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When can I rent a flat or house?

 

Frequently asked questions


Here at Lawstuff we frequently receive Lawmails asking us for information about how old you have to be to rent a house or flat. We’ve included some of our most commonly asked questions below along with our answers. Details including names have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.

If I’m still at school can I rent a house with friends?

Q. Hi my name is Alessio.  I’m 16 and I live in Geelong. I want to move out of home and rent a house with my friends. My parents said its okay but said I will have to support myself which means that I’ll have to pay for my school fees. Are there any laws that say that I can’t do this and are there any Centrelink payments that will help me to pay for my rent?

A. Hi Alessio, Your question involves three main issues - renting, school and money. To make it easy to read we’ve broken our answer into three segments.

Generally, the age for leaving home is 18 because your parents have a legal responsibility to take care of you until that age, and they can report to the authorities if you run away. You can leave home before the age of 18 if you have permission from your parents.

If you are thinking about going to university or need a qualification, it’s probably a good idea to stay at school.   It can be really difficult to successfully study at the same time as earning money to support yourself.

If you intend on staying at the same school you may want to talk to your parents about the cost of the school fees to see if it is a viable option for you to pay for them instead of them. This is a big decision to make Alessio.  It may be a good idea to think carefully about how you will juggle school, study, money and work before you make the decision to leave.

Renting

There is no law in Victoria that says how old you have to be to rent a flat or house.  In fact, it is illegal for a landlord to discriminate against you by not renting you a house or flat based only on your age.  But it’s important to remember does have the right to choose the most suitable applicant. Because it can be hard for young people to show that they have a steady income and a good rental history, it can sometimes be hard for young people to get accepted as tenants.

School

In Victoria, the law says that you have to stay in school until you turn 17.  But if you have finished Year 10 and you want to leave school, your parents can ask your school for permission for you to do one of the following until you turn 17:

  • Be in other full-time education or training (such as a TAFE course); or
  • Have a full-time job; or
  • Combine a job with other education or training.


Whatever option you take, it has to add up to at least 25 hours per week. For example, you must either have a job that’s at least 25 hours per week, or combine fewer hours of work with part-time education or training. (The exception is that if the education or training is classified as full-time, this is enough, even if there are fewer than 25 hours of class time). It’s your parents’ responsibility to make sure that you follow these rules while you’re under 17.

Centrelink

You may be able to get Centrelink payment such as Youth Allowance, which is a payment for young people who are studying, training or looking for work. This will depend on whether you meet the Youth Allowance ‘independence test’. Someone under 22 will be assessed as ‘independent’ if they have been working full-time (at least 30 hours per week) for eighteen months, or if they have to leave home because of family breakdown, violence, or serious risk to themselves.

You can read more about the criteria for receiving Youth Allowance here:




How old do I have to be to rent a house or flat?


Q. Hi my name is Juan and I’m 16 and live in Williamstown.   I was wondering what age I have to be before I can rent? If I can afford to pay the rent and bills can the landlord refuse to rent to me if I’m under 18?

In Victoria, there is no law which says how old you have to be to rent a flat or house.  In fact, it is illegal for a landlord to discriminate against you by not renting you a house or flat because of your age.  However, a landlord can refuse to rent to you based on things like your rental history and your ability to pay a bond and the rent. Because it can be hard for young people to show that they have a steady income, it may be difficult for young people (especially those under 18) to get accepted as tenants.

However, there are some ways to increase your chances of getting approved to rent a place.  Some of these include making sure you do the following things in your application:

  • provide ID – they will want to get a photocopy of your driver’s licence or passport.
  • provide proof of income – to show that you receive a regular income payslips from your job or a statement of how much Centrelink money you get for rent assistance or youth allowance.
  • provide references – usually a landlord will want at least two references to say that you are a responsible person who will look after the property and not damage it – these could be names of people you have worked for in the past, or someone who has an important job. It would be helpful if your references came from older people who have a position of responsibility.


If you think that the landlord or real estate agent is denying your application because of your age, you can:

ask them for reasons for their decision
make a complaint to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission  or the Australian Human Rights Commission.


Upfront costs to think about

When you apply to rent a flat, a landlord is allowed to ask you for a bond or rent in advance. A bond is usually four weeks rent which you pay before moving into a rental property – it covers any damage that you may make to the property.   Generally, the bond can be up to 1 month’s rent if the rent you are paying is less than $350 per week or unlimited if the rent you are paying is higher.  The landlord is also able to ask for 2 weeks’ rent in advance if you are paying weekly or one months’ rent if you are paying less than $350 per week and are paying the rent less frequently than weekly. 

Signing a lease agreement

When you rent a flat, you normally have to sign a Residential Tenancy Agreement, often called a lease.  This is a contract between the person who rents the flat (the tenant), and the person who owns it (the landlord).

A contract is a legally binding agreement. While people under 18 are not bound by certain contracts, they usually are bound by leases . This means that the owner might be able to sue you if you don't pay the rent or if you damage the place in any way. It is important to read the Residential Tenancy Agreement very very carefully before you sign it and get legal advice if you do not understand the lease or you feel it is unfair. The landlord or real estate agent must give you a copy of a booklet called “Renting a home - A guide for tenants and landlords.” 

In order to make sure that the bond, the rent and any damages are covered, a landlord might ask you if your parents are willing to sign the lease with you, so that they can pay the rent or other payments if, for some reason, you cannot. This is called a “guarantee”. A landlord can only ask for a guarantee if you do not pay a bond or if the weekly rent is more than $350.


Staying at home and staying in school


When you are under 18 and you do not have permission from your parents, it is not against the law to leave home but if your parents contact the authorities (the police or the Department of Human Services), then they will have to investigate. Depending on the situation, the authorities may let you stay where you are, return you home or move you somewhere safe.

We’re also not sure whether you are still at school or have left. In Victoria, you must attend school until you turn 17 unless you have completed Year 10 and are:

  • Registered for home schooling;
  • In approved education or training (e.g. TAFE, traineeship, apprenticeship);
  • In full-time paid employment (an average of 25 hrs/week);
  • Doing a combination of work, training or education; or
  • You get permission from the Minister for Education - permission is only granted in exceptional circumstances. 



For more information on repairs and damage to a rental property, check out these videos:

1. What happens if I damage my rental property?

 


2. What happens if my landlord won't fix a repair?


 

Ending a tenancy

You as a tenant generally need to give the landlord at least 28 days written notice before you move out and end the tenancy agreement, even if the agreement was written as being for a fixed amount of time.

Your landlord must give you an official Notice to Vacate to Tenant/s of Rented Premises form to ask you to move out and end a tenancy agreement. The form must be given to you in person or sent by registered post.

It must include:

  • Your name and address;
  • The landlord's or agent's signature;
  • Reason for notice (unless it is notice to vacate for no specified reason);
  • Date you are to leave.

The amount of time before you have to move out (notice period) depends on the reason that the landlord wants you to move out. It can be from immediately (if you have caused damage or destroyed the house/flat) to 120 days.

 

I'm a co-tenant - how do I get my bond back?

Check out this video for more information:


 


When can I do if my co-tenant stops paying rent?

Check out this video for more information:

 

 

Can I sublet my room?

Check out this video for more information:



 

 

Last page was last reviewed in 9 March 2015.

 

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