Rental bonds and signing up for a place

Signing your first rental agreement is an exciting moment, but make sure you know what you are doing. 

Signing a lease

A rental agreement (or lease) is a legal contract between you and the landlord. Once you sign it, it's legally binding. Make sure you understand your responsibilities and agree with all of its terms.

Smart tip

Before you sign a lease, inspect the property. Take note of anything that is damaged and tell the real estate agent or landlord. Take photos of all the rooms and keep them for your records.

  • Don't assume - Get help to understand the contract. Even if you think you know what is written in the contract, ask for an example; or ask a question like, 'Just to clarify, I think this means X. Is that right?' Don't worry about appearing dumb or difficult. It's better to clarify now rather than later.
  • Get a second opinion - You can get help from your local tenancy union. Don't rely on yourself to read the contract and find all the problems. Don't sign until you are 100% sure of the details in the lease. Remember, you can't cancel this sort of legal contract if you change your mind.
  • Check the lease term - Think about whether the term of the lease suits your circumstances. For example, signing up for a 12-month lease on a property might sound good but if you need to move out during that time, you could lose some of your bond and have to keep paying rent until they find another tenant. If the term of the lease doesn't suit you, try to negotiate a different term or look for other options.

After you sign the lease, you'll be expected to pay your rent on time, look after the place and cover any damage done to the property during the time of the lease. However, you are entitled to fair 'wear and tear' during the term of your lease.

Case study: Jamie's pet problem

Jamie had a pet dog called Minty that had grown up with him. When Jamie left his parents' home, Minty moved with him.

A few weeks after Jamie moved in, the landlord did an inspection and found Minty's drinking bowl. Because Jamie hadn't read the rental agreement, he didn't realise that pets weren't allowed at his new place. He then had to decide between returning Minty to his parents' home or finding another place to rent.

Jamie decided to return Minty to his mum and dad's house. He then read the lease carefully to make sure he understood all of the conditions of his lease.

Paying the rental bond

A rental bond is a deposit paid to your new landlord. Depending on which state or territory you live in, your bond could be 4 weeks rent or more. The bond is usually lodged with your state or territory fair trading or consumer affairs office for safekeeping.

Smart tip

Always pay your rent on time otherwise you might be evicted. If you don't pay your rent, it can affect your rental references and you won't get all of your bond back.

Your bond acts as a form of security for your landlord, so if you damage the property or owe rent when you move out, your landlord may be able to keep some of the money. Make sure you get a receipt for your bond.

Provided you pay the rent regularly and don't damage the place, you'll get your bond back when you move out. That's when you'll need the receipt.

Any time you move into a new place, make sure you do a thorough condition report. A condition report is a list of any marks, damage or issues with the property. It will protect you when you leave the property so you get your full bond back. Make sure you take photos and comprehensive notes.

If your landlord keeps your bond money without reason after you move out, contact your local tenants' organisation or consumer affairs authority immediately.

Help with paying the rental bond

Some state and territory governments provide interest-free loans or other forms of assistance to help pay rental bonds.

For more information, or to see if you're eligible, visit the website for your state or territory:

If you're not eligible for government assistance, you may be considering borrowing money to cover your rental bond. But, before you do this, work out how much the loan will cost you in total, including any interest and any fees or charges.

Work out how much a personal loan will really cost you.

Personal loan calculator

If you decide to take out a loan to cover the bond, ask for a copy of all the terms and conditions of the loan contract and make sure you understand them before you sign.

Visit our webpage for more tips on getting the best credit deal.

Sorting out rental problems

When renting a home, you might experience one of these problems:

  • Falling behind with your rental repayments or other debts like a credit card or personal loan
  • Feeling unsure about a contract you have signed
  • Having problems with your landlord or another tenant.

You may get into legal trouble by not paying what you owe and there may be long-term effects for you if you don't pay your rent.

If you're having money problems, you can get free help from a financial counsellor who can get you back on the right path with sensible budgeting. They can also help you talk to creditors and explain your legal obligations. Find a financial counsellor in your area.

You can also call a tenant union or government agency for help with your rental problems.

Government consumer agencies and fair trading offices

Tenants' unions and advocacy groups

Government housing assistance

If you have to leave home but can't afford a place to stay, you might also be eligible for support from the government housing authority in your state:

Related links

Last updated: 13 Feb 2019