Payin’ Rent: Getting a Place

If you’ve done the sums and moving out makes sense, it’s time to find somewhere to live.

But with countless rules and regulations to get on top of, fierce competition from other tenants and no rental history, getting a place for the first time can be a challenge.

Here’s what you need to know to navigate the minefield.

The lease and bond

A lease is a legal agreement between a landlord and a tenant to rent a property, and sets out exactly what is expected of the each party over the length of the agreement.

While it’s possible to rent informally, it’s safer for everyone to stick to a formal arrangement where each party has clearly defined rights and obligations.

Before signing a lease, take the time to read it through in full and make sure you understand exactly what you’re agreeing to, as you’ll be legally responsible for fulfilling the conditions it sets out.

The rental bond is an amount of money paid by the tenant to cover the landlord in case of damage to the property, or if the tenant doesn’t pay their rent, and is usually set at one month’s rent.

Generally, the landlord is required to lodge your bond with the a government authority, so make sure your bond is in the right hands.

Real estate agents

Real estate agents, leasing agents, property managers, or whatever their title happens to be, act as a gatekeeper between landlords and their tenants.

They organise to lease the property by holding inspections of the premises, and after the property is leased deal with all of the stuff the landlord doesn’t want to, like collecting rent, dealing with complaints, and conducting inspections of the property – for a fee of course.

While you’re looking for a place, try and get on the good side of the agent handling the property and make sure you have their direct contact details.

Ultimately the agent has control over whether the landlord will even see your application, and they can put in a good word if a number of people apply for the same property.

The rental application

The rental application is how the landlord assesses your suitability to be a tenant.

If there’s a group of you applying to be on the lease, each person will usually have to complete a separate application.

You’ll need to provide comprehensive information to back up your application, which could include any previous rental history, work experience, personal and professional references, bank records and payslips to confirm your financial situation, and certified copies of identity documents.

It’s a good idea to think of your application as a resume and really try to sell yourself to the agent and the landlord.

Turn up to the inspection well dressed to make a good first impression, and if you’re confident the property will be a good fit, you can always complete an application beforehand to get a jump on everyone else.

Just be aware in some situations other applicants may try to gain an advantage by offering more rent than the property is listed for, or a few month’s rent up front as a sweetener, so make sure to follow up the agent regularly to check on the status of your application.

Share house

The alternative to signing a lease to rent a property with a group of people is to move in to an existing share house with a free room.

You can find these through word of mouth, or advertised on the internet through dedicated sites like flatmatefinders.com.au or classifieds sites like gumtree.com.au.

While it might seem simpler than applying to a landlord, getting accepted into one of these houses can be a process in itself, and you’ll often need to go through a couple of interviews with your new potential housemates to get the gig.

Like a landlord, they’ll want to make sure you can pay rent and bills, but they’ll also be looking for people who ‘fit in’ with the social dynamic of the house, will keep the place clean and lend a hand where needed.

While moving into an existing share house is a perfectly viable option, there are some potential risks to be aware of, such as unscrupulous tenants jacking up your share of the rent unfairly to reduce their own.

Once you’re in, it’s a good idea to introduce yourself to the real estate agent so that you’re recognised as a tenant in the house (you may have to lodge an application with them).

Lastly, any bond money you pay will usually be transferred directly to the departing housemate to cover their share of the original amount. To make sure you have a claim to the money when the lease ends, it’s a good idea to get in touch with the rental bond authority and get your name added to the bond.

At the very least make sure to get a receipt for your bond payment from the current housemates.