FINDING A PROPERTY TO RENT
The easiest way to find properties to rent is via the Internet or by visiting your local real estate agency. The property manager at First National Lazaridis & Yap will be happy to provide you with a list of available vacancies and information about how to apply to lease a house or apartment/unit.
We can also add you to a tenants’ database so you will receive updates by email or text message. That way you’ll be first to know when your ideal rental property becomes available.
Australia has major websites that display most, but not all, rental vacancies. Some major websites are www.squiiz.com.au; www.realestateview.com.au; www.realestate.com.au; www.domain.com.au.
INSPECTING A PROPERTY TO RENT
Some rental properties advertise ‘open for inspection’ times. There’s no need to make an appointment when this is the case. Just turn up at the advertised time and place. Alternatively, if you would prefer to see the property sooner, telephone the property manager and ask if you can inspect the property by private appointment.
Make sure to take your photo identification with you as you may be asked to register your details (for security purposes) before entering the rental property. A professional agent will never give you keys to inspect a property without being accompanied.
There are a number of scams that have been reported to Australian police whereby non-real estate industry websites such as www.gumtree.com.au advertise the same property as an agent may be advertising on their website, but for a much lower price. Typically, the contact on such websites will not be available to show you the property but will instead ask you to send a cash deposit in return for the key to the property. Unfortunately, once the cash has been sent the key never arrives. A professional real estate agency will always make an appointment to show you the property or schedule an open for inspection.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN INSPECTING A RENTAL PROPERTY
There are plenty of things that can make a big difference to how happy you’ll be with a rental property. First National Real Estate suggests you pay attention to the following features:
Storage. Built-in wardrobes are an extremely handy feature that saves you the financial outlay on furniture that you may not need in your next rental property.
Security. Not all rental properties have deadlocks on doors or alarm systems and it isn’t necessarily a legal requirement that they do. Make sure the property you inspect has security that satisfies you, as the landlord may not respond to requests for an upgrade after you move in.
Walls and carpets. Make sure you check the condition of all walls and carpets. While minor cracks shouldn’t concern you, make sure all cracks, scuffs, picture-hanging hooks and marks are noted on the Condition Report. If the agent doesn’t note them down, you have a short period of time - after you move in - to correct the record and it is vital that you do. Likewise, all marks on carpet should be clearly noted.
Dampness and mould. When inspecting the property, look out for signs of mould at the base or tops of walls and in corners. This could indicate rising damp, a leaking roof, or ventilation problems.
Smoke alarms. All rental properties in Australia must be fitted with a working smoke alarm.
Kitchen. Check the kitchen for cleanliness, built-up grease inside cupboards and on tops of cupboards. Look for signs of excrement that could indicate the presence of mice or rats. If there is a dishwasher, check that it is working and that the stove and oven is also in working order (and clean). If there is an exhaust fan, check that it works too. A good-sized pantry can be a very handy feature. Do the taps leak? Dripping taps can dramatically increase your water bill.
Bathroom. Test the taps and listen for any strange sounds that would suggest there could be a problem with plumbing. How long does it take for hot water to reach the shower? Is there a bath? Are there any leaks under the sink and does any rusty water come out when you turn the tap on? This could mean the hot water service is getting old, less efficient, and could be expensive to run. Does the toilet flush properly and fill in a reasonable amount of time?
Pool. As great as a pool can be for a family or a keen swimmer, maintaining a pool requires some commitment and expense. Talk to the property manager about the cost of pool chemicals such as chlorine, especially if you’ve never managed a pool before. Pools need topping up, cleaning, chemicals to keep them in balance, and most importantly, security fencing. Make sure the pool has safety fencing and a gate that swings shut and latches automatically.
Exterior. With houses, check for cobwebs and dust as well as the condition of guttering. Is there safe, well lit access at night time? Is the garden well maintained and do you have the time and ability to keep it well maintained?
Rental property checklist: -
1. Storage. Does the property have built-in wardrobes or other handy storage features?
2. Security. Does the property have deadlocks, an alarm system or window bars?
3. Walls and carpets. Are the walls and carpets in satisfactory condition?
4. Dampness and mould. Does the property show signs of moisture problems?
5. Smoke alarms. Does the property have a working smoke alarm?
6. Kitchen. Does the property have modern conveniences and does the stove and oven work?
7. Bathroom. Is this bathroom in a good state of cleanliness and is the hot water service delivering strong, hot water?
8. Pool. Have you considered the running costs and are you confident you can keep the water balanced?
9. Exterior. Is there safe, well lit access at night time? Is the garden well maintained and do you have the time and ability to keep it well maintained?
APPLYING FOR A RENTAL PROPERTY
Bravo, you’ve found the rental property you want to lease. Now it’s time to apply for it by completing a Tenancy Application form. Information your agent will be looking for includes, but is not restricted to:
•Proof of your previous addresses including rental property history.
