Tips for renting property in Australia

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Renting a property is the easiest route to take if you’re moving out of home. But, if this is your first time moving out of home or renting, it’s crucial that you do your research and know what is involved.

We’ve compiled some definitions and key tips that you should know before applying for a rental. You might have come across some of these before, but it’s always good to tick off the basics before we move on to the nitty gritty details.

Ticking off the basics

What does it mean to rent a property?

Renting involves a tenant paying a set amount of money each week to a landlord to occupy a property for a certain period of time.

What is the difference between a tenant and a landlord?

A tenant is the person renting the property, whereas the landlord is the person renting out the property.

In many cases there may not be any direct contact between the tenant and their landlord, as most rental agreements go through a real estate agent, who manages communication between the two parties and organises all the documentation.

What is a bond?

A bond is the deposit you give to your landlord before you start renting the property. It is used as financial protection if you don’t meet aspects of the residential tenancy agreement or if anything needs to be replaced or repaired by the landlord at the end of your rental term.

In Victoria, your bond is kept by the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority. If there are no issues at the end of your rental term, you will get all your bond back.

Each state/territory in Australia have different regulations around how much is legally required as a deposit before you rent so research before you commit.

What is a residential tenancy agreement?

A residential tenancy agreement (AKA the lease) is the legal contract between you (the tenant) and the landlord. Once you sign this agreement, you’re legally bound to follow everything stated. It is so important to read this document carefully, so you don’t break any agreements while renting out the property.

This contract will usually include information about how long you can rent the property, the cost of renting, the bond and your responsibilities as a tenant.

What is a condition report?

This is a document that states the condition of the property before you rent it. This must cover the state of the property, it’s appliances and furniture, as well as any existing damage.

This document will often be used when there is a dispute about repairs, replacements, or damage. So, when you move in, you should take photos of the property to ensure you have evidence of the property’s original condition if this is the case.

The landlord can take your bond if they believe the house isn’t in the same condition as when you moved in.

Why would you rent over buying a property?

Most young people don’t have the funds available to get a home loan and buy an apartment, unit or house when they first move out of home. Renting allows them to move out of home at a reasonable price and without using all their savings.

It also offers a lot more flexibility over commitment. You aren’t “locked in” to a 30-year mortgage, you pay your rent weekly, fortnightly or monthly and can give notice to leave if and when you want to move somewhere else.

Renting also means you don’t need to pay expenses that a homeowner does, such as council rates, connection fees and certain maintenance costs.

Tips for renting a property

Start a budget and organise your finances

Before you commit to renting a property, you need to know whether you can afford it. Now would be a good time to start a budget and work out how much you can actually spend on rent. This ensures you only look at properties that you can afford too.

Make a list of your needs and wants in a property

When you decide to rent, it is useful to make a list of your ‘must haves’ to help with the decision. Your needs might be location, car parking, furniture, air conditioning/heating, two bedrooms and two bathrooms.

You can also make a list of your wants, but you might have to let these go if you find a property that fits all your needs and your budget.

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When you find a rental property with all your needs

Work out what you can and can’t change about the property

Renting a property comes with its restrictions and you should know what these are. Generally, tenants will require the landlord’s permission to make changes like nailing into the walls to hang pictures or shelves, make minor repairs or paint walls.

Recently, there have been some law changes in Victoria to make renting safer and fairer for everyone. You can view the Victorian guidelines here, but you will need to review your residential tenancy agreement for any specific conditions.

Inspect the property

Before you sign any agreements, you must inspect the rental property AT LEAST once.

When you visit the property, you should check:

  • If it meets your requirements and needs such as parking and air conditioning/heating
  • For any damage or issues
  • That all the appliances, lights and amenities are working well
  • The property matches the descriptions and online photos
  • The condition of the house including furniture (if the property comes furnished)

Helpful Tip: Take photos of absolutely everything (every room, appliance, any stains or marks – inside and outside of the property) before you move in and keep them in an online drive or folder so you can refer back to the condition of the property at the end of your lease when you want your bond back.

Prepare your application prior to looking

It is always a good idea to prepare your application early so the process will be quicker. You should also have digital and print copies of your application.

Applications usually include:

  • Identification
  • Phone bills
  • Pay slips
  • References

Note: If you’re a first-time renter, you won’t have any rental history so you should provide as much information about your employment and income as you can.

Understand your rights and responsibilities as a tenant

It is important to know your rights as a tenant, especially when you are in the process of signing the residential tenancy agreement and the condition report.

As a tenant, you have a right to privacy and, to feel safe and secure in your rental. The property must be liveable and in good condition, and the landlord must follow state/territory laws in all dealings.

Although you have rights, you also have to hold up your end of the deal too.

Your responsibilities will include:

  • Paying utility bills
  • Maintaining the garden
  • Maintaining the original condition of the property
  • Paying your rent on time
  • Complying with the set contract and agreement

Rent with others in a share house

This is a great alternative for low-income earners, students and casual workers as you can share the expenses of rent, the bond and bills.  You can share with friends or find roommates online.  

Our tip: Make sure if you do live with roommates, that there are clear expectations and rules around chores, bills and other living arrangements before you all move in a sign a lease together!

For more information on share houses, click here!

Find out more about renting a property below:

To read our blog on moving out of home tips and expenses, click here!