Tips for First Time Renters
Moving out of home for the first time? This is what you should know…
So you’ve finally managed to fly out of the family nest. Whether you were pushed or had to break free of some shackles, moving out during your student days or as a full-time worker, moving out on your own is always a big deal.
It marks the beginning of a new chapter in your life where you’ll find yourself learning a lot more and experiencing some significant personal changes.
But if you’re moving out into a rental, there are several things you should know about property management to ensure your first flight doesn’t result in a disastrous crash.
10 things you should know about being a tenant
1. How leases work
When you’re renting a property, your lease is the most important thing to understand. It’s the legally-binding agreement between yourself and the landlord that defines how long you’ll be renting the property, how much you will pay each week, and what your responsibilities are.
Signing your lease means you agree to everything that’s set out in it, so be sure to read it thoroughly – because if you breach the conditions of your lease, the landlord can have the right to evict you.
2. What your rights are
When you’re named on the lease, you are entitled to certain rights. For example, the landlord can’t force you to pay for things like general repairs and maintenance.
You also have the right to privacy, meaning the landlord can’t show up to the property unannounced to pester you.
Different states around the country may have different laws regarding your rights as a tenant, so find out what your tenancy rights are in your state:
3. Leaving the property
Upon the expiration of the lease, you may be offered a lease renewal, or you can move out. If you intend to leave the property, you’ll be required to provide a few weeks’ notices(usually 2-3 weeks) in writing prior to the end of the lease.
As we know, life is full of the unexpected, unforeseen circumstances requiring you to move out prior to the expiration of the lease. Unfortunately, this can require you to pay compensation to the landlord for the loss of income caused by you ending the tenancy agreement early. These costs can include re-letting fees, advertising costs, and rent until a new tenant is found.
It should go without saying that you should leave the property in a clean, well-maintained state. You’ll need to do this in order to get your bond back (see below). Make sure you go through your Entry Condition Report checklist with a fine-tooth comb to check that the “end condition” of the property matches how it was when you first moved in.
A rental bond is the money you pay at the start of a tenancy to provide financial security for the landlord in case you breach the terms of the lease. Essentially, it’s designed so that if you damage the property at all during your lease, the landlord can keep the bond and use it for repairs and cleaning when you leave.
The bond money is held by a regulatory body (in NSW it is deposited with NSW Fair Trading) until you claim it back at the end of your tenancy. For most properties, the most a bond can cost is the equivalent of 4 weeks rent.
If by the end of the lease you have left the property unclean, damaged (besides ‘fair wear and tear’), or with rent owing, you may not be able to claim back your bond. This is because the landlord has a right to claim the reasonable costs of cleaning and repairs from your bond – hence the importance of leaving the property as you found it.
5. Paying rent
The method for paying rent should be stated in the lease. Approved methods may include electronic bank transfer, EFTPOS, credit card, cash, cheque, or deductions from your pay. If you pay with cash, you should be given a receipt.
The landlord/property manager will keep a record (ledger) of your rent payments and should retain this for up to 1 year after the tenancy has ended. You can request a copy of this record.
If your rent is late by a specified amount of time (usually 14 days), your landlord usually has the power to evict you. If you’re unable to pay overdue rent, repayment plans for the outstanding amount can be organised with your landlord or real estate agent.
6. Repairs and maintenance
While it is your duty as a tenant to keep the property clean and undamaged, it is the landlord’s responsibility or the landlord’s property manager for keeping the property in good condition for the tenant to live in.
Your landlord needs to organise and pay for repairs when necessary, including emergency repairs. If notified problems aren’t fixed within a reasonable amount of time, you may have a right to end the tenancy or claim compensation from the landlord.
