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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   

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 Residential Tenancy Agreement in order to rent in Western Australia.  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 aged 16 to 18 years may enter into, and will be bound by a Tenancy Agreement in Western Australia.

Parents have a legal responsibility for their children until they are 18 years of age.  Your parents have the responsibility of ensuring that you have a safe place to live.  If you leave home before you turn 18, your parents may seek assistance from the police or the Department of Child Protection and Family Support 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 WA Equal Opportunity 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 with the Rental Accommodation Account, who will hold the money until you or the landlord makes a claim for the bond to be paid.  Usually the tenant gets the bond back at the end of the lease.  Your landlord can also ask you to pay up to 2 weeks rent in advance, which 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 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, request compensation or apply for a Tribunal order to make the person in breach fulfil their responsibilities. Even if your landlord fails to fulfil their responsibilities, you should keep paying rent, otherwise they may be able to terminate your tenancy agreement.

Rent

(i)    Rent increases:  Landlords can increase your rent but there are certain rules they must follow. Your landlord:
•    can only increase your rent once every 6 months; and
•    must let you know of any rent increases, 60 days beforehand, in writing and include the amount of the increase and the date when the increase starts.

You can challenge the rent increase by applying to the court (you must make a request within 30 days of being told of a rent increase). However, if the landlord has complied 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.  See Tenancy WA for more details.

(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 late on rent, your landlord may notify you and give you 14 days to pay. If you do not pay in that time, they can notify you in writing to leave the property within another 7 days.

See Tenancy WA for more details.

 

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 your property, 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 may sub-let the property but this depends on the terms of the agreement. If the tenancy agreement does not include a term about subletting then you can sub-let the property with the written permission of the landlord.

See Tenancy WA for more details.

 

2.3    Ending your tenancy

You may end your Tenancy Agreement by coming to a mutual written agreement with your landlord, by assigning your agreement to another person, where the property is uninhabitable or acquired by the government and by providing the correct notice to your landlord or real estate agent.  You may apply to the Magistrates Court to have your tenancy agreement terminated if continuing your Lease would cause you undue hardship or if your landlord commits a serious breach of the agreement.

You can use this form to give your landlord notice of intention to terminate your lease for any of the below reasons.

Ending by agreement

You may end your Lease if you are able to come to an agreement with your landlord.  To do so, tell your landlord that you want to move out.  They may refuse or they may ask you to pay them some money to find a new tenant.  If they are willing to let you end your Lease, note your agreement in writing, and set a date to return the keys and move out.

Ending by assignment

If your tenancy agreement allows you to assign your lease to another person, or does not say that you cannot do so, you may be able to end your tenancy agreement early by assigning it to somebody else.  If your agreement does not have a term about assignment then you will need to get your Landlord’s written permission to assign it to somebody else.

If you are permitted by the tenancy agreement or get your Landlord’s consent to assign your lease, move out and return the keys on the agreed date.

Ending due to the property being uninhabitable

If the property is severely damaged or the government compulsorily acquires it, you will be able to end your tenancy agreement.  To do so, you must give your landlord a written notice of termination. After giving your Landlord notice, you may move out and return the keys two days later.

Ending by giving correct notice

You may end your Tenancy Agreement by giving the correct notice under your agreement.  If your Tenancy Agreement is a Fixed Term Tenancy Agreement, you will not be able to validly end your agreement by notice before the end of that Fixed Term.  You will, however, be able to end your agreement after that time by giving written notice to your landlord at least 30 days before you intend to move out.  On that date, move out and return the keys to your landlord.

If your agreement is a Periodic Agreement, you may end your agreement at any time by giving your landlord written notice that you intend to move out in at least 21 days. On that date, move out of the property and return your keys.

Terminating for undue hardship

You may also apply to the Magistrates Court to have your tenancy agreement terminated if continuing your lease would cause you undue hardship.  Undue hardship is a high standard, and is usually established by serious medical or safety issues.  It is common for the court to award a landlord compensation for the early termination, so you may owe your landlord money if the lease is terminated.

Terminating for breach

If your Landlord has breached your tenancy agreement, you may be able to apply to the Magistrates Court to have your tenancy agreement terminated if a court is satisfied that your landlord’s breach justifies terminating the agreement.  A court will be satisfied if you have provided notice to your Landlord of the breach, and they have either refused or failed to fix the problem.

 

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.

You may be added to the Tenancy Database after your tenancy has ended. Your name will only be added if:
•    before leaving the property, you breached the tenancy agreement for an amount greater than the bond; or
•    the court ordered your tenancy to end because of something you did wrong.

Your landlord must inform you if they want to put your name on a Tenancy Database. A landlord considering your application who comes across your name on a database must also tell you.

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 appeal to SAT. You can appeal to SAT if the listing is more than 3 years old.  You can also appeal to SAT if you think the listing is unjust, inaccurate, incomplete, ambiguous or out of date (you have repaid the Bond difference or the court’s termination order wasn’t enforced). SAT may then order for the listing to be removed or changed.

 

3.2    Retrieving your bond

How can I get my bond back?

There are two ways you can get your bond back after your tenancy agreement has ended:
•    you can get a refund if both you and your landlord agree on how much you should get back. The amount will be calculated after the final inspection and will take into account anything that you have broken or needs cleaning. Fill out this form after you had both agreed on the amount; or
•    if you and your landlord can’t agree on the amount, you can challenge it by making a claim on your own. If the landlord disagrees with your claim, you might have to go to a hearing.

My landlord made a claim against my bond!

Your landlord can make a claim for any intentional, negligent or irresponsible damage you have caused. This is because you have a responsibility to keep the rented premise reasonably clean and not to cause any damage. Your landlord cannot make you pay for the cost of rectifying damage caused by normal use, such as:
•    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 think that a claim has been made against you unfairly, try to get your landlord to change their mind or lodge a claim with SAT.

 

3.3    Recovering things you accidentally left behind

Goods

If the goods are worth less than what it would cost to remove/store/sell them, your landlord can apply for an Abandoned Goods Certificate and then dispose of the items in any way they wish.
If the goods are worth more than what it would cost to remove/store/sell them, your landlord must store them safely for 60 days. They must also notify you within 7 days.

Documents

If you leave behind any personal documents (such as a passport, birth certificate, photographs or anything else that would be reasonable for you to want to keep), your landlord must notify you and attempt to organise a time/place for you to collect the documents. You have 60 days after the end of your tenancy to collect the documents.

 

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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