Moving Into a New Rental Property: Answers to the Questions That Haunt Tenants’ Minds
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Documents required for a rent agreement
While renting a property involves quite a bit of paperwork both for the landlord and the tenant, it is very important to organize it carefully in order to guarantee a smooth tenancy with minimal issues. A move-in checklist will help you do just that! The documents involved in starting a new tenancy are usually:
A pre-tenancy application form, which is used by the landlord to collect information to determine if a tenant is a good fit for a property.
A tenancy agreement between the tenant and the landlord, outlining the terms and conditions of the tenancy.
A move-in inspection report, detailing any issues with the property at the time of moving in.
A bond lodgement form, which acts as a security deposit.
Before moving in: Documents provided by the landlord
If you intend to rent a house from a private landlord, before you move into the property, the landlord should have already provided you with a tenancy agreement and a bond lodgement form.
A tenancy agreement should outline the terms and conditions of your tenancy clearly, including the property’s address, the start of the date of the tenancy, the rent amount and the bank account that it must be paid into. The tenancy agreement must be signed by both the tenant and the landlord and a copy kept by each.
The bond lodgment form is essentially a security deposit and aims to cover the landlord of any unpaid rent and/or property damage caused by you. Ideally, before you move in, you should also receive a written inventory document, which would help to outline what furniture and appliances come with the house and who is responsible for their repair.
Before moving in: Documents provided by the tenant
A tenant is normally asked to provide a certain number of documents to the landlord before moving in. These typically include a copy of your ID, documents proving your current residential address and your income and references from former landlords or other people who can vouch for you as a good tenant.
Proof of income
A landlord will ask for proof of income in order to verify your ability to pay the rent. There are several different ways to provide your landlord with proof of income. For example:
Proof of income letter by your employer or accountant
Copies of your most recent tax documents
Landlords will request for proof of a tenant’s income, so as to check if they can afford the rent. While this does not necessarily have to be a bank statement, it is legal for a landlord to ask for one. If you are uncomfortable with providing them with your bank statements, you can offer redacted copies.
Responsibilities of a landlord before moving in
Before a new tenant moves in, a landlord should do the following:
Repair any existing damage
Deal with any health or safety issues
Clean the property to ensure habitability standards
Look for heat, plumbing or electrical issues
Review the lease with the tenant and sign it
While tenants’ rights dictate that they must receive a clean and hygienic property, there is no standard definition of what constitutes one. Landlords are expected to meet certain health and safety standards, but it is up to each individual landlord to decide what “clean” is. Many landlords take pride in their properties and will ensure a unit is spotless before move-in, but others do not enjoy rental property management and are not so thorough, doing the minimum.
Landlords are not legally required to paint a property before new tenants move in unless the interior paint does not meet conditions for habitability (i.e. if it is lead-based, chipping or peeling). However, a lot of landlords choose to paint between tenants anyway, mainly for marketing and aesthetic reasons, as it is a cheap way to spruce up a property and to attract prospective renters.
Replacing old furniture
Landlords are not under any obligation to replace old furniture before tenants move in, as this is not something that constitutes a property uninhabitable. However, if you have issues with your furniture and if some repairs are required, you should tell your landlord straight away, so that they are aware of it. The majority of repairs are your landlord’s responsibility and it is in their best interest to want to fix issues before they get any worse.
Replacing broken household appliances
Landlords are not required by law to provide household appliances. However, if your rental property does come with appliances, it is important to check them thoroughly during your move-in inspection and tell your landlord if any repairs are required before you move in. Your lease agreement should make it clear who is responsible for the repair of broken appliances for the duration of your tenancy.
Changing the locks
The landlord-tenant law does not require landlords to change the locks of their property with every tenancy, but it is in their best interest to do so in order to ensure maximum security of their rental unit and keep tenants reassured. Replacing a lock can be expensive, so many landlords choose to re-key their locks or, as of more recently, install “smart key” systems instead.
A move-in inspection refers to when a tenant and a landlord go through the rental property together prior to the start of the lease, in order to note down any damages or issues with the unit. Those issues could include anything from the condition of the floors to dirty walls and broken lights.
Everything observed during the move-in inspection must be written down in a list, which is called the move-in report and is signed by both parties at the end of the inspection. This report is very important, as it establishes the condition of the property when a tenant moves in, ensuring they cannot be held responsible for any defects present prior to their tenancy.
What you should bring
You should make sure to bring a notepad and a pen, as well as a camera, to your move-in inspection, in order to properly document the condition of the rental property. It is also a good idea to bring your phone charger along, as it will allow you to easily test if the electrical outlets are working.