If one of your belongings is broken or damaged rather than part of the property itself, you can also check whether this is covered by your contents insurance, also known as renter’s insurance. A good quality contents insurance policy will cover you to repair or replace your belongings after loss or damage caused by fire, flood or storm, malicious damage by other people, theft or attempted theft, stray animals, and some accidental glass breakage. You can compare your options on our website:
7. What not to do without permission
The lease should generally state what you can and cannot do without explicit permission from the owners. You usually need permission from your landlord to do things like keeping pets or making changes to the property (e.g. painting walls and doing minor renovations).
8. The importance of neighbours
Establishing a relationship with neighbours can be extremely valuable when renting, particularly when renting in an apartment block or complex where the landlord manages multiple properties.
When you know your neighbours, they will be more likely to raise issues (such as too much noise) directly with you instead of dobbing you into the landlord or the police.
Neighbours can be helpful in other ways such as agreeing to collect your mail or take out your bins while you’re away. They’re also nice to have for a friendly chat now and then. As they say on Ramsay St, “everybody needs good neighbours”.
9. Housemate etiquette
You’ll also need to establish good relationships with those within your home so that you can all live in harmony. Most of us know someone who’s had a rough experience with a terrible housemate, which is why housemates need to establish firm rules together.
These house rules should include informal agreements about how to deal with things like parties, letting friends stay over, food sharing, shopping, cooking, paying bills, cleanliness, and privacy.
10. How to manage housemate disputes
Even with rules and agreements, there is still a strong chance you’ll have a dispute with a housemate over something at some stage. Disagreements often arise regarding bills, rent, room allocation, chores, and property damage.
Knowing how to manage and resolve these disagreements peacefully has a lot to do with clear, relaxed and open discussion. If disagreements persist, you could seek out free dispute resolution services which are offered by most states.
As for housemates or guests who have damaged your stuff, you can check whether this is covered by your contents insurance. Every renter should have good quality contents insurance to repair or replace their belongings if lost or damaged by theft or attempted theft, or malicious damage or vandalism by other people:
Moving out of home checklist
Maybe you’re still considering moving out of home. Here are some things you need to think about before applying for a property and jumping into the world of renting:
|Moving Out of Home Checklist|
|Location||Where you choose to live is important for a number of reasons, namely price and transport.
If you’re a school or University leaver, you probably don’t have enough money to live in the most excellent suburb in your city, so it might be a good idea to look at locations in slightly cheaper suburbs.
Keep in mind that while further out suburbs will be cheaper, they may pose transport problems. Make sure to map out transport options in any area you’re considering as a potential home.
|Type of property||What type of property do you want to live in? You could live in a little one-person apartment or a share house; it all depends on what you want and what you can afford.Different property types come with different pros and cons. For example, an apartment will offer you less space but will probably be cheaper, whereas a house would provide you with more living room but will probably cost more in rent and utilities (and take up more of your time to keep clean).|
|Housemates||Just like choosing the type of property you want to live in, choosing whether or not to have housemates or flatmates comes with a distinct set of pros and cons.
While living with others will definitely reduce your financial obligations (rent, electricity bills, etc.), living with strangers can initially prove to be an uncomfortable or even unpleasant experience. Personality and value clashes can be serious issues, and make a living away from home more stressful then it needs to be.
On the other hand, housemates can also become close friends, so they’re worth considering.
|Lease length||You may be tempted to sign a longer lease because the rent is cheaper or for some other reason, but keep in mind that if you want to move anywhere and your lease isn’t up, you’ll pay a hefty fee to break your lease.
You may also have still to pay rent for the rest of the term, even if you’re not living there, and on top of that, the landlord may ask you to pay re-letting fees.
If you share a home with housemates, think carefully about whose names should be on the lease. Whoever’s name is on the lease is legally liable for that lease.
If you want to be sure that your housemates are going to pay their fair share of the rent, it’s a good idea to have their names on the lease.
But if you think that one of your housemates would look less than stellar on a rental application, it might be worth just having your name on the lease.
|Money||It’s been raised a few times above, but money is really the most important consideration when moving out.
Do you have a steady cash flow, and is that enough to pay weekly/fortnightly rent, utilities, food, and transport?
