starting a tenancy, information for renters - Tenants Victoria

starting a tenancy

coronavirus (COVID-19) update

Temporary changes were made to Victoria’s laws on renting homes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The changes apply from 29 March 2020. Some protections for renters have been extended by the Victoria Government to 31 December 2020. 

The information on this page does not include the latest changes. Find out what has changed: coronavirus (COVID-19) guide for renters


tenancy agreements

A tenancy agreement (sometimes called a ‘lease’) may be in writing or it may be verbal. It may be for a fixed term (eg 6 or 12 months) or periodic (usually month to month).

Fixed-term agreements are more secure because they make it harder for the landlord to evict you, but it can be expensive if you want to move out before the end of the fixed term. Only commit yourself to a fixed-term agreement if you are reasonably sure that you want to stay for the full term of the agreement.

Make sure you are happy with the condition of the property before you pay any money and before you move in. If the landlord offers or agrees to repair or improve the property before you move in (eg install a heater), make sure it is included in the tenancy agreement or get the promise in writing.

If there is a written tenancy agreement, you should be given a copy before you sign it. If necessary, seek advice before you sign, especially if there are ‘additional terms’ attached. You must be given a copy of the agreement within 14 days of signing.

your consent for notices to be sent electronically

When you sign your lease, your landlord or real estate agent might ask you to agree to the landlord sending notices to you electronically (for example, by email). They might include a clause in your lease about this. You should only agree to this if you regularly check your emails. You should make sure that the email address that they will send notices is specified. You should also consider whether there is a risk that an email by the landlord or their real estate agent may divert to a spam folder or be rejected due to size.

You do not have to agree to notices being sent to you electronically, but if you do you can withdraw your consent if you later change your mind.

If you withdraw your consent to electronic service, you should make sure that you keep evidence that you withdrew your consent. For example, keep a copy of the email or letter when you tell the landlord not to send you any notices electronically.

documents you should get

At the beginning of your tenancy, your landlord must give you:

  • Renting a Home: a guide for tenants (booklet from Consumer Affairs Victoria)
  • if you have paid a bond, a bond lodgment form and 2 copies of a completed Condition Report, signed by the landlord or agent
  • the landlord’s full name, address, telephone and fax numbers
  • if there’s an agent, a written statement about whether or not the agent can authorise urgent repairs, and the amount they can authorise
  • an emergency telephone number for the landlord, or telephone and fax number for the agent, in case of the need for urgent repairs

condition report

If you pay a bond the landlord MUST give you 2 copies of a condition report BEFORE you move in. The report must have been signed by the landlord, or their agent, and set out the state of repair and general condition of the property (both inside and out) at the time the report was prepared.

You then have 3 business days from your move-in date to complete and sign the condition report and return one of the copies to the landlord or agent.
The Condition Report may be relied on as conclusive evidence of the state of the property at the time you moved in. So before you sign and return a copy of the report you should inspect the property and make notes of any problems or issues on both copies, especially where your opinion is different to the landlord’s or agent’s, for example a stain on the carpet that hasn’t been recorded by the landlord or agent. This is important as the Condition Report can help you defend a bond or compensation claim for damage or cleaning costs at the end of your tenancy.

If there is not enough space on the condition report form write ‘see attached’ in the relevant section and attach a separate sheet.
When complete, sign and return one copy to the landlord and keep the other copy for yourself in a safe place in case you need it at the end of your tenancy.

take photos

Photos can be really helpful in showing the condition of the property. We recommend you take plenty of photos of the property when you move in, and again when you move out, so you have your own evidence of how you received the property and how you left it.


If your rent is $350 or less per week, the landlord cannot ask you to pay a bond that is more than one month’s rent.

In most cases, you cannot be asked for both a bond and a guarantee. If you are, contact us, your local TAAP service, Tenancy Plus service, or Community Legal Centre for advice.

When you pay your bond, the landlord or agent MUST complete and sign a Bond Lodgement form and give you the form to sign. They MUST then lodge the form and your bond money with the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority within 10 business days. The Bond Authority will send you a receipt within 15 business days of receiving it.


If your rent is $350 or less per week the most rent you can be asked to pay in advance is one month. But if your tenancy agreement says your rent is paid weekly, the most you can be asked to pay in advance is 2 weeks.

If you pay your rent in person, you must be given a receipt immediately. If you use another method to pay your rent and you request a receipt at the time of making the payment, you must be given a receipt within 5 business days. Even if you don’t request a receipt at the time, you can still request a record of your rent payments within 12 months of the date of payment. You must be given a copy of the record within 5 business days of your request. It is against the law to refuse to issue receipts.

It is also against law for agents (or anyone else including a third party) to charge for the first issue of a rent payment card or for establishing and/or using direct debit facilities for rent payments.

This information is a guide only and should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice.

The information on this page relates to existing periodic tenancy agreements and short fixed-term tenancy agreements (for fixed-term periods of less than 5 years). The information is current as of the date of publication, but may be subject to change with future amendments to the laws relating to rental properties. If you are unsure what laws apply to you, you should seek legal advice.

the law

Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (AustLII website)

Section 29 – copies of lease to be provided to tenant
Section 31, 32, 33 – maximum bond
Section 35 – condition report
Section 36 – condition report is evidence of state of repair
Section 37, 38 – guarantees
Section 40, 41 – rent in advance
Section 51 – charges for rent payment cards/direct debit
Section 66 – statement of rights and landlord/agent information
Section 406 – duty to lodge bond


starting a tenancy factsheet [pdf 97kb]

related pages

applying for private rental
breaking a lease
complaints about landlords and real estate agents
rent increases

need more help?

contact us

Tenants Victoria | Published: March 2019 | Modified: August 2020
Tenants advice line 03 9416 2577 |
Tenants Victoria acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.

Tenants Victoria acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.