Glossary of Rental Terms

credit: Redfern Legal Centre source: www.sharehousing.org

Bond

This is a security paid by the tenant and held by the Renting Services of NSW Fair Trading for the duration of the tenancy. The most bond you can be required to pay is an amount equal to four weeks rent. At the end of the tenancy, the bond should be returned to you in full unless you are behind in your rent or have damaged the property, in which case the landlord can claim for their losses.

Boarder

A lodger who has meals provided by the landlord or head-tenant.
Boarders and lodgers are not covered by the Residential Tenancies Act and have virtually no protection in relation to their housing. See Lodgers below for more details.

Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal (CTTT)

This is the legal body which was set up to resolve residential tenancy disputes. The Tribunal is similar to a court, but not as formal as parties are usually not represented by lawyers.It costs only $37 to make an application to the Tribunal ($5 if you’re on Centrelink benefits or a student on Austudy/Youth Allowance/Abstudy) and there are usually no other costs.

Condition report

This is a written record of the condition of a rented house, which should be completed when you move in and again when you move out. Your landlord/agent should give you a report to fill in when you sign the lease. It’s very important that you fill it out in detail and return it within 7 days.

Co-tenant

When two or more people sign the tenancy agreement they are known as co-tenants. Each co-tenant has the same legal rights and responsibilities regarding the share house. This means that you are all legally responsible for paying the rent and looking after the place.

Eviction

This is when tenants are forced to leave their house by order of the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal, following an appropriate notice of termination from the landlord/agent. Boarders and lodgers have far less protection and can be evicted without having to go through this process.

Fixed term agreement

You have a fixed term agreement with the landlord if you have entered into a lease for a set period (usually 6 or 12 months) and the term of the lease has not yet expired. During this period, the landlord cannot ask you to leave unless you have breached the agreement.

Head-tenant

This is a person who signs a tenancy agreement and then sub-lets rooms in the house to one or more other people. The head-tenant’s name is the only name on the lease and they have the rights and responsibilities of a landlord in relation to their sub-tenants. This means, for example, they are responsible for collecting the rent and getting the landlord to do any necessary repairs.

Holding fee/reservation fee

If you decide you want to rent a house, you often have to pay a reservation fee to the landlord/agent after the landlord has approved your application. The fee should be no more than one week’s rent and should be credited toward the first week of renting when you sign your residential tenancy agreement.

Kitty

A piggy bank for groceries and other necessities in a share house. Generally everyone in the house pays the same amount to buy food and household items.

Landlord

A person who leases their property to tenants. Landlords are responsible for keeping the share house in reasonable repair. Landlords may appoint a real estate agent to collect rent, provide repairs and give appropriate notices on behalf of them.

Lease

The old name for what is now called a residential tenancy agreement. In this guide we use both terms to refer to the tenancy agreement between a landlord/agent and tenant(s).

Lodger

Someone who rents a room but does not have control of the house from the landlord. If you rent a room in a boarding house, where you share a laundry, kitchen and other areas, and/or where the landlord provides you with sheets, cleaning or other services, then you may be a lodger. Some people in share houses may also be classified as lodgers, for example, if you live with your landlord or the place is run by a head-tenant and you don’t have a written tenancy agreement. Lodgers are not covered by the Residential Tenancies Act, which means they have virtually no protection in relation to their housing.

Mediation

When you are having a problem or disagreement with someone else, you may need an independent third person, or mediator, to help sort out the problem. A mediator does not take sides. They help the parties discuss the problem and work towards an agreement. If your dispute is with a housemate or a neighbour, you can get help with mediation from a community justice centre.

No ground termination

When there has been no breach of the lease, but either you or the landlord wishes to terminate the agreement, this is known as a no ground termination. Generally, no ground termination is not possible during the fixed term of an agreement (see Moving Out).

Order of termination and possession

The Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal can make an order that a tenancy agreement has ended and that the landlord or head-tenant can take back possession of the rented premises or room. This order might be made if the tenant had breached the lease and failed to move out after the landlord had given appropriate notice.

Periodic agreement/continuing agreement

You’re on a periodic agreement if there is no set period for the tenancy agreement, or if the fixed term of a lease (e.g. six months or one year) expires and you continue on the lease. All the conditions of the original agreement stay the same except that: the agreement can now be terminated for no reason (90 days written notice for a no ground termination from the landlord and 21 days notice from the tenant, or 30 days notice if the place has been sold); and the rent can be increased (with 60 days written notice).