Will you have enough money to buy essentials once you’ve moved in?
Before you move out, it’s definitely a good idea map out your expenses, draw up a budget, and make sure you’ll be financially stable.
If you don’t want to be part of the “Boomerang Generation” (kids who move out then move back in to their parents’ home), put some careful planning into your initial attempt.
|Moving costs||Will you pay for professional movers or ask your friends and family to help you out?
Are you going to take furniture to your new home or buy new furniture after moving?
Consider initially only taking absolute essentials and bringing everything else over gradually; this will make your initial move much more comfortable and less stressful.
|Insurance||While there are no mandatory insurance policies, you’ll need, contents insurance is a good idea. This can cover your belongings for loss or damage caused by fire, flood, theft or attempted theft, and more.
Also, ask your parents whether or not you will still be covered under their health insurance once you’re not living under their roof. While you’re at it, don’t forget about car insurance for your vehicle.
Finally, consider whether you may need any life insurances.
|Will you set up a mail re-direct and send your mail to your new place of residence until you’ve registered your change of address everywhere, or will you let your mail keep going to your parent’s house and collect it off them?|
|Luxuries||If your new home doesn’t have it, do you plan on paying for wi-fi? What about Netflix or Foxtel or another paid TV service?
While you may not miss having a paid TV service (there’s always YouTube), it’s entirely likely that you’ll have a hard time living without an internet connection in your home.
The simple guide for first-time renters
Moving out of home for the first time, but don’t have enough savings to afford your own place? Buying a house can feel well beyond the reach of many Aussies, which is why would-be home-owners are turning to rent property instead.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, almost researching Australian households rented their home in 2017-18.
If you’re a first-time renter, there are some things you need to know to make your life easier, including how to:
- prepare your rental application
- choose the right property
- end leases
- get your all-important bond back when you vacate a property
- take out renters insurance to protect your possessions against damage or theft (your landlord only insures the house itself, not your belongings).
Here’s our introductory guide to being a first-time renter to ensure you start this exciting new chapter with confidence.
First-time renters’ checklist
Before you move into your next home, here are a few key things to think about. Our first-time renters’ checklist includes tips for preparing your rental application, how to choose the right property, ways to negotiate (or renegotiate) your rental contract, understanding property condition reports, and tips for moving in or out of your rental property.
1. Preparing your application
Depending on where you want to live and the type of property you would like, the rental market can be fiercely competitive. If you’re going to secure your dream rental property, a strong application may be the difference between getting it or not.
Here are some tips to prepare your rental application; try and check-off as many as you can to strengthen your application.
- Call the agent to ask a few questions. Be friendly and personable – try to make a good impression on the agent to differentiate you from the other applicants.
- Prepare your application before you view the property. Popular properties will be snapped up quickly, so having your application filled out and ready to hand over if the property is ‘perfect’ for you is an advantage.
- Write a letter to the landlord. This may seem like a lot of work, but it demonstrates that you are a conscientious potential tenant. Talk about their property and what makes it an excellent fit for you/your family. You may wish to include personal details that make you more appealing to landlords (i.e. you have a steady income, you don’t smoke, you have no pets etc).
- Save the agent time and present your application with photocopies of your various forms of ID. This could include the front and back of your driver’s license, Medicare card and passport. They may need to see the originals, but at least you’ve saved them the hassle of taking copies. They may also request copies of your previous utility bills, so have these ready as well.
- Prepare your proof of income, because you will more than likely need to provide it. This proof could be a payslip, end-of-year tax certificate or bank statement. Keep copies of these handy to include with your rental applications.
- Get your references in order; this could keep you a step ahead of the competition. You can request letters of reference from previous landlords or property agents if you have rented in the past. Choose your referees wisely – a poor reference can sink an otherwise strong application.
- Be financially prepared. You’ll need to have your first month’s rent and bond ready if your application is accepted.