•Proof of current and previous employment history.
•How many people intend to rent the property with you.
•The date you wish to move in and length of tenancy.
•Proof of identity (copies of photo identification).
The more information you can provide the quicker your rental property application will be processed.
A RESIDENTIAL TENANCY AGREEMENT
A residential tenancy agreement is a legal agreement between a tenant and landlord to lease a property for a period. The tenancy agreement (also known as a lease) highlights the legal obligation of both parties during the tenancy period, including:
•The amount of rent to be paid.
•How often payments must be made.
•The term of tenancy agreement.
•Point of contact ie. if the property will be managed by a real estate agent.
•Conditions of entry and any.
•Special conditions that need to be adhered to.
A HOLDING DEPOSIT
Great properties don’t stay on the market for long.
•You must be quick with your decision to apply.
•A holding deposit secures your genuine interest to lease a property and is paid when submitting your Tenancy Application form for a rental property.
•Not all states within Australia permit a holding deposit be paid.
•Check with the managing agent to see if they accept holding deposits or not.
A RESIDENTIAL BOND
A bond offers financial protection to a landlord when renting a property. It is used if a tenant breaches part of their tenancy agreement.
•The amount of the bond can vary from state to state and may also depending on the rental value and state of the property, and whether pets are allowed.
•By law, the bond should be registered with the state’s governing body via a bond lodgment form. Both parties to the tenancy agreement complete this.
•Deductions from the bond may only be withdrawn by the managing agent or landlord. This is to recover costs relating to the end of the tenancy in the event the tenant does not adhered to their obligations as spelt out in the tenancy agreement.
UTILITIES (WATER, GAS, ELECTRICITY)
This may vary from property to property however in most circumstances:
•The tenant must pay for their own electricity, gas and water charges
•Details regarding the payment of utilities will be mentioned in your tenancy agreement
•Ask the landlord or managing agent prior to leasing the property
You should take out your own contents insurance before renting a property to cover your personal possessions.
•If there were a theft or accident which prevented you from living in the rental property, you would not be covered under any policy the landlord may have in place.
•Ask your First National Real Estate property manager about Tenant Insurance products.
LANDLORD OR PROPERTY MANAGER ACCESS DURING THE TENANCY
Your landlord or managing agent has the right to enter the property under specific circumstances to inspect the property and/or conduct maintenance. However:
•You must be given appropriate notice prior to the landlord accessing the rental property.
•These circumstances are spelt out in your tenancy agreement and include routine inspections and maintenance repairs.
It is very important to report all maintenance to your landlord or managing agent as soon it you notice any fault. Failure to notify your landlord or managing agent may see you held responsible for further damage if not mentioned at the initial stage of the fault.
•If the matter is urgent, contact your landlord or managing agent immediately by telephone.
•If the matter is non-urgent it is advisable that you contact the landlord or managing agent in writing and keep a copy of your own records.
•Items classified as urgent are usually highlighted in your tenancy agreement or renter’s rights booklet provided by the landlord or managing agent.
You cannot stop paying rent if the landlord does not do maintenance. Your rental payments are not related to any maintenance issues. By withholding rent you would be in breach of your tenancy agreement.
If you feel your attempts to address maintenance issues have been overlooked by your First National agent, and you believe your enjoyment or safety at your rental home is affected, you should take appropriate action by:
•Contacting the principal of your First National office to discuss
•If dissatisfied with his/her response, contact First National Real Estate's national administration, or
•Make an application through your state’s governing body to have the matter heard before an adjudicator or magistrate (whichever applies).
•Each state has a department of fair trading, consumer affairs office, or similar department which has a customer call centre that you contact in order to discuss your problem, free of charge.
NSW Department of Fair Trading Ph: 13 32 20
Consumer Affairs Victoria, Residential Tenancies Info Ph: 1300 558 181
Queensland Residential Tenancies Authority Ph: 1300 366 311
SA Office of Consumer and Business Affairs, Residential Tenancies Advice Ph: (08) 8204 9555
WA Department of Consumer & Employment Protection Ph: 1300 30 40 54
TAS Office of Consumer Affairs & Fair Trading Ph: 1300 65 44 99
NT Consumer and Business Affairs Ph: 1800 019 319
ACT Department of Fair Trading Ph: (02) 6207 0400
You can rent a property with pets provided the rental property has suitable provision to do so, and you have approval by the landlord or managing agent prior.
•You must disclose this information on your rental application when applying for any rental property.
•Failing to advise your landlord or managing agent may see you in breach of your tenancy agreement and there could be further implications because of your non-disclosure.
•It’s best to be up-front so you get the full enjoyment of your new rental home.
TERMINATING THE TENANCY AGREEMENT
To end your tenancy, you must give notice to the landlord or managing agent in writing, in accordance with the tenancy agreement.
