Senior safety experts

Sara Young

Head of Property Management
Blackburne

Leo Patterson Ross

Senior Policy Officer
Tenants’ Union of NSW

Amy Sanderson

Network Head of Property Management
LJ Hooker

Greg Bader

Gabrielle Kremer

Founder
Homes with Soul

Jo Chivers

Director
Property Bloom

Rebecca Oelkers

Chief Operations Officer
BHC

We asked them:

What tips do you have for first-time renters to find their perfect place?

Sara Young

Draw up a wish list of things that would be nice to have and a list of non-negotiable requirements. Set your budget and stick to it. As the rental market starts to pick up, prices are expected to rise. Take this into consideration when working out your budget. Treat finding a rental like a job interview. When attending the open home, dress well and act respectfully. When you complete your application, make sure all sections are completed, your application is legible, and all requested documentation is submitted. Like a prospective employee, landlords may look up your social media profiles, so you need to ensure that it reflects you in a good light.

Leo Patterson Ross

Don’t rely on online ads. Try to visit places in your preferred area even if you don’t think you’ll rent that particular place. It will give you a much better idea of what homes in the area are like, to compare the quality, features and price - as well as avoiding the photography tricks. Think about more than just the property itself. Consider how far you may have to travel to work, or to see friends and family and how much of a premium you are paying. It may well be worth it, but there may be cheaper options.

Think about more than just the property itself. Consider how far you may have to travel to work, or to see friends and family and how much of a premium you are paying...

Amy Sanderson

Start by considering your budget. 30% of your net income is a good benchmark. Look at what is available in your chosen area within the budget. Often people will reassess their requirements such as location and view properties a couple of suburbs away to find what they are after.

Greg Bader

People enter the rental market for the first time every single day. If you’ve never rented a property before, or you’ve just been out of the game for a while, don’t stress. Everyone has to start somewhere. We offer a tool called Renter Resume for our renters which is a personal renting profile that helps you communicate why you’re looking to rent, attach supporting documents that show your ability to pay rent (i.e. bank statements with regular bill payments) and references from an employer or manager to demonstrate your sense of responsibility. More and more renters (some 400,000!) are choosing to use the Renter Resume to demonstrate they’ve gone the extra mile with their rental application and to stand out among the pool of applicants.

Gabrielle Kremer

Finding a property you love is the easy part, it’s what you do afterwards to increase your chances of being the successful applicant that matters. So when it comes to being a first time renter, first impressions do matter. Whether it’s a conversation with an agent or landlord, an online property enquiry or your application – your communication skills are very important. Put thought into your words, read the listing descriptions carefully and always do a spell check.

Providing information like your ID, proof of employment and income is standard practice. If you want to stand out above the rest, go above and beyond – it’s always worth it when you find your perfect home. Provide references that will help a potential landlord see how seriously you take your responsibilities. You don’t need to have a rental history to show that – what about colleagues, teachers or fellow students? Turn up to the inspection on time, be friendly, courteous and always have your application, supporting documents and bond ready for when you need it.

Jo Chivers

Not having references is hard for a landlord to assess a tenant application as we look for rent payment history; has the tenant always paid their rent on time? Also, how has the tenant kept the dwelling? Has there been any damage or do they keep the place neat and tidy? If you can get a written reference from someone you have lived with (not your parents) then this will help. Also any character references to show you are a trustworthy and reliable person will assist your application.

Rebecca Oelkers

We encourage first-time renters to research the affordable housing options available to them in the area they want to live. The high cost of renting in the private market can lead to significant financial stress for people on lower incomes and this can contribute to other mental and physical health concerns, as well as relationship breakdowns.

Many people – particularly first-time renters – are unaware that there are a range of affordable housing programs and providers across Australia that support lower income households. If you are a key worker in retail, hospitality, child care and other service industries, or on income support or age pension, you may be eligible and should reach out to these organisations for more information.

When looking for a rental property for the first time, it’s also important to consider how you will access the services you need to carry out your day-to-day activities like shopping, health services or using the local library. We see this as vital to living a well-rounded, happy, healthy life and as such, BHC’s properties are all located close to public transport, local amenities (e.g. shops and medical centres) and other community-focused facilities.

Which questions should a prospective tenant ask that they might not think to?

Sara Young

If you choose to rent an apartment, there are many questions you may not think to ask. Parking is often an issue. You should ask if there are visitor parking bays or if street parking is available for visitors. Another thing you should ask are opening times for common facilities. You may have a vision of using the pool or gym early in the morning, but these may not be open at the times you require. Many apartment complexes also require you to book the elevator for moving day. This allows the strata company to put up lift curtains to protect the walls and also allows you to collect a lift key, to facilitate the move. Asking this question before signing a lease can stop the frustration of booking time off work and booking removalists, to be told you cannot move in.

Many apartment complexes also require you to book the elevator for moving day. This allows the strata company to put up lift curtains to protect the walls and also allows you to collect a lift key, to facilitate the move.

