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Tenancy Agreements

Tenancy Agreements

When you start renting a flat, you and the landlord agree on important things like where you’re renting, how much you’ll pay and other details like that. This is called a tenancy agreement. Your tenancy agreement should be written down and signed by both you and the landlord. However, even if you don’t have an agreement, you still have rights and protections under the law as a tenant.

When can I make a tenancy agreement?

You can move out of home at 16, but until you’re 18, married, or have a civil union it can be difficult to get a landlord to agree to rent you a flat. This is because of a general fear of contracting with under 18-year-olds. A landlord may have more difficulties in making an under 18-year-old carry out the tenancy agreement, and the contract could be voided if it’s unfair or unreasonable. Many landlords, therefore, may not want to take the risk in case the tenancy goes wrong.

What can I do if I want to rent a flat under 18?

One way of solving this problem is having a guarantor. A guarantor signs the tenancy agreement with you and agrees to be responsible for any rent, cost of any damage and other rental responsibilities that you can’t or won’t make. A guarantor is usually a parent or guardian but can be anyone 18 or over.

Another way is trying to persuade a landlord that you think the agreement is fair and reasonable. This could involve them giving you more time to get legal advice about the agreement or them being present while a lawyer explains the agreement to you in detail.

This reduces their risk because it would be more difficult for you to show that the agreement was unfair or unreasonable afterwards.

Can my landlord refuse to make an agreement with me?

As mentioned above, a landlord might not want to make a tenancy agreement with you if you’re under 18. Landlords are allowed to choose who they have as tenants in their property. But they aren’t allowed to discriminate against you on illegal grounds like your religion, sexuality or ethnicity. If they do, you can make a complaint to the Tenancy Tribunal for continuing agreements or Human Rights Commission for potential tenants.

What should be in my tenancy agreement?

All tenancy agreements have to contain some basic information including:

  • Your name, contact address, your landlord’s name and contact address;
  • The address of the property you’re renting;
  • The date when the agreement is signed, and the date the tenancy will begin;
  • How much rent you’ll pay, how often you’ll pay it and where you pay it to;
  • How much bond you have to pay;
  • A list of the landlord’s objects that come with the property, e.g. furniture, curtains, fridge etc;
  • How many people can live on the property;
  • Whether you can sublet the property;
  • Whether the tenancy is periodic or fixed term and if it is fixed term, when the fixed term will end.

You should use the template on the Tenancy website here.

What is a periodic tenancy?

A periodic tenancy is a tenancy that continues until either the landlord or you as the tenant gives written notice for the tenancy to end.
The positive of this tenancy is that you’re not stuck with a tenancy, but at the same time, the landlord can also kick you out with legal notice.

What is a fixed term tenancy?

A fixed-term tenancy lasts for a fixed amount of time – e.g. 1 year, 18 months. The amount of time must be written clearly on the tenancy agreement. If the fixed-term agreement is for longer than 90 days, the tenancy automatically becomes a periodic tenancy when the fixed term tenancy expires, unless either you or the landlord give notice to end the tenancy at the end of the fixed term period.
This tenancy gives you certainty for a fixed period, however, you can’t end the fixed term tenancy before the end date. If you choose to move out, you’re still responsible for paying the rent until the end date.

What happens if my tenancy agreement is different to what the law requires?

One important thing to remember is that the law on tenancies is more powerful than your tenancy agreement. If your agreement says something that gives you fewer rights than the law, the law will apply and not the agreement.

For example, your agreement might say that the landlord can ask you to leave whenever they like and you have to move out within a week. This likely wouldn’t apply to you, because it’s generally not allowed and against tenancy law.

What is a property inspection report and should I do it?

If you damage anything on the property, you might have to pay to fix it. But you wouldn’t want to pay for damage that was already there when you moved in, to avoid arguments later on, it helps to do an initial property inspection report. This is when you and the landlord go around the property together and make notes of any existing damage and any furniture or appliances provided by the landlord. It’s a good idea to attach a signed and dated copy of this report to the tenancy agreement and take photos.

The report will protect you later on if the landlord tries to say you had caused damage when it was already there.

There is a template of the property inspection report in the Tenancy Resident Agreement Template.

What happens if I don’t have a written tenancy agreement?

Your landlord should give you a written copy of the tenancy agreement before the tenancy starts. Even if you don’t have a written agreement, you still get all the same rights and protections under the law. But it’s much more difficult for either you or your landlord to prove what you’ve agreed to beyond the basic legal protections, so you might have a hard time if the landlord starts saying things like you’re supposed to pay more rent than you thought you’d agreed on.

Always have everything in writing where possible.

When does the tenancy law not apply?

Remember that the law on tenancies doesn’t protect people living in hostels or hotels or people living with their landlord or a member of their landlord’s family. The law also doesn’t cover flatmates who aren’t a part of the agreement with the landlord.

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