Quiet enjoyment

The right to live in your rented premises without interference from others, particularly your landlord/ agent. This is one of the conditions of your tenancy agreement. When the landlord keeps popping in on Sunday mornings without warning, your right to ‘quiet enjoyment’ may have been breached (see The Legal Situation).

Real estate agent

The real estate agent acts for the landlord and, like the landlord, is subject to the Residential Tenancies Act. If your landlord has a real estate agent and any problems arise in relation to your house, for example leaky taps or rent arrears, you should first deal with the real estate agent to address the problem.

Recognition as a tenant

Under the Residential Tenancies Act, the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal has the power to recognise a person as the tenant of a premises. A housemate can apply to be recognised as a tenant if they occupy premises and the original tenant has died or left. For example, if you have been living in a share house and the head-tenant moves out, you can apply to the Tribunal for recognition as the tenant of the premises on the same terms as the original agreement. Recognition as the tenant can avoid problems such as the landlord evicting you or changing the terms of the agreement.

Rent

This is the fee that a tenant pays to a landlord/agent to live in a house. If you have signed a lease, the agreed rent must be written on the agreement and can only be increased after the end of the fixed term period, unless the agreement specifies an increase during the fixed-term period (see The Legal Situation).

Rent arrears

The rent owed for the days you have lived in a place but haven’t paid rent for. When you are behind in paying the rent by 14 days, the landlord/agent can issue you with a notice of termination.

Rent increase

Any rent increase requires 60 days written notice. For boarders and lodgers, only ‘reasonable notice’ is required. You should contact your local tenants’ advice service if you feel inadequate notice has been given (see Contact Points).

Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW)

The Residential Tenancies Act sets out the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants when they enter into a residential tenancy agreement. If you pay rent and can establish that you are a tenant, then the Act will generally cover your situation. The Act also sets out the procedures and powers of the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal which is the legal body that hears and makes decisions on tenancy disputes. The Act does not cover boarders, lodgers, educational institutions, hospitals, pubs, clubs, or holiday letting.

Residential tenancy agreement

This is the contract which is made by the tenant and the landlord/agent at the start of the tenancy. Tenancy agreements are usually in writing, but a tenancy agreement can be spoken or part-spoken and part-written. The Residential Tenancies Act sets out the terms which must be part of all tenancy agreements. Usually, an agreement will be signed with an initial fixed term of 6 or 12 months, during which time the rent generally cannot be increased and the agreement cannot be terminated, unless it is breached.

Share housing

A living arrangement where a number of people share a house, split the rent and general living costs. The house can be set up as a co-tenancy, head-tenancy and sub-tenancy, a lodging, or a combination of these. Share housing may be rewarding, economical, varied and challenging, depending on your personalities and circumstances.

Sharehousing agreement

This is a written agreement between a head-tenant and a sub-tenant. Sub-tenants are only covered by the Residential Tenancies Act if they have a written agreement.

More information:

https://tenants.org.au/resource/share-housing-agreement

Strata building

A block of flats which are not all owned by one person or company. Together the individual owners form the body corporate, now known as the owners corporation under the Strata Schemes Management Act, which has responsibility for common areas and dealing with any general problems which may arise in the building.
Strata buildings are governed by a set of by-laws which set out the rights and responsibilities of individual unit dwellers. These by-laws should be included with the tenancy agreement when you rent a unit.

Sub-letting

This is where the person whose name is on the lease, that is, the head-tenant, rents a room or even the whole house or flat to another person. Legally, a tenant cannot sub-let without the landlord’s prior consent.

Sub-tenant

A tenant whose name is not on the tenancy agreement who pays rent to a head-tenant rather than the landlord/agent. As a sub-tenant with a written agreement, you have the same rights and responsibilities as other tenants under the Residential Tenancies Act, and the head-tenant has the rights and responsibilities of a landlord.

Termination

This is when either party decides to end the tenancy agreement, for example, if you give notice to move out or the landlord gives you notice to leave. The agreement does not actually end until the tenant moves out or the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal makes an order of termination.

Transfer of tenancy

This is when a person whose name is on the residential tenancy agreement signs over their legal rights as a tenant in the house to another person.

Water usage

Tenants in most parts of NSW have to pay for water usage in rented properties. This will be included as one of the conditions of your tenancy agreement. Tenants don’t have to pay water rates, the water service fee or sewerage usage charges which are the responsibility of the owner of the property. If your landlord tries to charge you for these, you should contact your local tenants’ advice service (see Living in a Share House).