How to avoid going to tribunal: renters guide.
Renting a property is usually hassle free in most cases. When disputes arise they can often be quickly resolved however in some cases you may need a Tribunal hearing. In this guide you’ll learn how to avoid tribunal hearings and if you do attend a Tribunal how to prepare.
What is a Tribunal and how do they work?
Across Australia the residential Tenancy Tribunals are structured to resolve rental disputes through both mediation and formal hearings. State tribunals are independent bodies which objectively review and resolve the dispute quickly and inexpensively.
Either a tenant or an owner can take a matter to Tribunal. There is usually a low cost to submit an application and there may be a wait from from a few days to a month depending on the urgency of the matter.
The Tribunal may ask that you and the landlord try to resolve the matter between yourselves again. If your matter goes to a hearing, you may be asked to table your facts and tell your side of the events and the other party will also be given the same opportunity. The decision by the Tribunal Member (like a judge) is a binding court order and will clearly lay out the outcome of a decision and if relevant, what amounts need to be paid by whom and when.
Both tenants and landlords have certain rights and responsibilities. It is important to understand the rental process and your rights as a tenant in order to avoid disputes with your rental agents or landlords.
Australian rental regulations differ from state to state. The relevant Fair Trading or Tenant Union in your State can provide more information. It is important to check what the specific regulations and processes are in your State.
The top 5 Tribunal disputes relate to:
- Unpaid rent
- Breaking the lease
- Rent increases
- Bond deductions due to damage or arrears
It’s best to avoid a Tribunal hearing so here are some of our tips to avoid a potential dispute with your rental property manager:
Communicate with the Property Manager
Build a healthy line of communication with your leasing agent so any discrepancies can be dealt with quickly and you can ask questions or update the agent if there are changes that may affect your agreement. A respectful relationship will be beneficial to both parties.
Read your agreement
Your residential tenancy agreement is a legally binding agreement providing protection for both you and the owner. Be sure to read your agreement and be aware of the terms of your lease. In all cases, it is important for both parties to read the tenancy agreement carefully before signing, so everyone is on the same page and understands who is responsible for what. On top of that you could take the time to read through the consumer renting guide, special conditions, condition report and inventory report too.
Always deal in writing (email or letter)
It is best to deal in writing so you can keep a record of conversations and agreements. If you do have a verbal conversation with the landlord or agent, write down any important comments for your records.
Get permission before making changes to your rental property
Be sure to find out what you can and can’t change at your rental property. Tenants, in most cases, need to get permission from the landlord or real estate agent before making any changes to a rental property, even if you think it would add value to the home.
Pay rent on time
Ensure you pay your rent on time. If you can’t pay on time, discuss it with your landlord or agent as soon as possible. Other bills such as electricity and gas should also be paid on time, If you’re going to have trouble paying, you should let the utility company know and they may be able to make alternative arrangements for you, such as paying your electricity monthly instead of a big sum every 3 months.
Leave the property in the same condition as when you moved in
When you leave a property you’ll need to leave it in the same condition as when you moved in. In most cases this will mean a thorough clean and removing all furniture and personal belongings that were not included with the property. It is important to document the condition of the home when you move in to avoid potential disagreements down the line, your Property Manager will prepare a condition report and it should be complete, accurate and signed by both parties.
Tell the landlord or agent if someone moves in with you
Your rental agreement usually sets out the maximum number of people that you are allowed to have occupying the premises. If you have more than that number occupying the premises, the landlord may be able to take action against you for breach of the agreement.
Give notice in writing before you move out
There may be consequences for breaking your lease, different states and rental agreements have different notice periods for vacating your rental property, it is best to check your rental agreement to follow the agreed notice period to vacate.
Be aware of your rights as a tenant
In most States property managers will provide a renters guide when your lease begins, this document is a good source of knowledge for tenants to learn about their rights. Find the consumer renting guide issued by each State Government or authorised body here. Increasingly property owners are becoming legally obliged to provide a safe and healthy home, including smoke detectors, and asbestos and mould removal so keep this in mind if you come across any of these issues.
A landlord or a tenant can decide to lodge an appeal to the Tribunal if a disagreement occurs and a mutually agreed solution cannot be reached and agreed to by both parties.