Renting: before you move in

Scam alert! Be careful when looking for accommodation online

When you’re looking for a place to live, you should never pay or sign anything until you’ve inspected the property or sent someone you know to inspect it for you.

Be careful of scams when looking for places online. Sometimes fake landlords advertise online, claiming to be renting out a room or an apartment. These ads typically have an address and lots of photos of a real place that the fake landlord has downloaded from the internet.

In each case, the person pretending to be the landlord claims they can’t show you the place because they’re overseas or away. They are usually happy to provide copies of their passport as well as other official documents and tenancy agreements to trick you into believing they are legitimate.But the agreements are fake, and the copy of the passport or other documents have often been stolen from another person.

The fake landlord will tell you to transfer money into a bank account or through a money transfer company to secure the accommodation, and they will promise to send you the keys by courier. Once the money has been deposited the landlord is never heard from again and can’t be located – meaning you are not able to ever get your money back.

Don’t be a victim of this scam! Always inspect the propertybefore agreeing to move in. Don’t ever send identity documents and don’t transfer money to anyone if you haven’t seen the property for yourself or had someone you know inspect it for you.

Renting privately

Starting your tenancy

Before you sign a tenancy agreement, the landlord or agent must give you a Tenant information statement and disclose a range of material facts to you about the property. If the property is part of a strata scheme, there are additional requirements, including providing you with a copy of the strata scheme’s by-laws. If your landlord or agent doesn’t comply with their disclosure obligations, you can end your tenancy agreement and apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) (‘the Tribunal’) for compensation.


Before signing the agreement, you may have been asked to pay a holding fee (one week’s rent), plus one or 2 weeks’ rent in advance, plus a  bond (up to 4 weeks’ rent). Make these payments by bank transfer so you have records of all payments. Name each transaction so it’s obvious what it’s for, for example ‘rent to (landlord’s full legal name)’.

By law, the agent or landlord must offer you the option of lodging your bond online with the NSW government service Rental Bonds Online. This requires your email address for registration, but is the safest method of lodging bond. You’ll receive a bond deposit receipt with an ID number and password – you’ll need this when you move out and want to claim the refund of your bond payment.

What should be included in a residential tenancy agreement?

The  agreement must be written, printed and signed by both parties (the landlord or agent and you, the tenant/s). If you’re not using the standard residential tenancy agreement, your agreement must include at least the following:

  • date the agreement starts and ends
  • address of the property for rent
  • full legal names of all the people involved in renting the property to you (such as the landlord, proprietor, head tenant and/or real estate agent)
  • your full name and that of any other people renting the room or property
  • contact details of all the people involved in renting you the property (address, phone number and email address)
  • your contact details, and those of anyone else renting the room or property (phone number and email address)
  • amount of bond or security deposit paid
  • holding fee (if one has been paid)
  • amount of rent owed weekly
  • how and when the rent is to be paid
  • repairs and maintenance: it must list a repair person or licensed tradesperson who can be called in an emergency if the landlord, proprietor, head tenant and/or real estate agent is not available
  • an acknowledgement from your landlord or their agent that they’ve read and understood the Landlord information statement.

Residential tenancy agreements should be in English

We recommend that you use the standard residential tenancy agreement from NSW Fair Trading.

If you and your landlord don’t use the standard agreement, make sure that your agreement is written in English. This is important even if you and your landlord, agent or head tenant use another common language.

A contract in English is necessary to get advice in Australia, should a disagreement occur. If you do have a disagreement, and your case goes to the Tribunal, you will only be able to present documentation that is originally in English or has been translated by a NAATI-certified translator. This includes any documentation you would need to support your claims at the tribunal, such as contracts, emails and letters. Obtaining these translations will cost you money. Avoid this situation by using an agreement in English.

Complete a condition report

Once you’ve signed the agreement, the landlord or agent must give you a property condition report to complete and return within 7 days of you taking possession of the property. A standard condition report template is available in the Residential Tenancies Regulation 2019.

It’s a good idea to take clear photos or a video of the whole property, particularly documenting any damage, and email the images or video to yourself. Make sure you title your email with the property address. This can be evidence if there is later a dispute over your bond when you leave.

Know what type of tenant you are

It’s important to know what type of tenant you are as your rights can be different depending on which category you fall into.


Your name and the names of other tenant/s are on the tenancy agreement for the premises. You share rights and obligations with the other co-tenant/s.

Head tenant

You’re a tenant (your name is on the tenancy agreement for the premises), you live at the premises, and you sub-let part of the premises to another person under a separate written agreement. That person is a sub-tenant.

You’re a landlord in relation to the sub-tenant. For information about your rights and obligations as a head tenant, visit NSW Fair Trading or contact them on 133 220.


You’re sharing with a tenant (their name is on the tenancy agreement for the premises) who has sub-let part of the premises to you under a separate written agreement. That person is your head tenant.

You have the rights and obligations of a tenant in relation to the head tenant – they’re your landlord. If you’re a sub-tenant and you pay a bond to the head tenant (or co-tenants), they must lodge it with Fair Trading. They must also give you a receipt – unless details of the payment are recorded in your tenancy agreement. If you’re depositing the bond into their bank account, use the description ‘bond for (your address)’.

Boarder or lodger

Not all renters are tenants – some are boarders or lodgers, and are covered by the NSW Boarding House Act 2012, occupancy principles.

How to tell if you are a tenant or boarder/lodger

If the landlord keeps overall control of the house, including your room, then you’re likely to be a boarder or a lodger. The most common situations are where you share a house with the owner, or you live in a large property with beds for 5 or more residents. Many boarding houses have strict house rules.

The person who operates the boarding house is known as the proprietor, and they will usually require a security deposit (no more than 2 weeks’ rent), sometimes referred to as a bond.

The proprietor must give you a receipt for any money you pay them, whether it is for occupation fees (rent), the security deposit (bond), utility charges or any other charges.

Share houses

Many students live in share houses as a more affordable housing option and a way to connect with other people. There are different legal obligations in share houses, depending on if you are head tenant, co-tenant or sub-tenant.

To understand your legal rights and obligations, we recommend you read the Share Housing Survival Guide (NSW) published by Redfern Legal Centre, Inner Sydney Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Service.


This information is current as of June 2023 and is intended as a guide to the law as it applies to people who live in or are affected by the law as it applies in NSW. It does not constitute legal advice.

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Written by SUPRA Postgraduate Advocacy Service and Legal Service June 2023

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