Other issues

Other fees and charges

On starting a tenancy you may be required to pay the landlord or agent rent in advance (maximum two weeks’ rent) and bond (maximum equivalent to four weeks’ rent) – and that’s it. Landlords and agents are not allowed to charge additional securities (for example, deposits for keys, or additional bonds for pets) or additional fees (for example, fees for preparing the agreement).

This is changed

Under the Residential Tenancies Act 1987agents could – and regularly did – charge tenants a ‘lease preparation fee’ of $15. This is now prohibited.

Of course, you may be required by utilities providers to pay deposits and fees for the connection of services and setting up of accounts.

Keys

You’re entitled to keys (or other opening devices or information: for example, swipe cards and PINs) for each lock on the premises and on common property to which you are entitled to have access. Each person named in the tenancy agreement as a tenant is entitled to their own copy of the keys. Initial copies are to be provided free of charge, but additional or replacement copies are at the tenant’s cost (Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW) (RT Act 2010) section 70).

Utilities and water

If the premises are separately metered for electricity, gas and oil, you are responsible for paying any supply charges (section 38), so you will be responsible for setting up accounts with the relevant suppliers.

If the premises are separately metered for water, and they meet certain water efficiency requirements, you are responsible for paying water charges, but the account for the supply of water will be in the landlord’s name (and bundled up with the account for sewerage).

If the premises are not separately metered, the landlord should take responsibility for the account and pay any supply charges (section 40).

See the section on ‘Utilities’ in Repairs and maintenance section for more information.

Telephone connection

You are responsible for setting up and paying for a telephone account. In some cases you might find that the premises are not connected by a landline to the phone network, and the phone company will charge an additional fee to connect the line. Where this happens, consider asking the landlord to pay for the connection as a repair (particularly if there are phone jacks already in the premises – it is reasonable to expect that phone jacks are connected to a working landline).

Financial help

Starting a new tenancy can be expensive. If you’re eligible for social housing, NSW FACS Housing can help you pay the bond under its RentStart program. Depending on your circumstances, NSW FACS Housing may lend you half the bond, three-quarters of the bond, or all of the bond and two weeks’ rent.

Before May 2012, NSW FACS Housing's RentStart Program paid bonds as a grant. Now the payments are a loan, which you must repay by instalments.