- Create bios for your pets. If you have pets, creating pet bios can help demonstrate you are a conscientious pet owner who cares for your animal and your home. Include details like your pet’s behaviour, training regimen, and any regular vet checks or vaccinations to help calm landlords who may be cautious about renting out to pet owners.
- Dress to impress. According to com.au, first impressions can make a difference. Present yourself well, both in appearance and demeanour, and you’ll have a better chance of securing the property you want.
2. Choosing a property
Choosing the right rental property involves asking yourself a series of questions about your lifestyle and financial needs.
- How much can you afford to pay in rent? Set yourself a limit, and stick to it, even if that means missing out on your dream home. You don’t want to lock yourself into a contract that will send you broke.
- What type of home suits you (house, apartment, unit)? Decide whether you’d prefer having your own place with a backyard, if you’re open to sharing with neighbours, or like the convenience of apartment living (even with potential strata fees to consider).
- How many bedrooms/bathrooms do you need? Sharing a bathroom can be a deal-breaker for some, and having a spare bedroom means you can potentially host family or friends, or share the costs with another roommate.
- Do you want to rent a property on your own, with a partner, or are you looking for a room in a shared house? By renting a place by yourself, you’ll get a lot more freedom, but it will come at a cost. If you want to cut down on your rental spend, it might be best to share with roommates or potential partners.
- Do you need somewhere to park your vehicle? If you have a car, it’s essential to make sure your rental comes with a car park, or that you can find a secure place nearby.
- Do you prefer a property with a yard or a low maintenance outdoor area? If you don’t have time to do the gardening or just dislike yard work, it might be best to find a place that requires minimal work.
- Is the property near public transport links? Living on a train line or near a bus stop can be quite handy and can reduce your need for a car.
- If you have pets, does the property cater for them? Make sure the property allows pets, and if you need a big fenced-off yard for your dog, there’s no point in looking at properties that don’t offer this.
- Is the property near local shops/schools and other amenities? Being able to duck to the shops when you’re out of something, or walk kids to their school or a local park can be quite advantageous.
- Do you prefer a quiet suburban street or an urban setting closer to restaurants and nightlife? Weigh up whether you’d prefer quiet nights and less congestion, or inner-city living with everything you need at your doorstep.
- How far are you willing to commute for work? Map out your route to work from your potential property and calculate how much time the route and traffic will consume from your day-to-day routine.
Once you’ve considered these questions, heading online to search for properties that fit your criteria is an excellent first step. It could also be a good idea to contact agents who specialise in particular areas to engage them in helping you find the right property.
Rental properties turn over quickly, so getting in touch with a few key agents may help you find the perfect property before it’s listed online or in the local paper.
3. Handling negotiation (and renegotiation)
Sometimes there may be wiggle room on a rental property’s listed price. However, this is dependent on market conditions and interest in the property.
By researching the market in your chosen area, it should give you a good idea of whether a property will be popular with other renters. If strong competition is likely, it’s doubtful that the rent can be negotiated to a lower rate.
However, there are other things you could negotiate than just the weekly rent.
- Lease term: Lease terms are often variable. Some landlords want the flexibility offered by a six-month lease, while others want a 12-month lease security. In some cases, if you’re looking for a long-term rental property, you may be able to negotiate lease terms over 12 months. This may appeal to certain landlords; if a long-term lease suits your needs, discuss this with the agent first and then offer longer terms (say 24 months) at a slightly reduced rental rate.
- Property condition: Landlords are looking for good tenants who will pay their rent on time and keep the property in good condition. If you are a strong candidate, you may be able to request amendments to the property condition as a lease sweetener – for example, a fresh coat of paint or a new oven.
- Rent renegotiation terms: While there may not be room to move on the initial rent amount, you may be able to work out rent renegotiation terms as a part of your application. You may also be able to negotiate rent reductions down the track (i.e. if you prove yourself to be a model tenant after six months and offer the landlord something in return – like a long-term lease extension).
