Finding the perfect rental at the perfect price is every tenant’s dream, but sometimes, the devil really is in the details. According to Jacqui Savage, National Rentals Manager at the Rawson Property Group, you should never sign a lease before asking – and understanding the answer to – these four, very important questions.
What are my maintenance responsibilities?
Most landlords and tenants have a reasonable understanding of their repair and maintenance obligations. Day-to-day upkeep and consumables like lightbulbs are the tenant’s responsibility, while structural maintenance and faulty fixtures are the landlord’s problem. Or are they?
“There can be some blurred lines between what is considered normal upkeep for the tenant and structural maintenance or repair for the landlord,” says Savage. “Hammering out these details during the lease-signing process could potentially save you a lot of trouble down the line.”
A prime “grey area” is just how much wear and tear is considered normal. Is it standard for an apartment to need repainting once a year, or would that be considered excessive and caused by tenant negligence? Likewise, if you hang pictures, is a little Polyfilla and touch-up paint enough to fix the damage when you leave, or does the landlord expect you to repaint the whole wall?
“Clarifying these questions at the outset is in everyone’s best interests, and really helps maintain a positive relationship between tenant and landlord,” says Savage.
What community rules am I expected to obey?
It’s not just your lease rules that you need to worry about when moving into a sectional title property. Each community has its own code of conduct by which residents are expected to live.
“Things like whether or not pets are allowed, how much noise is considered acceptable and how and when you’re allowed to use common areas can make a big difference to the lifestyle you’ll have in your new home,” says Savage. “If one of the major reasons you’re moving in is to hold epic pool-parties in the common entertainment area, for example, you might want to make sure that’s permissible before you sign a long-term lease.” Always ensure that the Body corporate rules/guidelines are attached for signature, when you sign your Lease Agreement.
Who is responsible for paying any fines or penalties?
Community codes of conduct are often accompanied by fines for homeowners and/or residents who accidentally or intentionally break the rules. According to Savage, it’s worthwhile for tenants to check who is responsible for paying any fines in the event that something like this does occur.
“Normally, any fines received as a direct result of a tenant’s behaviour would be passed on to that tenant by the landlord,” she says. “However, there can be some confusion over things like arrears fees for falling behind on levies. Ordinarily this would be the landlord’s responsibility, but there could be a case for passing this on to the tenant if the tenant is behind on rent. Either way, these disputes are far easier to resolve if the situation has been discussed beforehand.”
Service/utility payments for common areas
It is often not disclosed in leases in a Sectional Title block, whether the tenant is liable to pay a portion towards the "Common Area" utilities, such as water, electricity. It is essential that as a tenant you ask these questions, or at the end of your 1st month, you will receive a bill to cover a portion of this cost, which you may not have budgeted for.
“When you get right down to it, the key to any good rental experience is communication,” Savage concludes. “If you’re unsure of any details, at any point, ask your rental agent, landlord or independent advisor for clarification.”