Can you negotiate cheaper rent?

Renting a property in Australia is considered expensive. However, there is often room for negotiating cheaper rent.

From changing rental prices to market trends that affect people on a large scale, it’s often appropriate to ask for cheaper rent.

If you’re considering asking your current landlord or prospective landlord for cheaper rent, you need a strategy to increase your chances of success.

If you offer to negotiate cheaper rent with a real estate agent, they must present it to the landlord for consideration.

How to get cheaper rent?

It pays to be prepared if you’re considering asking for cheaper rent. Please do your research and go into it with a strategy.

Here is what you should consider before asking for a rent reduction:

  1. Do your research on rental prices

If you request cheaper rent, ensure you go into the situation armed with information that supports your case, i.e., showing evidence of similar properties in the area at lower prices, that prices have been dropping, or the percentage of vacant properties in your area.

You might want to monitor and show evidence of whether the property has been on the rental market for an extended period. This could give you some negotiating power.

  1. Check your rental agreement

Before you start, ask yourself how far you’re willing to negotiate. If your landlord won’t meet your price request, are you ready to terminate the lease early and move on? If so, read over your lease agreement first.

Breaking a lease may cost thousands of dollars, jeopardising your bond. Understanding how much money is at stake is essential before jumping ship (or threatening) is necessary.

You may terminate a lease early if both parties reach a mutual agreement. If this is the case, make sure you get any deals around liability or cost in writing.

  1. Be prepared with what you’re going to ask for

Once you’ve researched and checked your rental agreement (if you’re asking your existing, not potential landlord), you now need to decide how to approach it.

You could write a letter or request a video call, wherever a face-to-face meeting isn’t appropriate or possible.

Next is ensuring you go in with the same discount you are thinking of. Prepare research that supports this discount and what you are willing to negotiate. For instance, your landlord might agree to the deal if you are eager to sign a longer lease. Anticipate this and determine where you are willing to compromise before approaching the request.

The complete guide for first-time renters

So, you’ve decided to move out of the family home and become a renter. While fun, it pays to be organised and understand the market.

Hunting for the perfect rental is fun, but things start to get serious once you find the property. It would help if you were organised to beat other applicants and impress the landlord.

Here are the ultimate first-time renters cheat sheet to show you what you need to know before you sign the agreement: 

Finding a rental property to inspect

It’s a good idea to begin with a ‘must have’ list to ensure you find the right place. 

If you’re interested in a property, you’ll need to make an appointment to view the place or attend the viewing at the advertised time.

If you are a first-time renter, prepare your application early so you can apply as soon as you find the right house. This can be the difference between securing a rental and missing out.

Keep handy spare digital and physical copies of all the documents you need to include in an application, including phone bills, identification, and payslips. 

These documents prove who you are and show that you have a stable income and can look after the rental property.

References will also be necessary. This is why you should organise any well before inspections. Let your referees know that a property manager or landlord may call once you’ve applied. 

You do not need a rental history as a first-time renter, so choose credible and relevant referees. A manager or work colleague is often a good choice.

Inspect the property

Some first-time renters who search online for a home fail to inspect the property before signing a lease. Sometimes, they may find their dream rental property is not what they had hoped.

Renters should visit a property to check:

  • the property isn’t damaged
  • the garden is reasonably maintained
  • all current appliances, including heaters & the oven, are working
  • the number of bedrooms listed is correct

Inspecting a rental also lets you get to know the agent and ask them for tips on creating a winning rental application, which could put you ahead of the competition. 

What is a residential tenancy agreement?

A landlord will request you to sign a contract known as a residential tenancy agreement or a ‘lease’. 

While daunting for first-time renters, you must have a legal contract between you, the tenant, and your landlord. 

Why is a residential tenancy agreement essential, and what should it outline?

  • the amount of rent & how it is to be paid
  • the length and type of tenancy
  • the amount of bond required
  • details on consequences of breaking the lease or asking to leave before the agreement ends
  • special terms related to pets & cleaning requirements 
  • other conditions & rules.

What is a bond?

When signing the contract, you must pay a bond, a deposit that serves as security for the landlord or owner, if you don’t meet the lease terms.

A landlord may claim some or all of the bond for repairing, cleaning, or replacing items at the lease’s end.

Bond and rent are separate payments, and you will often be asked to pay a certain amount of rent upfront.

You may not use any part of the bond as rent, and when you move out, the bond is paid back via the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA).

What is a condition report?

A condition report notes the state of the property at the beginning of your tenancy.

