What is a tenancy agreement?

17 Jan 2022

A tenancy agreement is a legally binding, written agreement between a tenant and a managing party. An agreement must be used even if it is between family or friends.  RTA's Helen Doogan joins us to talk about the different agreements and their importance. 

Rental law changes around ending tenancies, renting with pets and the introduction of repair orders commenced on 1 October 2022.



  • Host: Belinda Heit, Communication and Education
  • Guest: Helen Doogan, Customer Experience

Host: Welcome to the Talking Tenancies podcast. Brought to you by the Residential Tenancies Authority. I'm your host, Belinda Heit. Join me as we explore everything you need to know about renting in Queensland with experts from the RTA and industry. We're here to help make renting work for everyone.

A tenancy agreement, also known as a lease, is a legally binding written agreement between a tenant and a property manager or owner. An agreement must be used even if it is between family or friends. Today's expert from the RTA is Helen Doogan. Welcome Helen.

Guest: Hi Belinda, thank you for having me.

Host: No problem at all. Can you tell us about your role at the RTA and what you're responsible for?

Guest: Of course. I'm a Senior Support Officer in our Bond Management team. The Bond Management team maintains all records for bonds held with RTA, and I support our staff in processing requests that come into the RTA associated with those bond records. From bond lodgements to bond refunds and any requests for changes or updates to the bond record.

Host: And we have so many bonds, so you're a busy, busy lady. Now, first of all, why do we need a tenancy agreement?

Guest: Well, it's important to have a tenancy agreement because it is basically contract between two parties – the property owner or manager of the premises and the tenant living in the rental property. The agreement outlines the terms, conditions, and expectations throughout the tenancy, and what both parties agree to so there are no surprises down the line. Sometimes the tenancy agreement is referred to as the lease, which is a legally binding document to make sure both parties understand and act on their rights and responsibilities.

Host: Good to know. Now, I understand there are different types of tenancy agreements. I mean, what are the differences between a general tenancy agreement, a movable dwelling agreement, and a rooming accommodation agreement?

Guest: Yes, there are indeed different types of agreements as you've mentioned. General tenancy agreements are most common. This is usually used when you rent a house, townhouse, unit, or apartment. Movable dwelling agreements are used when you rent a caravan, a movable dwelling or site in Queensland. A rooming accommodation agreement, or sometimes called a rooming agreement, lease or contract, is used when you're renting a room and share of common facilities with others, such as in a boarding house, support services accommodation, or student accommodation.




Under the tenancy legislation, each of these tenancy agreements have different notice periods and timeframes for processes, so it's important to know what agreement you’re entering into. General tenancy agreements and rooming accommodation agreements can also come in two different formats, a fixed-term agreement or a periodic agreement.

Fixed-term meaning that the agreement has specified the length of tenancy with a set end date in the future. The tenancy duration could be 3 months, 12 months or any amount of agreed time. Periodic means the tenancy is ongoing for an indefinite amount of time, and there is no end date specified. There are some differences in the terms and conditions between a fixed-term agreement and a periodic agreement, and this is where you really need to read the fine print.

Similarly, for movable dwelling agreements that can be short-term movable dwelling agreements and long-term dwelling agreements. Long-term moveable dwelling agreements are for tenancies longer than 42 days and they operate in a similar way to general tenancy agreements. Short-term movable dwelling agreements are for tenancies up to 42 days and they again have different notice periods and timeframes for processes.

So, to sum it all up, it means there are actually six different types of tenancy agreements:

  1. Fixed-term general tenancy agreement
  2. Periodic general tenancy agreement
  3. Long-term movable dwelling agreement
  4. Short-term movable dwelling agreement
  5. Fixed-term rooming accommodation agreement
  6. Periodic rooming accommodation agreement

Host: Great, so now I can see why it's really important to understand what kind of agreement you're on, or you're entering into. I mean, if a tenancy continues past the end date of a fixed-term lease, it can transition into a periodic agreement. This still means you pay rent and all terms remain the same, right?

Guest: Absolutely. When a tenancy continues past the end date of a fixed-term agreement, it becomes a periodic agreement. Terms of the tenancy remain the same unless a new agreement is signed and this means you keep paying agreed rent in the agreed frequency and the tenancy continues along the same lines of the fixed-term lease you signed previously. Note that some notice periods change when you transition to a periodic agreement, so be aware of that. You can find out all the details about notice periods on our website.

Of course, at any point during the tenancy, no matter if the agreement is fixed-termed or periodic, if both parties agree on different arrangements to the tenancy agreement, make sure you document the agreed details in writing or update the tenancy agreement. This helps everyone to make sure they are on the same page, and it reduces the chances of miscommunication and having different expectations in the future as well.

Host: Yes, communication and getting things in writing so, so important when it comes to a tenancy agreement. Now there's some agreements are not covered by the Act. What do they include?

Guest: Yes, that's right. The Act, which is short for the Queensland tenancy legislation, the Residential Tenancy and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008, does not cover agreements that are for holiday lettings, contracts of sale or mortgages if the contract of sale is 28 days or less, rental purchase plan agreements, temporary refuge accommodation (like womens shelter), commercial properties such as offices, shop leases and of course renting property outside of Queensland.

Host: Of course, because we are in Queensland. What information must be included in a tenancy agreement?

