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Renting a Property First

Your First Home

Unless you’ve managed to buy a house in Australia before you move over here or you are planning to stay with relatives in Australia, it is most likely your first home will be a rented house or apartment. There are pros and cons to this and you have to be aware of the pitfalls of renting as well as the advantages it offers.

If you are here on a temporary visa, it will be more difficult and more expensive for you to buy than it is for residents or those with permanent visas. This is because you will not be entitled to grants or Stamp Duty exemptions as a first time owner.

If you’re planning to stay just for a year or two, it might not be worth buying a house, because of the taxes and other expenses involved. Additionally, depending on the volatility of the global economy, it might not make sense to invest in property outside your home country.

How to Find a Rental Property

Choosing a Location

You should apply the same criteria to finding a rental property as you would to buying a house. This is especially true if you intend renting for a long time.

First find a suburb that you like, that you can afford and which is convenient for work. Also, if you are emigrating with a family you need to check out the local schools.

The Web

The most useful resource for finding a rental property is the internet. In the Google Search bar, enter ‘Property to Rent’ followed by the name of the city or town you are planning to move for a wealth of options.

A couple of very helpful sites are:

These sites are user-friendly. Just enter the suburb, size of house and your price range for the weekly rent. They then bring up a selection of properties, usually ordered according to rental price.

Newspapers

Local newspapers usually carry a rental property section on a specific weekday and a supplement at the weekend. Also, free local weekly newspapers have similar property listings. Advertisements in the newspapers usually provide information on a guide weekly rental price and location.

Real Estate Agents (Realtors)

These are to be found on almost every main street or high street in the suburb you are interested in and they are not simply restricted to buying and selling houses. Most estate agents (especially the larger, pan-Australian companies) have rental property departments and they give over window display space for rental properties. The rental departments are normally referred to as letting agents.

As well as High Street real estate agents, there are also companies who specialise in rental property (Letting Agents). They keep printed lists of rental properties organised according to weekly price.

Don’t expect a rental agent to help you find a place. They’re very good at showing you specific properties once you’ve expressed interest but they will not organise visits or escort you to multiple properties as happens in many countries. Be prepared to deal with several different agents as you search for a rental property.

‘For Rent’ or ‘For Lease’ Signs

Properties that are placed on the rental market are often advertised using display boards outside the property. These carry details of the property and contact information for the letting agent.

Renting

There is a huge demand for rental property in Australia and so rents are generally high. This is thanks to a number of factors.

  • Shortage of properties for the burgeoning population
  • House prices are high pushing up rental prices
  • Many foreign workers are entering the country to take up jobs, especially in the resources sector. This adds to the pressure on the number of rentals available especially in areas where the boom is greatest.

A sign of how huge the demand is comes from the fact that in Sydney, there is only a 1% rental vacancy rate, and quite often rental agents have twenty applicants for every rental property put on the market.

Because of this great demand, rental prices are high. A small apartment in the less desirable suburbs of the larger Australian cities will cost at least $200 per week. At the top end, the sky is the limit. In the most up-market districts, five-bedroom, three-bathroom homes with views and pools can rent for up to $15,000 a week. Obviously, rural rental property or rentals in smaller towns are cheaper than in the capital cities.

Average Rents in Major Capitals

Ranking City Median Rental Price for Apartments (Units) and Houses (per week)

1 Darwin  $553
2 Sydney  $511
3 Canberra  $479
4 Melbourne  $403
5 Brisbane  $392
6 Perth  $390
7 Adelaide  $340
8 Hobart  $316


An extremely useful site for finding the average price of every suburb in Australia can be found at: Average Rent Australia

It would also be worth visiting: Realestateview.com.au

Another useful site is Realestate.com.au

Rules and Regulations

Renting is a heavily regulated process in Australia. Some things to remember:

  • You will have to pay a month’s rent in advance
  • You will have to pay a bond (usually 4 weeks rent). The bond is lodged with a State government body called the Rental Tenancies Authority (RTA) and kept in an independent holding account. The account pays interest to the tenant when he bondis released.
  • To succeed in applying for a rental property you will have to:
    • Sign a contract or Tenancy Agreement
    • Show employment and personal references
    • Show three months worth of pay slips or a letter from your accountant if you are self-employed
    • Three months of bank statements
    • Provide multiple proofs of ID showing your name and address. Some of these must also include a photo. (passport, drivers licence, utilities bill)
  • A letting agent will probably also run a credit check on you.
  • You will have to abide by the terms of the contract.
  • Some landlords object to pets while others are relaxed about it. Officially, if you wish to keep pets in a rental and the landlord agrees to it, you will have to pay an extra two weeks of bond.

Inspections

Every tenant in Australia must endure numerous inspections of the property they are renting.

Pre-Inspection

You will be shown an in-going report by the rental agent. This will specify the precise condition of the property at the time you take up tenancy. The letting agent may also take photographs of the condition of the property. You may also take your own photos to document the state of the property especially if something is in need of repair.

You will need to thoroughly check the in-going property report and raise any concerns before signing it. It is important to do this because this report will be the basis upon which the agent and landlord will judge how well you have treated the property during the tenancy and therefore influence the return of your bond.

On-going Inspections

Australian rental properties are normally inspected by the rental agent every three to six months of occupancy. You will be expected to be available to the agent at the time of the inspection. The property should be in pristine condition as any problems found with the property will be reported to the landlord and could affect your continued tenancy. Any damage identified during the inspection will be noted and you will be expected to repair it at your own expense.

You should report any problems you’re having with the property at this time or discuss any concerns you have with the agent. Failure to do so could affect the return of your bond.

Final Inspections

At the end of your tenancy, the rental agent will conduct another inspection and compare it to the pre-inspection report prepared before you move in. Any damage or degradation to the property beyond normal wear and tear will be deducted from the bond you lodged to secure the tenancy.

The Rental Tenancies Authority (RTA) has a very detailed website which can tell you anything you wish to know about renting in Australia

The Pros and Cons of Renting

The Pros:

  • The landlord is responsible for maintaining the condition of your rented home and for repairing anything that goes wrong promptly.
  • You do not have to find a large deposit to buy a house.
  • You do not need to pay a mortgage.

The Cons:

  • You are responsible for any damage caused to the property except for ‘fair wear and tear’ or through anything that is not your doing - damage caused by bad weather or damage caused by contractors employed by the agent or landlord.
  • You have to pay a 4-week bond and 4-weeks rent in advance.
  • All the money you pay goes to the agent and the landlord. You are not paying off a mortgage.
  • It is not your home.

Vacating the Rental Property

In Australia, there are strict laws protecting both landlords and tenants. The letting agent, who charges the owner of the property a percentage of the rent, is meant to act as middleman between yourself and your landlord. They are there to help both parties if there are any disputes or if any serious problems arise.

At the end of your tenancy, you’ll be given an out-going report detailing the condition of the premises. You must go through this with the agent checking everything is in order. If you agree with the contents of this report, you must sign it. The owner and the agent will then compare the in-going and out-going condition reports and decide if you are entitled to your bond in full.

This is often a matter of contention between the tenant and the landlord. A good agent will smooth things over and help reach an amicable agreement about any differences of opinion. If this fails, the tenant may take up the matter with the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal (CTTT). This is a government agency that is there to resolve disputes between landlords and tenants.

For more information on the rights of the tenant and the landlord, visit: www.cttt.nsw.gov.au/Applications/Forms.html

This particular site is for the CTTT in New South Wales, but each state has a very similar authority.

Visit our Life in Australia section for more articles related to the subject Relocating to Australia.

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