Have a look at the fuse box and ensure that all lights work
Check the water pressure and temperature by running the sinks, shower and/or bath on your hand
Flush the toilet to check that it works
Make sure there are no pests by looking on top of cabinets and around baseboards
Ensure that a fire alarm, carbon monoxide detector, and fire extinguisher are present and working properly
Check that the heating and/or cooling is working properly
Verify that all windows are intact
Take a close look at the walls and ceilings for chips, cracks, mold or signs of water damage
Examine the flooring for damage
For furnished apartments, extend your checks to furniture. If appliances are provided, inspect them to see if they are in working order. It may also be a good idea to check your cell phone reception and Wi-Fi signal.
Filling in the move-in inspection form
It is very important that you fill the move-in inspection form, as it verifies the condition of the property on the day of your move-in and can be the key to avoid potential disagreements with your landlord over damages to the property during the term of your lease. This form is most commonly supplied by the landlord, but you can also download your own template online to take with you to the move-in inspection.
After you have inspected all the rooms and appliances thoroughly, note your observations in detail. You can also attach time-stamped photographs to the form.
Legal gravity of the move-in inspection form
A move-in inspection form documents the condition of your rental unit prior to your tenancy and comes with the legal force to protect both you and your landlord from false accusations or misrepresentations of the condition of the unit.
Amenities provided by landlords
It is the right of a tenant to receive a rental property that is deemed to be in a habitable condition, according to the laws and regulations of where the property is located. Landlords must provide tenants with a clean, secure space with functioning electricity, heat and hot water that meets fire safety guidelines.
Household items and appliances
Landlords are not required by law to provide any household items and appliances, such as mattresses, cookers or even fridges. They are obligated to ensure their rental property is habitable and meets a minimum level of safety regulations but they have no further legal obligation to provide furnishing or appliances. However, many landlords choose to include furniture and appliances in their rental unit, as they are attractive amenities for prospective renters.
Landlords are not responsible for providing a phone line. However, if a rental unit does come with a phone line, landlords are the ones responsible for its repairs.
It is not a legal requirement for landlords to provide an internet connection. If a property does not come with broadband, it is up to the tenant to set it up, after receiving the landlord’s permission for potential drilling involved in the installation.
Landlords are required to provide a fire extinguisher, either in the common areas of your apartment building or in your rental unit itself. All rental units must also contain smoke detectors fitted on all stories, which tenants are required to keep in good working order.
Carbon monoxide detectors
According to the law, carbon monoxide detector alarms must be installed by landlords in all rental properties and fitted in every room containing appliances designed to burn solid fuel.
Uninhabitable living conditions
When conditions in a rented unit become hazardous and impact tenants’ lives and well-being negatively, the rental is considered to be uninhabitable. There is no strict legal definition for the term and there are many different problems than can render a property uninhabitable. Some examples include, but are not limited to:
Mold and asbestos presence
Broken plumbing or lack of running water
Defective electrical outlets
Extreme smells or noises
Landlords are required to respond within 24 hours when certain problems, which are called “tenant emergencies”, arise with their rental properties. Some of the most common tenant emergencies are:
Total electrical failure
No working heat or A/C, depending on outside temperature conditions
A total failure of the plumbing drain system
No heat can be considered an emergency, depending on the circumstances. If the outside temperature is below 55 degrees and your heating isn’t working due to mechanical malfunction, it is an emergency and an immediate response by your landlord will be required. A temporary problem with the electricity, however, does not qualify as an emergency.
No hot water
While landlords are required to provide you with reliable heating and hot water, having no hot water in your rented property is only considered an emergency if the problem persists over an extended period of time or if your water heater is broken. If you are experiencing issues with your hot water supply, notify your landlord. Even when the issue is not considered an emergency, they are legally obligated to handle any problems related to water heating.
Other tenant emergencies
Various scenarios could qualify as emergencies if they impact the tenant’s health or safety or put the building or property at risk. For example:
Short circuits in the wiring creating a risk of fire and/or electrocution
Defective locks, allowing anyone to access the unit without a key
If you find yourself confronted with a situation that puts you at risk in your rented property, you must inform your landlord immediately.
Keep your eyes open!
Moving into a new property can be a very special time for tenants, but it is important to not get carried away with all the excitement before ensuring that the rental unit meets all criteria for habitability and health and safety. Be very observant during the move-in inspection and keep thorough notes, describing the condition of everything inside the property and any possible issues.
Make sure you are aware of your rights as a tenant and contact your landlord immediately if faced with an emergency situation. If you have any questions or doubts, do not hesitate to ask a Clarke Group rental property manager for help! With expertise from managing over 200 properties, we most definitely have the answers!