Factsheet 02: Starting a tenancy
As a tenant you have rights under the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 and Residential Tenancies Act Regulation 2010. This factsheet explains the law in New South Wales about starting a tenancy.
The residential tenancy agreement is a contract. It has standard 'terms' that are the tenant's and landlord's rights and obligations.
Tenancy agreements are usually in written form. They can also be oral (e.g. a conversation with the landlord), or partly written–partly oral. All agreements must follow the Residential Tenancies Act 2010.
A landlord should provide the tenancy agreement in writing. If not, then during the first 6 months of the tenancy, they cannot increase the rent and cannot end the tenancy without a legally specified reason.
There are two types of agreement:
The landlord may include additional terms in the standard tenancy agreement if:
Also see Factsheet 01: Residential Tenancies Act.
If you rent part of the premises from another tenant, it is in your interest to have a written tenancy agreement with them. See Factsheet 18: Transfer and sub-letting for a sample agreement.
If a landlord decides to enter into a tenancy agreement with you, they (or their agent) must not knowingly hide any of these 'material facts' from you:
The landlord (or their agent, if the agent is aware) must also tell you if either of the following apply:
The landlord/agent must give you a NSW Fair Trading New tenant checklist. If you are renting in a strata scheme, they must give you a copy of the strata by-laws within 7 days.
Before or when you sign the tenancy agreement, the landlord/agent must give you these contact details in writing (or include them in the tenancy agreement):
A landlord/agent can ask you to pay only:
Get a detailed receipt for any payments you make.
The Rentstart loan scheme helps disadvantaged tenants in the private rental market with money for bond and rent in advance. Apply through Housing NSW (phone 1300 468 746).
A landlord/agent may ask you to pay a holding fee on approval of your application for a tenancy. The most they can ask for is one week's rent.
The landlord/agent can hold only one fee at a time. On receiving a holding fee, they cannot enter into an agreement with another prospective tenant for 7 days (or longer, if you both agree).
Upon signing the tenancy agreement, the fee will go toward the rent from the first day of your tenancy agreement.
The landlord/agent must refund the fee if:
If you otherwise decide not to enter into the tenancy agreement, the landlord/agent can keep the fee.
The landlord/agent or the tenancy agreement cannot require you to pay more than 2 weeks rent in advance (you may choose to pay more). They cannot demand further rent until it falls due and cannot ask for a post-dated cheque.
The bond is money you pay at the start of the tenancy as security in case you do not follow the terms of the tenancy agreement.
See Factsheet 03: Bond for more information.
The landlord/agent must give you a condition report when you move in. The report describes the condition of the premises. It must be filled in by you and the landlord/agent at the start and the end of the tenancy.
The landlord/agent must give you 2 copies – one to return to them and one for you to keep. Complete and return the report within 7 days.
If the landlord/agent does not give you a condition report, write a detailed report on the condition of the premises yourself and have a witness sign and date it.
Inspect the premises and complete the report carefully. The report will be used as evidence if the landlord/agent disputes the return of your bond at the end of the tenancy. (Consider taking photographs also.)
If the landlord undertakes to do cleaning, repairs, additions or other work, write details in the section 'Landlord's promise to undertake work'.
The landlord/agent must give each tenant named in the tenancy agreement a free copy of the keys (or other opening devices) for the premises and for common property that the tenants are entitled to access.
Get advice from your local Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service about applying to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal or complaining to NSW Fair Trading. See also www.tenants.org.au/publish/complaining-to-nsw-fair-trading.
You can apply to the tribunal for order/s that:
You can complain to NSW Fair Trading if a landlord/agent, for example:
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The information in this factsheet:
• is intended as guide to the law and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice
• applies to people who live in, or are affected by, the law as it applies in New South Wales, Australia.
© Tenants' Union of NSW