The compass of our rights

What students or temporary residents should know before leasing a dwelling

The first step for students or temporary residents after their arrival in Australia is finding a place to live in – usually a single room, a room to share or, for those who can afford it, an apartment or a house.Often, the rush to settle or the fear of losing a place that is readily available induce wrong decisions – for example, to accept a lease “in nero” (paying cash) or to pay the deposit before signing the contract.

Here, as in Italy, there are people who take advantage of these circumstances. Therefore, it is important to know that in Australia there are precise regulations pertaining to residential leases, which ensure protection of renters’ and landlords’ rights.Even when we live in a foreign country we maintain our rights as consumers, which of course are regulated by local legislations.When taking out a lease on a property, a rental or lease agreement must be signed by both the tenant and the landlord, whereby the contractual arrangements are specified. This includes the bond to be paid in advance, the duration of the contract, and other rules and conditions agreed upon by both signatories.A bond, which is equivalent to one-month rent, must usually be paid in advance by the tenant and both parties have obligations. The tenant is required to maintain the property in good order and should any damage be caused without repair, the tenant may risk losing his/her bond, in whole or in part at the end of the lease.Conversely, it is important to know that also the landlord has maintenance commitments.

The Residential Tenancies Bond Authority holds all bond payments. In addition to this, it is imperative for a condition report to be completed by the real estate agent, acknowledged, and signed by the tenant.

A recommendation: before you move, undertake an inspection of the property and check for possible flaws or malfunctions – for example, cracks or marks on the walls or broken handles. Have the landlord or the real estate agent sign a written list of flaws within three days of taking possession of the property. Within 15 days from the date of your payment, you should receive a receipt for your bond.This is an important document, the only one that at the end of the lease will allow you, to have your bond returned to you.

Another aspect to be aware of are property repairs. Is it the landlord or the tenant’s responsibility? The answer to this question depends on the urgency of the repair, similar to that under Italian contracts.Urgent repairs are those that are dangerous or render the property uninhabitable, for example damages to the enclosure of swimming pools, electrical equipment, heaters, water or gas leakages, or the breakdown of hygienic services. The landlord is responsible for these repairs and if they are uncontactable immediately, the real estate agent has prior authorisation from the landlord to undertake repairs to the maximum cost of $1800.

Non urgent repairs are managed differently: the tenant is required to send an email to the landlord or real estate agent explaining the problem which they have approximately 15 days to fix.

When you decide to leave the property, you must advise the landlord or the real estate agent in writing and within the required period of notice. For further information, you can visit the Consumer Affairs Victoria website,

When we live outside our own country, we must not lose “the compass” of our rights and make sure that they are respected.

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