required to pay for rent and damage to the property and/or be evicted even if you haven’t done anything wrong.

Sub-tenants

Sub-tenancy is when one or more of the tenants are the Head-Tenant and the others are the Sub-Tenant. Only the Head-Tenants’ name(s) will be on the lease. The Head-Tenant is responsible for all the actions of the Sub-Tenant. The Head-Tenant becomes the landlord for the Sub-Tenant and will be responsible for all the things a landlord is responsible for. A tenant cannot sub-let the property without the landlord’s written consent. See Fact Sheet for more details.

 

2.3    Ending your tenancy agreement

You may end your tenancy agreement if your landlord agrees to end the agreement, your Landlord agrees to you assigning the agreement to someone else, the premises are uninhabitable, you find public housing or by giving 14 days notice to your landlord or real estate agent.

You may apply to NTCAT to have your tenancy agreement ended if your landlord has breached the agreement and failed to fix that breach within 7 days of you telling them of the breach, where your Landlord has committed a serious breach of the agreement and for undue hardship.

 

3    Post tenancy

3.1    Blacklisting

What is a blacklisting?

Blacklisting is a process that involves a tenant being added to a Tenancy Database.  A Tenancy Database may include information about you as a tenant that might make it harder for you to rent a property in the future. Information can only be added if it is based on sound evidence.  For example, unsubstantiated rumours cannot be included on the database.

A landlord considering your application who comes across your name on a database must tell you they saw the information and give you details about the listing.

What can I do about being blacklisted?

You can request the Tenancy Database listing to be changed or removed.  Write to your landlord using this sample.

If that doesn’t work, you can write to the database operator saying you believe the information is incomplete or inaccurate. If that doesn’t work either, you can appeal to NTCAT. Although costly, you can also take the matter to the local court as a last resort. The local court has the power to make a specific order or to stop the database from listing your information.

 

3.2    Retrieving Your Bond

The landlord must return your Bond within 7 business days of you vacating the premises. However, they may deduct the following from your Bond:
•     any unpaid rent or unpaid order made by the NTCAT;
•     the cost of repair for damage you have done to their property;
•    the cost of cleaning if you had left the place unreasonably dirty.

The landlord can only deduct money from your Bond only if a condition report relating to the premises had already been accepted by the tenant.  The landlord cannot deduct money to repair damage which is the result of “reasonable wear and tear”.  This includes:
•    Paint fading and discolouring over time;
•    Worn carpet due to day to day use;
•    Garden mulch breaking down over time.

Damage that you may be responsible for includes:
•    Cracked window panes or glass arising from careless slamming of the windows;
•    Paint discolouring due to candle smoke;
•    Garden mulch that has been dug up by a pet.
If you don’t get your Bond back after 7 days of leaving the property or you disagree with the amount you have been given, apply to the NTCAT for the return of some or all of your money.

 

3.3    Recovering things you accidentally left behind

The landlord must store any goods you leave behind in a safe place. Within the first 14 days of storage, the landlord must give you notice that you have left something behind. You can collect your goods by paying the landlord what it cost them to notify you and to store the goods for you. The landlord can sell your goods 30 days after they took back the property.

 

NCYLC would like to express thanks to the law clerks and volunteers who assisted with the preparation of this material: Cecilia Chang, Callum Maher, Paul Propper, Ashley Wong.

This page was last updated in January 2017.

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