The landlord, or owner, must prepare a detailed condition report for you to check and sign within several days of moving into your new home. It must include detailed information on the condition of the property’s doors, walls, and floors and cover existing damage or issues with furniture and appliances.

Be sure to take photos before you move in to record the property’s original condition and place this in your condition report. This is vital because it can be used as evidence in any disputes around damage, cleaning, or replacement of missing items when your agreement ends. Therefore, you and the landlord must agree on the contents of the condition report before signing it.

Landlords may claim a portion of the bond if you fail to leave the property in good order, i.e. the same condition as when you moved in. Landlords must, however, account for wear and tear.

5 renter mistakes and how to avoid them

Here’s what you can learn from the mistakes of other renters.

  1. Not protecting your stuff

The risk of theft is possible no matter if you own or rent. Avoid unexpected costs of replacing items by getting contents insurance. Do this for all your belongings before you move, including those items most precious to you.

As well as coverage for loss or damage to personal belongings, Contents Insurance also provides other benefits like temporary accommodation, cover while you move and counselling sessions if you’re involved in an insured event where a claim is accepted.

  1. Not hooking up your utilities

You might think this is hard to forget, but it can happen!

You may get by on months of ‘free’ electricity until it stops suddenly. Conversely, you won’t want to spend your first weeks without essential utilities. Make sure you get yourself connected before you arrive.

  1. Incorrectly informing your movers

Extra moving costs can bite hard and usually occur if you haven’t properly measured or accounted for all your belongings before the move.

People purposefully or accidentally fail to note their contents correctly. They may end up with a moving truck that’s too small to complete the job or exceed the original quote.

Adding an extra truck or trip on moving day can raise your costs at the last minute. Please ensure you’ve triple-checked all items and included their correct size in correspondence with your removalist.

  1. Putting in notice before finding a new place

You’re required to give notice to your current landlord before moving out. The timing of this depends on your state’s tenancy laws. However, you don’t want to do this before finding your next home.

  1. Missing key locational facts

Many neighbourhood noise complaints can arise unexpectedly. However, few are as loud and distressing as being under a flight path.

Don’t forget to research the property’s location and visit it multiple times before deciding to move in.

Tenants’ rights when your landlord is selling

It’s the news no content tenant wants to hear: the landlord is selling. 

As with most change, it’s much less scary when you know what to expect.

Here are five things to remember if your landlord decides to sell:

  1. The landlord can sell at any time

Legally, landlords may sell their property whenever they like. However, the law protects tenants from being removed on a whim.

  1. Your lease is still valid

Your current lease, or tenancy agreement, remains valid even if your landlord puts their property on the market. It also remains valid after the sale. If it changes hands, you don’t have to move out of the property.

A landlord cannot terminate a fixed-term agreement to sell the property.

So, if the property sells to an investor as a tenanted property, you may experience very few changes. However, it can also lead to a termination of the lease.

If on a fixed-term agreement but looking to move out because the landlord is selling the property, you may be able to end the tenancy agreement early by mutual consent with the landlord.

If the new owner wants you to vacate, then they must comply with the lease terms.

  1. Landlords must give tenants notice before any inspection, and the tenants can attend

The landlord must give their tenants 14 days before the first viewing.

Tenants must make all reasonable efforts to agree on a suitable time and day for the showing. They must also keep the property in an appropriate state of cleanliness.

If they do not reach an agreement by showing the property, the landlord can only present the property no more than two times per week. They must also give the tenant at least 48 hours notice each time.

In addition, renters have the right to be present at the property during any open for inspection.

  1. Renters have a say in photography and signage

The outside of a rental property may be photographed without permission. However, if the landlord wishes to take photos inside the property, they must obtain permission from their tenant.

The tenant must also give consent to on-site auctions and any signage.

  1. Renters can get compensation

Landlords sometimes offer their tenants compensation to encourage them to move out of the property as soon as possible.

A tenant on a lease may give notice if their property is listed for sale.

Many property owners compensate tenants for the inconvenience, avoiding complaints.

  1. Can you deny a home inspection during Covid-19 lockdowns?

You cannot. However, most states have introduced health guidelines still to be met if an agent or landlord requests to bring people through your home during any pandemic-related lockdowns.

For specific guidance, check your state’s current public health order and guidelines.

  1. Can repairs or maintenance be carried out during Covid-19 lockdowns?

Yes. The landlord, agent or authorised person may still do repairs at any time during a lockdown; however, they will need to ensure they follow the local health guidelines in your area.

Tenants’ rights in different states

There’s a lot of legislation specifically designed to protect the tenant’s rights in this situation, laws that differ from state to state.

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