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August 31, 2022

Renting your first home in Australia

A place to stay is among the foremost worries of many migrants when they are about to move to Australia. In this article, we provide you with some helpful tips to navigate this subject. To the surprise of many migrants, the process is a lot more complex than what they may have experienced back home.

In Australia, many rental applications require a rental history. If you are new migrant you naturally have no such history. How can you build a rental history if you can’t rent a property? Here is the thing: every renter has been a first-time renter before and there are a number of documents you can use to strengthen the application. Having these on hand and organizing them before you even start the rental process means you can apply for properties a lot faster and you will look like a much stronger applicant in the property manager’s eyes. 

What you will need:

  • Verification of employment and verification of income – these prove that you can cover the rental amount. 
  • Reference from your employer or another staff member – this proves your employment and also acts as a character reference for your reliability and responsibility. 
  • Reference from a neighbour or a friend.
  • Personal references – these should not be from relatives and speak to how you are as a person. Why should the property manager choose you?
  • Photo identification
  • A recent utilities or phone bill if you have them.

Some real estate agents and property managers even request you to prepare some of these references from back home in your country before moving so that you can tick the boxes.

Key considerations for novice renters

Before you even start scouring the property websites to find a suitable home to rent, there are some things you need to consider.

The first thing is creating a must-have list and a nice-to-have list. On the must-have, include all of your necessities, taking inspiration from the following initial questions:

  • How many bedrooms do you need?
  • How many car spaces do you need?
  • Do you have a specific preference for your new space (e.g. a large dining space, an outdoor area for kids)
  • Are you looking for a pet-friendly property?
  • What location/s are you willing to live in?
  • How important is proximity to public transport and other amenities for you?

These are all essential considerations, and you really need to think about what is absolutely essential and where you are willing to be flexible. For example:

  • Suppose you wanted spacious bedrooms and a proper study. Would you be willing to compromise if the property had your ideal bedroom size but only came with a small study nook?
  • If you have two cars, are you open to signing a lease for a property with only one car space? Asking the right questions during the inspection can help, especially as off-street parking varies.

Once you are clear on the non-negotiables, start your list of nice-to-haves. Things to think about here include gas cooking, north-facing outlook, bedrooms on the same level, parking options for visitors, and other recreational extras such as a pool or a view. 

Once you have jotted all of this down, it is time to compile the documentation needed so you can be prepared for inspections. A good idea is to create digital and physical copies of documentation, so if you would like to fill out an application form on the day of inspection, you have everything ready. 

Next, the fun part: searching real estate websites for rentals properties. You can, of course, do this online, but it is also a good idea to pop into local real estate agents to ask in person. You never know; something that matches your exact specifications may be coming online within the next couple of days. Make a shortlist of all the properties you like and organise them into a list of inspection times. Remember, rental properties can be snapped up quickly, so it helps to be prepared to apply quickly. Many properties will be open at specific times, but remember there will be some that are by appointment. 

And then, of course, you will need to fill out the application. Be honest on your application and as thorough as possible.

Inspecting the rental property

While it may sound obvious to actually go and look at the property physically, many people out there simply look at a home online, rely on the images, fill out the application and sign the lease without even stepping foot inside the property. Guess what, looks can be deceiving.

It can be quite fun going on property inspections. As you wander through homes, it can be easy to picture yourself sitting in that exact spot, drinking your coffee in the morning. But don’t get too carried away. 

First and foremost, make sure there is no damage. If there is any, note it down, mention it to the property manager and take a photo. That way, you can’t be held responsible for it, and if it is something that needs to be fixed before moving in, it can be dealt with. Also make sure the garden is well-maintained, that all appliances are working and everything is as stated. Physically inspecting a rental also means getting some face-to-face time with the agent. Ask them any questions you have and you can even get their advice on how best to fill out your application form. 

Agreements, bonds and reports: knowing the nitty-gritty

Once you have decided on the property, filled out the forms and been approved, there are a number of documents that should be given to you. This includes a copy of the residential tenancy agreement, a copy of the bond lodgement form and the condition report. The latter will need to be checked, completed and signed, then returned to the office. You will also receive a copy for your records. 

On top of all of this, you should receive a receipt for the initial rent amount, lease fees and bond, a photocopy of the keys, remote controls (if any) and emergency contact details.

What is a residential tenancy agreement?

A legal, binding contract between the tenant and the landlord, the residential tenancy agreement sets out all the legal details. It is colloquially and more commonly known as a lease. Make sure this document is given to you and that you read it before you sign anything. Ask any questions you have to ensure you understand it fully.

The tenancy agreement will include:

  • The name and address of the tenant, the owner and the property manager (if different)
  • Dates for when the agreement starts and ends
  • How much rent is to be paid, when it should be paid and how
  • Standard terms – what the tenant and the owner or property manager can and can’t do
  • Any special terms that must be agreed on in advance
  • The length and type of tenancy
  • The amount of bond required
  • Any other conditions or rules

Keep an eye out for special terms such as those in relation to pets. An example might be that if they are allowed in the property, they must stay outside or carpets must be regularly cleaned.

What is a bond?

A bond is separate to your rental payment and acts as security for the landlord if you don’t meet the terms of your lease agreement. The bond will either be paid back to you at the end of your lease, or it may be used towards any cleaning or repairs required.

Importantly, the bond cannot be used as any part of your rent. This means, when you are moving out, you need to pay your rent in full until the agreed-upon date and the bond needs to be returned to you in full – it cannot go towards your final rent payment. 

What is a condition report?

The condition report goes into detail about the condition of the property prior to the tenant moving in. This includes any fittings and fixtures. It is your responsibility to check the condition report against the property itself to make sure it includes any damage or issues that you have noticed in the property.

Tenants are allowed a number of days to check the details in the condition report, to confirm or disagree with what is included. Remember, the condition report will most likely be used if there is a dispute about anything in the property, from cleaning through to repairs, big and small, so it is important that you read it thoroughly.

If there are any areas that you don’t agree with, this needs to be noted in the appropriate section of the document. An inspection report must be completed and returned to the property manager or owner, within the required timeframe. If not, the condition of the property, according to the condition report, is deemed accurate.

The most important thing is that the landlord and the tenant both agree on the condition report. It is also a good idea to take photos of the property before you move in. This records the property’s original condition if anything happens. 

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