•Even if your fixed term contract is about to expire, you still need to give written notice of your intention to vacate the rental property and give adequate notice of days as stated in your tenancy agreement, otherwise the tenancy will continue on a month by month basis until either party gives notice to end the tenancy.
•If you wish to break your tenancy agreement by leaving the property earlier, costs associated in doing so would apply.
•Refer to your tenancy agreement or contact your landlord or managing agent to find out what your minimum period of notice would be and the potential costs, should you wish to break your tenancy agreement.
RESPONSIBILITIES AS A TENANT
When renting, little problems can turn into big problems if you are not aware of who is responsible for taking care of any issues that may arise.
As a tenant, you are obliged to do the following:
•Keep the property clean.
•Not cause damage to the premises.
•Inform the landlord as soon as possible if any damage is done.
•Ask for the landlord’s permission to install fixtures or make alterations, renovations etc.
•Avoid causing a nuisance to the landlord or neighbours.
•Do not participate in anything illegal on the property.
•Stick to the terms of your tenancy agreement.
RENTING A HOUSE OR AN APARTMENT
There are key factors to consider when deciding on the type of rental property including:
•Living in a rental house often requires more attention to the house exterior, fencing, backyard and gardens than renting an apartment.
•Renting an apartment requires compliance with the body corporate rules concerning building access, parking, garbage disposal and noise pollution. It's important to familiarise yourself and your flat mates with the body corporate rules and regulations.
•Rental houses may have more security requirements (locks on gates, alarm systems) to be aware of than when you are renting an apartment - where many security features are centrally managed by the body corporate.
RENTING DIRECTLY FROM THE LANDLORD
Some home owners offer a private home rental, meaning no real estate agent is involved. It is important to understand that renting a house or apartment from a private individual, not via a registered real estate agent, has various advantages and disadvantages.
•Houses privately available for rent may, at first glance, seem less expensive than if an agent has been appointed to lease the property. However, be aware that renting directly from a landlord may not offer the same level of professionalism when dealing with maintenance and/or a tenancy dispute.
•Owners who rent their homes directly to tenants may not be familiar with the statutory requirements.
•You may experience less privacy as a tenant due to the owner being the landlord and, without a real estate agent or property manager, there can be less objectivity between the landlord and tenant.
A SUCCESSFUL TENANCY APPLICATION
Looking for rental properties can be extremely competitive, so it pays to stand out from the crowd somehow. Whether you have a proven track record of always paying your rent on time or being the perfect neighbour, these can all help you to be the best tenant to select. Here are three tips to help you become a great tenant.
Keep it clean
As a renter, the house you're living in isn't actually your own - it's the landlord's. Therefore, it makes sense to keep it clean and tidy to ensure it stays in a good condition for the duration of your tenancy.
If maintenance of lawns and gardens is your responsibility, then make sure the backyard doesn't turn into an overgrown jungle.
Report maintenance issues
If a problem pops up at your rental then you should report it to your landlord or property manager as soon as you can. Leaving maintenance issues to hang over your head can potentially lead to problems worsening over time.
And if it's something like the dishwasher or the oven, then it's likely you'll want to get it fixed ASAP so you can use it again!
Everyone knows that communication is key to a great relationship - this also extends to the one between you and your landlord. If there are any issues that arise from the home, such as noisy neighbours or a problem with your next rent payment, let them know - you can always come to a solution together.
By creating a harmonious relationship with your landlord or property manager, you can increase your chances of getting a positive reference - an extremely handy thing to have when you look for a new home!
APPROACHING NEIGHBOURS ABOUT A NUISANCE
In a perfect world, all our neighbours would be our friends and we'd regularly trade cups of sugar and lend out lawnmowers with smiles on our faces. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Be it a noise issue, a property boundary dispute or any other problem, there will likely come a time when you'll need to approach a neighbour about some kind of nuisance.
When this situation arises, it's important to keep your cool and follow some general guidelines in order to keep the peace and have your home remain a sanctuary, not a battleground.
Timing is key
If a problem arises, it's a good idea to speak with your neighbour sooner rather than later. This will give you less time to stew on something they may not even be aware of.
With that said, if you're angry, it's probably a good idea to hold off on approaching a neighbour until you've had some time to cool off.
Either way, when you do approach your neighbour, do so at a convenient time that will give you ample opportunity to talk. Banging on someone's door in the middle of the night is not ideal.
Cordial is better than cranky
A neighbour that keeps you up at all hours of the night with blaring music may lead you to write a nasty note or yell some choice words over the fence, but this strategy has the potential to backfire horribly.
After all, it's not as if your neighbour will suddenly pack up and leave overnight. You have to live next to this person, and if you start a feud, it could turn your home life into a living hell.
That's why it's important to be polite and reasonable in all dealings with your neighbour. Honey really does attract more flies than vinegar in the end.