- Property inclusions: Ask the property agent whether they can include extras, like a yard or garden maintenance, as part of the rental agreement.
4. Organising your property condition report
A property condition report will list the condition of the property in general, as well as various items within the property, like included white goods and any furniture or furnishings. Taking the time to be thorough at the initial stages of your tenancy will benefit you in the long run.
- Do a thorough inspection. Any discrepancies between your observations and the property condition report (for example, a cracked tile in the master bathroom or a stain on the living room carpet) should be noted with the agent. Take photos of everything before you move in.
- Make sure you receive an amended copy of the property condition report. This will be used to assess whether or not your bond is returned at the end of your tenancy.
5. Getting move-in ready
Once you’ve signed the lease on your new rental property, it’s time to move in. However, just because you’ve got your dream rental place, it doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. The property still belongs to the owner, and they’re going to make sure it’s taken care of.
So, here are some steps to make your move-in smoother.
- Organise your belongings. Moving into a new property is the perfect time to take stock of your belongings and to create a home contents inventory. Taking inventory is an essential part of protecting your contents if items are lost, stolen or damaged in your home. Remember to take care when moving your furniture and belongings into the property to avoid damaging walls and floors.
- Protect your possessions. Remember that your rental agreement does not cover your contents (i.e. your belongings). If you want to protect your belongings (like furniture, clothing, electronics and jewellery), you’ll need to take out a contents insurance Without cover, you would face the costs of replacing them out of your own pocket. Just imagine how much your clothes, appliances, jewellery and furniture are all worth!
- Prepare for inspections. Remember, as a tenant, you may be subject to periodic property inspections. The frequency of these inspections varies in each state. Inspections are usually carried out within the first six weeks of a new tenancy and then every three to six months. Make sure your place is clean and tidy all the time, but especially before an inspection.
- Confirm your notice period for inspections. Property agents are required to give tenants sufficient notice about an upcoming inspection, usually seven days. Check with your property agent to find out how often they conduct inspections. It’s also important to check with your local tenancy advocacy and advice service for specific notice periods for entry to the premise for reasons other than inspections (urgent repairs, prospective buyer tours, etc.).
6. Vacating your property
Once you’re ready to move on to another property, there are some steps to take so that you leave on good terms with the property owner.
- Give sufficient notice. Whether you’re leaving by choice or by circumstances, the initiating party must give notice. The notice period varies depending on the reason for vacating a premise; it also varies by state and territory, so check with your local tenancy authority to find out which notice periods are applicable to you. Notice must be given in writing, including the date of notice, the date you will vacate the premise and reason for vacating.
- Prepare your property for handover. Once notice is given, you’ll need to arrange for the property to be ready by the stated date. You will be required to return the property to the agent/landlord in the same condition than you received it. Remember, you may not be responsible for general wear and tear; however, you should leave the premises in a reasonably clean condition and repair any damage you were responsible for.
- Organise end-of-lease ‘bond’ cleaning. The condition in which you leave the property will directly affect the return of your bond. So, if you can afford it, budget for a professional cleaning company to do an end-of-lease clean. If the property has a yard or garden, make sure it’s also neat and tidy. Check with the real estate agent to see if they have any preferred bond cleaning companies.
- Attend the end-of-lease inspection. If you’re able to be present, attend the end-of-lease inspection, where the property agent will inspect the property against both the initial property condition report and any amendments that have been made to the report throughout the tenancy. All going well, your bond should be returned without dispute; however, if there are any disputes, you can apply for it to be resolved through the Tenancy Tribunal in your state or territory.
7. Where to go for help
Navigating the rental market can be challenging, so remember to keep thorough records throughout your tenancy, in case any queries arise.
By doing a quick online search, you’ll find many state- and territory-specific tenant advice websites and organisations that help tenants with a range of issues, including:
- tenants’ responsibilities;
- privacy rights; and
- dispute resolution.