Almost a third of Australians rent, and that number is growing. But the ability of some renters to make their properties feel like home can be restricted by conditions put on the property by their landlords.
There’s currently a nationwide movement towards strengthening renters’ rights: Victoria passed significant reforms earlier this year, NSW passed more modest reforms, and Queensland and the ACT are thinking about introducing new laws.
But the protections in the statute books can be undermined by what the landlord puts in the lease.
Here are 14 weird conditions landlords in Australia have imposed on their tenants.
You can’t fry food in the house (you may steam food though).
Deb Pippen, executive officer at the Tenants’ Union ACT, recently came across an ad for a rental saying tenants wouldn’t be able to fry food inside. “They were allowed to steam vegetables in the house, and if they wanted to fry they were allowed to use a barbecue outside,” she told BuzzFeed News.
You can’t “create chaos” or have “noisy parties”.
You can’t have family or friends to stay.
Pippen has seen this as an additional lease term, but says these type of restrictions often aren’t legal.
Each state and territory has minimum guaranteed conditions for renters. That means that landlords and tenants can agree on additional lease terms, but they have to be consistent with those conditions. The ACT has 100 standard lease terms, including that the tenant has “exclusive possession” and is entitled to reasonable peace and privacy. Any lease term that takes away from these rights is generally invalid.
Martin Barker, a tenants’ advocate at Sydney’s Inner West Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Service, told BuzzFeed News it would be rare to have a “dodgy” term that would actually be enforceable in a tribunal or a court, even if the tenant has signed to say they agree.
So a term like “don’t place pot plants within 10cm of any carpet in the property” would not be legal, because it would be inconsistent with the tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment of the property, he said.
You’re responsible for any cost of repairs that occur after you take possession.
This appeared in another lease Pippen has seen. It’s not legal because it’s contrary to the standard terms, which say the landlord is responsible for repairs.
But Pippen says that often tenants won’t know the law is on their side and might still go along with illegal terms. The problem is that people can “[take] advantage of tenants not being aware of the strengths of the standard terms and the fact that we have standard terms”.
You can have dogs, but they have to be on a leash 24 hours a day.
You can’t have kids’ toys in the yard.
The same family bought a small jumping castle when their son’s occupational therapist told them that his disability required play time and recommended the purchase. They put it in the yard, but after another covert from the landlord, they received an email saying that they couldn’t have kids’ toys in the yard.
“That’s not legal – it’s a breach of their privacy,” Olaaiga said.
According to Olaaiga, even when tenants have a dodgy term in a lease or the landlord is acting outside the scope of what’s allowed, often they won’t complain.
“Our experience has been that it’s only people who feel like their backs are against the wall” who take action, she said. “And even then sometimes they still won’t do anything about it because they’re too scared to rock the boat.”
There’ll be inspections every four weeks.
You can’t change your car tyres on the property.
If you unpack a suitcase, you can only do it in the kitchen.
You have to split the water and gas bills 50/50 with the landlord.
You can’t barbecue.
One renter told BuzzFeed News about their lease agreement for a house with a large courtyard in regional NSW’s Armidale, which specified that they couldn’t store or operate a charcoal or gas barbecue on the premises.
You can’t use Blu Tack on the walls…
You can’t slide pots and pans onto the stovetop.
The same lease says that the tenant can’t push pots and pans directly on the cooktop, but must lift pots and pans instead.
You can’t use excessive water on the timber flooring when cleaning.
Also in that lease were precise cleaning instructions for the tenant: “A damp mop and a suitable cleaning product is to be used only.”
So why do tenants agree to these terms in the first place? A lease is an individual agreement that the tenant and landlord can technically negotiate before signing. But Pippen says the idea that renters can negotiate terms suitable to them is “ludicrous”.
“For most normal tenants, the competition is so incredible for properties that people aren’t thinking of negotiating, they’re thinking about what can I do to sell myself to make someone want me,” she said.