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14 Of The Craziest Rules Renters Have Been Given By Landlords

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.

1.

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.

2.

You can’t “create chaos” or have “noisy parties”.


GIPHY / Via giphy.com

One lease Pippen has seen stipulated that the tenants couldn’t create chaos or have noisy parties.

For some landlords, extra lease terms are a way to impose restrictions – sometimes very specific restrictions – on what tenants do in the property.

3.

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.

4.

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”.

5.

You can have dogs, but they have to be on a leash 24 hours a day.


GIPHY / Via giphy.com

Clauses banning pets from a property are still legal in most of Australia. “[They] are probably legally OK”, said Barker, citing a lease he saw that prohibited keeping “fish, insects or other animals”.

But even leases that allow pets might add restrictions. In Camden, southwest of Sydney, there’s a family living in a rental townhouse. The lease says that the only condition they can have their two dogs in their home is if they are tied up on a leash 24/7.

“There’s not a lot of choice for people when they’ve got animals,” said Vala Olaaiga of the South West Sydney Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Service, who is advising the family.

Olaaiga says often people need to live in a specific location because of their work or for other personal reasons, and it can be difficult to find a property that allows pets at all. In this family’s case, their three-year-old son is disabled and the family wants to stay close to his therapist.

“More often than not, the tenants will tell you that because of these [kinds of] reasons, they accept what’s dealt to them,” Olaaiga said. “[But] how do you keep an animal that is supposed to be running around 24/7 on a leash? I don’t know how anyone would actually do that.”

Olaaiga says the landlord in question has a habit of conducting covert inspections from outside the property, and then emailing the family saying that they saw a dog in the yard, and that it needs to be tied up or removed. Now, she says, “they supervise the dog when they’re walking around in their yard and just make sure no-one’s looking”.

6.

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.”

7.

There’ll be inspections every four weeks.


GIPHY / Via giphy.com

Another lease Pippen saw said that the tenants would have to open their doors for rental inspections every four weeks. This isn’t legal: the ACT standard terms say the landlord can inspect the property twice a year.

But Barker says that realistically, whether or not something is legal is often beside the point.

“Very few tenants are in a position to bargain with their landlords, particularly given insecurity of tenure and the unaffordability of housing; may not know the term is unlawful and, even if they did, will commonly comply with it because they are reluctant to take tribunal action or risk their occupation of the property,” Barker said.

8.

You can’t change your car tyres on the property.


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It wasn’t until Joel Michael, 37, was moving out of the two-bedroom townhouse in Yarraville that he noticed a term in his lease saying he wasn’t allowed to “service or repair a vehicle” at the property.

The clause made an exception for “routine, minor maintenance”, but the lease said that didn’t include changing tyres, batteries or oil.

When he saw it, Michael laughed. “How would they enforce that? How would they know if you’ve had to change a tyre in the garage?

“Not being able to change a battery or change a tyre if you’ve got a flat, that’s completely bizarre.”

9.

If you unpack a suitcase, you can only do it in the kitchen.


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David Maloney, a tenants’ advocate at Sydney’s Eastern Area Tenants Service, recently had a client whose lease for a furnished property in Sydney’s Maroubra said that “suitcases must be unpacked from the kitchen and then bagged and tied off in the kitchen”.

Suitcases had to be stored in plastic bags and “away from bedrooms”. “It is also recommended that hand bags, hand luggage and clothing be washed in hot water and ironed,” the lease said.

The clause was an apparent attempt to stop the spread of bed bugs: the same term said that “[t]he apartment, bedrooms, beds and mattresses are bed bug free”, and that the tenant would be responsible for treatment costs if there were an outbreak.

10.

You have to split the water and gas bills 50/50 with the landlord.


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In another case Maloney saw, the landlord lived in a separate dwelling out the back of the rental property. The lease said the owner and tenant would split gas and water bills 50/50.

There was just one water meter at the Bondi property. Under NSW law, a landlord can only charge a tenant for water where the rental property is individually metered and there are water saving devices.

“Because they’re sharing the property, the water’s not separately metered, so therefore the landlord’s gotta cop the whole bill,” Maloney said.

Maloney says the issue of weird lease terms normally arises where landlords are dealing with the property directly, rather than going through a real estate agent.

Most landlords just use the standard lease, but when they start drafting their own “it gets all fun and games”, he said. Often the strangest leases that come across his desk are from “repeat offender” landlords.

11.

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.

12.

You can’t use Blu Tack on the walls…


Supplied

This lease in NSW says that the tenant can’t use Blu Tack on the walls without the landlord’s consent. Whether or not this is legal is debatable: Pippen says that removable things like Blu Tack should be fine. “There’s no possibility of any damage, they should have no problem with you doing that,” she said. But if the property has peeling paint, it might be another issue.

13.

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.

14.

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.


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