Guest: Well, absolutely everything. The more details you have on there, the fewer surprises you’ll have. The agreement sets foundation for your tenancy and it should provide clarity where you may have questions. So tenancy agreements should include name, address and contact details of tenant and the property manager or owner; start and end dates of the tenancy, or state that the agreement is periodic if the property is to be rented for an indefinite amount of time; the rent amount and how it should be paid; standard terms outlining what the tenant and property manager or owner can and cannot do as per their tenancy legislation; any special terms which should be agreed in advance – for example, who maintains the lawns, hedges, garden or pool; and what type of pet is allowed.

Now, if you're renting a unit, apartment or townhouse, that could be part of a bigger complex and subject to body corporate bylaws. This means that the body corporate bylaws will form part of the tenancy agreement that you sign. Similarly, for other tenancy agreements, the park rules are part of a movable dwelling agreement, the house rules are rules regarding usage and or access of shared facilities, and will form part of your rooming accommodation agreement.

Host: Yeah, so extra considerations there if you're in one of those kind of properties. So, when it comes to signing the agreement, what are the steps that should be taken by a tenant?

Guest: Well, first of all, a tenant should have been provided with the proposed tenancy agreement with a copy of the rules applicable to review before signing or paying any monies. The tenant should read through this in detail and ask questions if there are any concerns or anything they don't understand. Remember, you can discuss and negotiate the terms if you don’t agree with certain items and tenants must make a decision about whether or not to sign and return the agreement and commit to the tenancy within 5 days.

Secondly, they should check that all details outlined in the agreement, or as agreed, are suitable for them. This would include things like the address of the rental property; the start and end date of the tenancy; the rent amount and frequency of payment; and ways the rent can be paid. This is important to note, as tenants should be given options as to ways rent can be paid. This is important to know, the tenant should be given the options of how to pay their rent. We talk about this in detail in our Rights on rent podcast episode. Other details, such as the number of approved occupants, whether pets are allowed, and reading through other applicable rules to make sure you know what you're signing up for.

Host: Yeah, and that's some really good points you raise there Helen - is that you know the tenant can negotiate on these terms as well, and they do have the 5 days to actually make a decision on signing. You don't have to sign on the dotted line straight away! You can actually think on it and make a decision later. Now lodging the bond and paying rent – when's that done?

Guest: Well, most tenants will be asked to pay bond monies at the same time as signing the tenancy agreement. In Queensland, if the property owner or manager takes a bond they must lodge it with the RTA within 10 days, and it's an offense if that don't lodge it with us. Alternatively, tenants or bond contributors can lodge their bond directly with the RTA using RTA Web Services.

Typically, the property owner or manager will only provide keys for accessing the rental property once the rental bond has been paid or lodged. Tenants should be provided with a receipt for any money paid, and it should specify what the money is paid for. Money for the bond is different to rent money, they are two separate things. Remember also that your rent money cannot be used for any other purpose than rent.

Now, with paying rent, usually tenants are asked to pay some rent in advance. Whatever the amount of rent in advance you have agreed to pay, that is what you need to have paid before your first day in the rental property. The property manager or owner cannot ask you to pay more until the rent in advance is used up.

Host: Yeah, and it's very important to make sure you stay ahead on that, because you can actually get your dates mixed up sometimes and so make sure that you, you know, keep track of the rent that you've paid. Now, what's the difference between being a bond contributor and a tenant on the tenancy agreement, and when is this important?

Guest: That's a great question, and it's something that our customers are often confused about, so it's good to provide some more clarification. A tenant is someone who is listed on a tenancy agreement which gives them the right to live in the rental property. They also bear the rights and responsibilities as outlined in the tenancy agreement around maintenance, repairs, damages routine inspections, quiet enjoyment and privacy. A bond contributor is someone who has paid an amount towards the rental bond.

Now most situations the tenant would most likely also be a bond contributor. Only someone who is a bond contributor can start certain processes, especially when your tenancy changes or comes to an end. For example, when tenants or bond contributors change, such as housemates moving out in share house or the managing parties changed, only a bond contributor or the managing party can update the names listed on the bond by the RTA. These updates are really important, as they help us, the RTA, keep track of who has a claim on the bond.

At the RTA, due to privacy rules, when customers who are not a bond contributor call us about their rental bond, there is information we cannot provide to them as it has personal and financial information about others and we take information privacy and security very seriously. Also, at the end of the tenancy, tenants who are not bond contributors cannot submit a bond refund request or dispute any claims made on the bond. Only the managing party or a bond contributor can make claim on the rental bond or dispute claims on the bond.

Host: That's actually really good to know because you could be a tenant, but not be a bond contributor. So if you move in with friends and you haven't contributed to that bond, you've got no say on that bond or any other changes on that tenancy. Really, really good to know. So, what if I’m a tenant and I realise I don't have a written agreement?

Guest: Well, a tenant without a written agreement, or if the agreement has not been returned to them, still has legal protection under the Act. They're still protected by Queensland tenancy law and can access the RTA services. And it means the tenant, the property manager or owner, have rights and responsibilities under the Act. If you're unsure, contact us and we can help you get some clarity for your situation.

Host: Yes, giving us a call is always a good idea if you get confused or you need help. Thanks Helen and for helping us to get a greater understanding of all we need to know when it comes to a residential tenancy agreement.

Guest: Thanks for having me, Belinda.

Host: Thank you for listening to the Talking Tenancies podcast. For more information about the Residential Tenancies Authority, visit rta.qld.gov.au.

Original publication on 17 Jan 2022
Last updated on 01 Nov 2022

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