9 Questions Tenants Need To Ask Their Real Estate Agent Before Signing A Lease

Finding a great rental property can take time, and when you do it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of lodging your application and wondering if your beloved antique wardrobe will fit through the door.

However, it’s important to be informed: that means reading the lease and other paperwork carefully and asking questions about anything you’re not sure about.

Clarifying any concerns or asking questions with the landlord or real estate agent before signing a lease agreement is essential for any prospective tenant.

Here are some common questions that tenants ask us and how we usually answer them.

  1. Is there anything I’m entitled to know about the property before I sign the lease?

Yes. The agent or landlord must inform you of a number of things, including if the property has been affected by flooding or bushfire in the past five years or has significant health or safety risks. They must also tell you if a violent crime has occurred at the home in the previous five years, or if parking is an issue.

  1. How often are the locks changed?

Knowing a previous tenant may have a copy of your key is an understandable concern – and by law, landlords must maintain locks or other security devices to keep the premises ‘reasonably’ secure. If the locks aren’t changed between tenants, ask if you’re allowed to have it re-keyed yourself (you’ll have to supply a key for the landlord too).

  1. What’s included in the lease agreement – do I need to factor in utilities?

Some rental agreements do bundle water bills and rates (and others even go as far as including gardening or pool maintenance) but it differs with every rental.  Always ask if any utilities are included in the monthly rent.

  1. Should I get contents insurance?

Absolutely! Landlords are responsible for paying insurance on the building or property itself but they won’t usually cover your possessions. And you’ll want to be covered by a contents policy in case of theft, fire, other damage or natural disasters.

  1. What do I do if something breaks or needs fixing?

Contact the landlord or agent first, preferably in writing. They’re obligated to take care of repairs or damage but if they don’t, you can arrange for repairs to be done and the landlord must reimburse you within 14 days for any reasonable repair costs (up to $1000). You must be able to show it was not your fault, and that you attempted to contact the landlord and gave them a chance to do the repairs. You also need to show that they were carried out by a qualified tradesperson. Keep all correspondence and receipts.

  1. How do I make sure I get my bond back when my lease ends?

Keeping the property in a good condition for the duration of your tenancy (except for ‘fair wear and tear’) is the best way to get your bond back. If repairs or cleaning are needed at the end of the lease, the landlord or agent has the right to deduct the cost or a portion from your bond. Keeping communication open during your tenancy about any accidental damage or repairs also helps keep the property in top shape.

  1. How often will you be doing inspections and what do I need to know?

Your landlord has the right to inspect the property four times in a 12-month period, with 7 days written notice each time.

  1. Can I have a pet in my rental property?

Legally (in NSW, anyway) you’re not prohibited from keeping a pet but many landlords will have a clause restricting pets in the tenancy agreement, so always ask first.

  1. When will the rent be increased?

It depends on the term of your rental agreement – if you have a fixed term of 2 years or more in the property, rent can be increased once per year. For more on this, click here.

We hope that provides you with some useful info next time you’re signing a new lease. Enjoy your new home!

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