Rent, water and other charges
The tenant and the landlord agree on the rent at the start of a tenancy and it is written into the lease agreement. If the full amount of rent is not paid on time, it is a breach of the lease agreement and can lead to eviction and a poor tenancy record.
Rent in advance
Up to two weeks rent in advance and the bond are the only payments the landlord can ask for at the start of a tenancy. Tenants can check with Housing SA if they are eligible for help to pay bond and rent.
Receipts and rent records
Landlords must give tenants a receipt for any rent money within 48 hours of receiving it. A receipt is not needed if the rent is paid directly into a bank account.
Detailed rent records must be kept by the landlord for all rent paid. The date the money is credited into the account is the ‘paid’ date.
Rent receipts and records must show:
- the amount paid
- the date it was paid on
- who paid it
- the period the payment relates to
- the address of the rented property.
The landlord can be fined if they don’t give receipts or keep proper rent records.
The rent receipts and records information sheet has more information about keeping accurate rent records.
Increasing the rent
For agreements starting before 1 March 2014, rent can be increased once every six months.
For agreements starting on or after 1 March 2014, rent can be increased:
- 12 months from the date of the last rent increase
- 12 months from the date the agreement started.
Landlords must provide tenants with at least 60 days' written notice of a rent increase .
The tenant can agree to a rent increase. This usually happens if the property has been improved – eg an air conditioner is installed. Any agreement should be clear and in writing.
Increasing the rent in fixed term agreements
Rent can only be increased:
- if a condition is included in the agreement allowing for a rent increase, usually by writing that the rent may be increased during the agreement and how it will be worked out – eg according to CPI. At least 60 days’ written notice needs to be given and the increase cannot start until at least 12 months after the agreement started, or the rent was last increased.
- if the specific amount of the increase and date it will commence is included as a condition in the agreement – eg rent will increase to $400 per week from 1 July
- when the lease is going to be extended, but only if it’s been 12 months since the agreement started, or when the rent was last increased.
If a tenant thinks an increase is excessive, they can apply to the South Australian Civil & Administrative Tribunal (SACAT) for the rent to be changed.
Water and sewerage charges
The landlord must pay for sewerage charges. Information about who pays for water use and supply can be included in the lease agreement.
If there is nothing written into the agreement and there is a separate water meter:
- For agreements starting on or after 1 March 2014, the tenant needs to pay for water use and supply
- For agreements starting before 1 March 2014, the tenant needs to pay for water used over 136 kilolitres each year
A note must be included in the agreement explaining how water will be charged – eg 50% of supply and use per property for two properties.
Landlords should attach a copy of the bill to the tenant’s invoice for water use and supply. The tenant does not have to pay for water charges if:
- the landlord does not ask for payment within 3 months of the bill’s issue.
- the tenant asks for a copy of the account and the landlord does not provide it within 30 days.
The tenant usually needs to organise connections for utilities such as gas, electricity and telephone. They are then responsible for supply and use charges.
If the property has solar panels the electricity bill may remain in the landlord’s name. The landlord may be entitled to recover the full cost of electricity if they include specific details of their claim in the tenancy agreement. A condition in the agreement would need to clearly set out that the tenant is responsible for the cost of electricity usage as charged on the electricity account.
The landlord arranges insurance for the property/building.
The tenant arranges contents insurance for their personal belongings. Tenants should check exactly what their insurance covers them for. If a tenant causes damage to the property the landlord does not have to make an insurance claim for the repair.
Getting help with finances
Tenants on a low income who are having financial difficulties may be able to get one-off emergency payments for utility bills and other costs from Centrelink and non-government organisations.
Find services in your area through the SA Community website.
Tenants may be eligible for concessions for water, energy bills, dog registration, telephone and other household bills.
Check the state government concessions finder for eligibility..