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Starting a Tenancy Policy

Last published 01 Nov 2018

1. Background

Tenants can expect the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) to comply with the obligations of a landlord under the Residential Tenancies Act 2010. FACS expects tenants to comply with the terms of their tenancy agreement. At the start of each tenancy, FACS will create a written tenancy agreement, outlining those terms, with the tenant.

The purpose of this policy is to explain how FACS starts a tenancy. The Tenancy Policy Supplement provides further information to support this document.

2. Scope

This policy applies to all clients (including applicants and existing tenants) who accept accommodation in properties owned or managed by FACS, including tenants of the Aboriginal Housing Office.

3. Policy statement

FACS will start a tenancy in accordance with:

Both the tenant and FACS have rights and obligations under the above Acts, the residential tenancy agreement and this policy.

Starting a tenancy

FACS starts a tenancy when a client accepts an offer of accommodation in a property owned or managed by FACS.

In most cases FACS will make an appointment within one week of the client accepting the offer, to sign a residential tenancy agreement. FACS will advise the client what information they need to bring to the sign-up appointment. For more information on extending timeframes for public housing offers see the Extension of timeframes for public housing offers section in the Social Housing Eligibility and Allocations Policy Supplement.

In the case of tenants relocating from Millers Point that have accepted an offer under the My Property Choice process, the tenant must sign the residential tenancy agreement within an arranged time.

Signing a tenancy agreement

At the sign-up appointment, FACS will create a written residential tenancy agreement. The agreement sets out the terms and conditions of the tenancy and includes a property condition report, which documents the condition of the property at the time the tenant signs the lease agreement.

At the time of signing the tenancy agreement, the client will become a tenant. FACS will explain the rights and obligations under the tenancy agreement and provide the tenant with a copy of the New Tenant Checklist (published by NSW Fair Trading). FACS will also ask the tenant to:

  • Confirm various details, such as proof of their identity and proof of household income. For more information, go to Proof of identification and Proof of income and assets.
  • Confirm their Aboriginality, if relevant. For more information, go to Aboriginality.
  • Where relevant, continue to repay, or arrange to repay, former debts owed to FACS. Outstanding debts from former tenancies will form part of a new tenancy agreement. Failure to repay or continue repaying former debts can jeopardise a new tenancy.
  • Complete documents related to starting the tenancy, for example, an application for rent subsidy.
  • Pay two weeks rent and water charges in advance using the payment methods available, see the Tenancy Charges Policy.
  • Sign the bond lodgement form and pay two weeks rental bond instalments using the payment methods available (for tenants who are required to pay a rental bond). The tenant will have 14 days to make the first instalment payment. See the Rental Bonds Policy.
  • Complete the property condition report by inspecting the property, deciding if they agree with the comments on the report and writing comments where they disagree.
  • Return the property condition report, completed and signed, to FACS within 7 days of moving into the property.

FACS will investigate and resolve any comments on the property condition report that indicate the client disagreed with FACS’s assessment of the property condition.

Creating a joint tenancy

Usually, one person will sign the tenancy agreement. However, there are situations where FACS will create a joint tenancy.

A joint tenancy is where a residential tenancy agreement is in the name of more than one person. Each person on the agreement is legally responsible for the obligations contained in the agreement. All joint tenants must be present when signing the agreement. If required to pay a bond, both tenants must sign the bond lodgement form and nominate a ‘main contact’.

Where a joint tenancy is requested at the time of sign up, all applicants must meet the eligibility criteria for social housing.

Where an application for a joint tenancy is made by an existing tenant:

  • All the people applying to be added to the tenancy agreement must meet the eligibility criteria for social housing, and
  • There must be no outstanding arrears for the existing tenancy accounts, and
  • The premises must be suitable for the household size, and
  • The person applying to become a joint tenant must be an authorised member of the household.

For more information on the eligibility criteria for social housing, see the Eligibility for Social Housing Policy.

The length of the lease

Most tenancy agreements will be for a fixed term period of two, five or ten years. All clients who are assessed as eligible for a five or ten year lease are required to enter into a fixed term twelve month probationary lease. Whether a two, five or ten year lease is offered will depend on the circumstances of the client and any specific conditions attached to the particular offer of housing. For more information, go to the Types and Length of Lease policy.

There are limited circumstances where, within three months of the tenant signing a fixed term lease of two or five years, FACS will agree to change the length of that lease. For more information, go to Changing the length of lease after sign-up in the Types and Length of Lease policy.

Situations where FACS will not sign a tenancy agreement with a client

FACS will not sign a residential tenancy agreement with a client who is under 18 years of age unless a solicitor or a representative of the NSW Trustee and Guardian has explained the tenancy agreement to the client. The client’s understanding is evidenced by a signed certificate of understanding (including a Rent Valuation Statement) from a solicitor or the NSW Trustee and Guardian.

Clients with support providers may require the support provider to be present at the sign up.

Clients who lack decision making capacity due to illness or disability and have a legal guardian must have their legal guardian present at the sign up. The client’s legal guardian is responsible for signing the tenancy agreement on behalf of the client.

FACS will not sign a residential tenancy agreement with a client if it has doubts about the client’s ability to fully participate in the process, or if the client does not meet the following requirements for sign up:

  • There is doubt that the person attending the sign-up appointment is actually the client who has been offered the tenancy
  • The client appears to be intoxicated or under the influence of drugs
  • The client is behaving aggressively and causing a risk to others
  • It becomes apparent that the client does not understand what is going on (whether due to language difficulties or incapacity)
  • It becomes apparent that the client does not have the necessary living skills to maintain a tenancy and there is no support plan to address the issue
  • The client states that they no longer want to accept the offer of housing and/or the type and length of lease offered
  • It becomes apparent during the sign-up appointment that the property will not adequately meet the client’s known housing and locational needs
  • The client does not have all required documents for sign up (such as identification, proof of income, etc)
  • The client will not sign the bond lodgement form (for tenants required to pay a rental bond)
  • Both participants of a joint tenancy are not present
  • Information on the Sign Up Declaration conflicts with the client’s eligibility for housing
  • The client will not pay rent in advance. Where a client is entitled to a rent subsidy, FACS will ask the client to pay their estimated subsidised rent.

4. Legislation and compliance

FACS will start a tenancy in accordance with the provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 and the Housing Act 2001.

5. Related information

6. Further information

Appeals and review of decisions

If a tenant disagrees with a decision FACS has made, they should first discuss their concerns with a Client Service Officer. The next step, if they still believe FACS made the wrong decision, is to ask for a formal review of the decision. For information on how reviews work, the tenant can ask the Client Service Officer for a copy of the fact sheet Appeals and reviewing decisions, or read the Client Service Delivery and Appeals Policy.

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