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What is a rental agreement?

A rental agreement is a contract between a landlord and tenant whereby a landlord gives a tenant the right to occupy the residential premises.

Do rental agreements have to be in writing?

A rental agreement can be written, verbal or implied. Since the rental agreement is the most important part of a landlord and tenant relationship, it should be in writing. The advantage of a written agreement is that it outlines the terms and conditions agreed to by both parties. Once the landlord and tenant agree to the terms and conditions of their contract, it cannot be changed unless both parties agree.

What information does a landlord have to provide to a tenant at the time of entering into a rental agreement?

A tenancy agreement must include:

  • the name and address of the tenant and property manager/owner
  • the start and end date of the agreement (or state that it is periodic)
  • how the tenant should pay rent and how much is to be paid
  • standard terms (what the tenant and the property manager/owner can and cannot do)
  • any special terms (these should be agreed in advance, e.g. a dog is allowed but must be kept outside or carpet cleaning)

Can a rental agreement be for a fixed period of time or can it be a periodic agreement?

A rental agreement can be for a fixed period of time, or a periodic period. If a landlord and tenant sign a written rental agreement for a fixed period of time, usually for one year, they are bound by the terms and conditions until the end of the fixed term.

If there is a written rental agreement, do both parties receive a copy?

On, or before, the day the tenant occupies the property, they must:

  • sign the agreement
  • return the agreement to the property manager/owner within 5 days of receiving it

The property manager/owner must:

  • sign the agreement
  • return a copy to the tenant within 14 days

Should a tenant know what services and equipment are included with the rent?

It should be clear to the landlord and tenant, upon entering into a rental agreement, what services and equipment are included with the rent.

When does the rent have to be paid?

The rent is usually due weekly unless the landlord and tenant agree to a different due date. If the rent is not paid on the due date, the landlord may serve the tenant with a Notice To Remedy if the tenant becomes 7 clear days in arrears, this gives the tenant a further 7 days to rectify the rent and should they fail to the lessor has the right to instruct the agent to issue Notice to Leave.

Is a landlord responsible for damages to a tenant's personal belongings during the tenancy?

Under the Residential Tenancies & Rooming Accomodation Act, a landlord is not responsible for damages to a tenant’s personal property. If a tenant wishes to be compensated for losses or damages to their personal belongings, the tenant should obtain tenant insurance.

Can a landlord refuse to rent to someone based on race, marital status or preference?

What is discrimination?

Discrimination occurs when someone is treated unfairly or badly in certain respects. Not all discrimination is against the law, even if it is unfair. In Queensland the Anti-Discrimination Act determines what kind of discrimination is unlawful by identifying particular attributes and areas.

Discrimination happens because people have stereotypical or prejudiced ideas or beliefs about other people because they happen to belong to a particular group of people or because they have certain personal characteristics or attributes. This kind of direct discrimination is often the result of failing to treat each person as an individual regardless of their sex, age, race etc.

Discrimination can also happen in a more indirect way. In some cases treating everybody the same can be unfair because it disadvantages a whole group of people. For example, requiring all new tenants to have been in the workforce for at least five years would disadvantage young people who may have little chance of complying. Unless such a rule is necessary or reasonable in all the relevant circumstances it will be indirect discrimination and against the law. Indirect discrimination is not usually intentional but is often the result of failing to think about the impact of rules and requirements on different people.

The Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 says that it is against the law to discriminate against people because of their:

  • family responsibilities
  • sexuality
  • gender identity
  • sex (whether they are female or male)
  • relationship or parental status (whether they are married, single, widowed, divorced, separated or living with someone as if they were married (de facto, including same sex de facto), and whether they have children or not)
  • race
  • age (whether they are young or old)
  • impairment (whether they have or have had a physical, intellectual, psychiatric or mental disability, injury or illness, including whether they are HIV+, or use a guide dog, wheelchair or some other remedial device)
  • religious belief or activity
  • political belief or activity
  • trade union activity
  • lawful sexual activity (a lawfully employed sex worker)
  • pregnancy or breastfeeding
  • association with or relation to someone who has any of these attributes or personal characteristics

How does anti-discrimination law affect accommodation?

The Anti-Discrimination Act makes discrimination, sexual harassment and vilification in accommodation against the law. The law applies across the sector, including:

  • tenants
  • lessors and property owners
  • real estate and property agents
  • hotel, motel and backpacker hostel operators
  • providers of mobile homes (eg. caravans and caravan sites, tent sites, houseboats)
  • suppliers of university accommodation (eg. halls of residence)
  • emergency accommodation and housing services (eg. domestic violence refuges, homeless shelters)
  • owners or operators of boarding houses and hostels
  • business premises
  • building and construction sites
  • company housing (eg. mining communities)

The legislation is very broad and it can be widely applied to many aspects of accommodation. This means that any less favourable treatment of a person in connection with accommodation matters such as tenancy, property sales, eligibility criteria, references, maintenance arrangements, sub-letting, the imposition of conditions, eviction and the charging of rent, bonds and purchase prices may be against the law.

The Act also confers certain rights and responsibilities on all accommodation workers, agencies, tenants and other users of accommodation services and facilities.

What are landlord rights and responsibilities as an accommodation provider?

Real estate and property agents have the right to select the most appropriate tenant or purchaser provided that the decision is not based on unlawful discrimination. Tenants, potential tenants and property buyers should be assessed on their individual merits rather than on the basis of bias or prejudice. Unfair assumptions about people because of their age, sex, race, parental status etc can result in unlawful discrimination. Real estate agents and property owners therefore have the right to select a tenant primarily on the basis of the tenant’s ability to fulfill basic tenancy responsibilities such as paying the rent on time and maintaining the premises.

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