There are limits to what you can be expected to pay when you become a tenant. Some items, like rent, are a given, but where is the line drawn with regard to other less obvious things like the electricity and water? And what about sewage? Baxton Property Management tries to shed some light on where tenants stand with regard to extra charges.
Read the agreement before signing
It’s always best to read your tenancy agreement carefully before you sign it, but there are certain fixed rulings in the 1997 Residential Tenancy Act, that offer tenants protection against any extra charges over and above the basic rental, and the tenancy bond that’s required to be registered as a security deposit on your tenancy. The rent, tenancy bond and any increases are must-pays, of course. And these are all paid in advance, the bond when you move in, and the first through last, rental payments for the entire period of your lease.
When applying for a rental
You as the tenant, are protected in most instances. No fees may be charged for the application itself, for being added to a waiting list or in the form of a key deposit. The only extra you might have to pay is if you ask for the premises to be held for you for longer than seven days. This holding fee is considered legitimate in terms of Australian tenancy regulations because holding a rental open for too long means the owner of the premises can lose out on income from the property..
Charges allowed during the tenancy
Power and Communications: If in terms of your lease, you are expected to contact the utility company yourself to arrange connection of the electricity and telephone lines and this is done in your name, you will obviously be required to pay these accounts yourself. But your landlord cannot directly charge you, either for the phone or for the electricity, if these are registered in his or her name. These will then be included in the rent.
The amount included is usually based on the principle that the landlord needs to see that these services are available and working, so you can use them. But when you do so, you pay for doing it. Your side of the bargain can include the telephone line rental and any calls you make, as well as the electricity you use. But if the telephone line or electricity connection need to be repaired, the landlord needs to see that it is done at his or her cost.
Water and sewerage: The landlord can charge you for your water usage, based on a fee per unit of water you use, but not for anything else related to water or sewerage, such as service charges. And if you are on a shared metre, it isn’t possible to determine how much you water you actually used, so in this situation you cannot be charged for water usage either. In all instances, you are entitled to ask to see the bill before paying. Once you have seen it, and are satisfied with the charge, you pay it directly to the landlord or his agent.
Compensation for tenant damage: You are expected to take care of the property, and keep it in the condition it was in when you moved in. You must not cause any intentional damage or allow it to happen, while you live there. But if things go wrong, whether intentionally or not, and something needs to be repaired, you will be expected to pay for it, whether immediately, or in a claim against your tenancy bond. If anything needs to be repaired, whether it was your fault or not, you must report it to the landlord within 7 days.
The regular blogs on Baxton Property Management in Hobart’s website touch on subjects and information that are relevant to tenants and property owners alike. You will find plenty to interest you.
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