How to rent in Australia

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Finding a place to stay is one of the most stressful part of moving abroad and for those relocating to Australia, the amount of paperwork an...

Finding a place to stay is one of the most stressful part of moving abroad and for those relocating to Australia, the amount of paperwork and procedures required before even being considered for rent adds to that stress. Here's an step-by-step run down of the renting process, what will be involved and what to expect.

By Karn G. Bulsuk

Renting in Australia is quite involved and I was rather surprised at the amount of paperwork, procedures and red tape that needed to hopped through before being able to rent.

Finding somewhere to rent

When moving in from abroad, one of our instincts is to look online at websites such as domain.com.au or realestate.com.au and find possible places to live in. Unfortunately, I've found that real estate agents will not reply to you if you're abroad, as the rental market here moves relatively quickly and in many cases, an inspection of the house/apartment is necessary before you can go forward. An inspection is when you go to look at the unit on offer.

The best way in this case is to leave about a month from your arrival to find a place, and attend inspections. Better yet, arriving one week before your assignment starts in order to focus solely on house hunting would be better, as it will give you the opportunity to make contact with the agents and travel to look for yourself at all the units available. In addition to the obvious websites, you will find that gumtree.com.au is surprisingly useful in trying to find shared accommodation as well.

Inspections are normally fixed times and dates where you are given 10 minutes to look at the unit on offer and see whether you like it or not, and whether it suits your requirements. If the inspection times are already listed on the website, then you can simply turn up. If you are late or if the agent is not downstairs, then you can ring the unit up using the intercom and the agent will let you into the unit.

In some cases, you may need to make an appointment with the agent separately depending on which property you're looking at.

Interestingly enough, it seems that the price of a furnished apartment is roughly the same as a furnished one, and that the price seems to be more dictated by the area and size.

Fancy a good view from your apartment?
Confirming your intent to rent

If you have decided to rent a place, then you will need to fill in an application form, which can be obtained from the agent at the inspection. Such applications are involved and require a significant amount of personal information, such as where you last lived, why you left the place, in addition to all your basic details.

You will also need to fulfil a 100 point check, where a passport may comprise 60 points and proof of work/study or source of funds may give you another 20 each. You need at least 100 points to be considered for rent.

You will normally need two referees, by providing their names, contact details and their relationship to you. What the agent will do is ring these people up in order to confirm that you are of good character and can pay the rent on time, and not destroy the unit. Having referees within Australia is much better, and your supervisor may be a good candidate if you're fresh here and know no one.

The reason why they have so much red tape is because the renter is protected by law from being kicked out during the lease period. This means that the owner needs to be sure that the leaser is in good standing, as evictions can be quite drawn out affairs.

Once you fill in the application form, the agent will then pass it on to the owner whom then will choose who they will rent the unit to.

Being selected to rent

If you are selected to rent the property, then you will need to pay the bond money within 1-2 days. A bond is a deposit, usually comprising 4-6 weeks of rent, which is provided as a guarantee. It is lodged with a government agency, so if the owner unfairly refuses to refund your bond, you have rights and have recourse to legal action. You will fill in a government form, and receive a confirmation of receipt in the mail about a week or two after the bond is posted.

Of course, you will need to also pay your rent upfront for at least a month, as well as arrange to have utilities connected. Your agency can help you with this in many cases.

If you want to share an apartment, then it is best to have two people sign the lease to allow both to be equally responsible for any problems that may arise.

Moving in

Once you move in, you will be given a condition report which is done up by the agent, recording the condition of the unit along with photographs. If the apartment is furnished, you will also receive a furniture inventory, documenting all the things which are presently in the place.

It is best if you go through these reports with a fine tooth comb, as agents are often not always detailed in their survey and may even get things wrong, or overlook some aspects and problems with the unit. From taps, to plugs, to walls, make sure that you double check everything and make corrections to both reports.

You should also bring our your camera and photograph everything in the room, including defects, then formulate your own condition report. If the agent has not been particularly through, then your report can act as a detailed supplement to what the agent has provided, with detailed evidence.

Any defects found must be included in the report and formally reported to the agent.

The reason for going through the condition report in detail is ensure that you are not held responsible for the excesses of the previous tenants. It's a way to protect yourself from being liable.

Being aware of your rights
Justice is blind

Coming from abroad, for some it may be a surprise that in Australia you have many rights which can actually be enforced, as opposed to being decoration on some piece of paper or only available to those with power and influence. For example, in the state of Victoria, if there's a problem with the unit, then you can tell the owner and they must repair it within 14 days.

It is good to Google the website for the state you will live in to understand your renting rights.



*   *   *

While the entire process is quite involved and detailed, it does mean that both the owner and the renter is protected. Just make sure to give yourself plenty of time - things in Australia move at a much slower place than other fast paced cities and offices close early.


Photo credits: Frank Kovalchek (MD-11 Fedex Plane), Ed (Lady Justice)

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