Leo Patterson Ross

Some key questions people might not think about asking can seem obvious, and that’s exactly why you should ask. “Is there a phone line connected?” is one that comes up - there may be a port, but if the line is not connected you’re up for an extra $300 dollars. -”Can I see a copy of the by-laws?” This is particularly important because the landlord is not obliged to provide you with a copy of the by-laws until after you move in. If there’s a by-law that’s a deal breaker - such as a ban on pets or smoking - you really need to know about it beforehand.

Amy Sanderson

What are the lease terms? If you are looking for a long term home, a property that is only offering a 6 month lease is not ideal for you.

Greg Bader

We get it - you want to get off on the right foot with a landlord from the get-go, but sometimes renters worry that asking a question or two about their lease or property will seem presumptuous. Applying for properties is a two-way street, so ask questions and be engaging! When you get a chance to talk to a landlord/agent, ask questions about the property and the neighbourhood. This will show you care about where you want to live and that you’re interested in the rental. It’s easy to walk through a property in the viewing and quietly take everything in, but if you’re too passive with your interest, your potential landlord may feel like you don’t want the place, or that you don’t care enough to take care of the home.

Gabrielle Kremer

Most of the renters we talk to are pet owners, so we always emphasise the importance of understanding their obligations under the lease and strata by-laws. Just because a landlord is happy to accept pets under a lease agreement, it doesn’t mean that the strata by-laws of an apartment complex will allow it. So it doesn’t hurt to ask for a copy of the strata by-laws along with your lease agreement for peace of mind. Also be sure to check out the rental laws in your state and ask questions about things like housemates in advance.

Jo Chivers

To help you look like a good applicant, be aware of what the landlord is looking for. You could ask questions like; what term of lease is the landlord after? Would it be preferable if I could pay my rent weekly rather than monthly? Am I able to have professional lawn and garden maintenance included as I don’t have a lawn mower? These types of questions may give you the edge IF there are a lot of applicants. If you do have a pet, do not hesitate to mention this as many landlords are happy to accommodate a pet as long as you suggest that you will have the dwelling sprayed upon vacating.

Rebecca Oelkers

Studies show that people who are engaged with their community and neighbours experience better physical and mental wellbeing. If you’re applying for a unit or townhouse where you’re living near others or sharing facilities, you may want to ask about activities that will help you connect with fellow tenants. These might be led by the landlord or by tenants themselves.

We have recently established a Resident Community Development Team, where residents can get involved in developing Tenant Engagement initiatives like welcome packs for new tenants, building connections with services in the local community, and so much more. We also have tenant led-programs such as art and yoga classes.

What qualities help make a tenant attractive to a landlord?

Sara Young

Landlords want someone who can pay the rent and look after the property. A stable income or an ability to pay the rent is essential. A quality tenant will be respectful, both towards the landlord/ property manager and towards the property. If renting an apartment, they will also be considerate to other residents. The last thing a landlord wants is tenants who party all night, annoying the neighbours. Good tenants will look after the house as if it were their own and not be too needy. If things go wrong, they report them promptly, however a quality tenant will see to really simple repairs themselves, such as tightening a screw on a drawer handle. Communication is another key attribute of a quality tenant, even when things don’t go to plan for the tenant, they will openly and honestly communicate with the landlord.

Leo Patterson Ross

You have to make yourself seem the least risky prospect. This can be very difficult when you don’t have a rental history or the most stable or high-paying employment and it only takes one person to be more attractive than you. You may need to try something to act as a circuit-breaker - you can try to put a more human side to your application with information about yourself and perhaps how you demonstrate your reliability in other areas of your life. Alternatively try to strike up conversation with the agent. If they remember you they may be able to help by either putting you forward, or even be able to help in another property.

Amy Sanderson

The ability to pay the rent and maintain the property. Consider how you can demonstrate this to a prospective landlord. Provide items such as: past tenancy history, employment details, ownership details of investment properties, mortgage payments or details of other financial sources. If you have pets, consider providing details for them such as a description and references. Anything that you think might give someone a level of comfort that you are able to pay the rent on time and will maintain the property.

Greg Bader

Once you’ve found the place you love, it’s important to make yourself stand out as the most qualified tenant for that property. Remember this: Your landlord wants to know three key things: That you can pay your rent on time, that you won’t damage the apartment and that you won’t cause any problems with your neighbours. The best practice is to apply for properties as if you were applying for your dream job: The more a landlord knows about you, the better informed they’ll be to select the right person for the lease. In a competitive market, rental listings come off the market quickly, so it’s easy to miss out on your dream home or even an individual room if you’re not able to differentiate yourself. So if you’re genuinely interested in this place, set yourself apart from others being considered by ensuring your application (and Renter Resume) come completed. Providing all the need-to-know information in an application, as well as attaching a Renter Resume will show professionalism and responsibility by taking that extra step to go above and beyond.

Gabrielle Kremer

Owning something that you’ve worked hard for is a very personal thing – and it’s natural to feel protective of it. It’s no different for landlords who will appreciate knowing that their tenant has a genuine respect for their property. If you’re a pet owner, the best way to showcase this is through responsible pet ownership. Genuinely caring for the things you are responsible for is a great reflection of character and goes a long way in building a long-term foundation of trust with your landlord.

Jo Chivers

Always be honest about your situation. Sometimes explaining why you want to rent that property in particular will give the property manager a chance to talk to you and hear your story and this gives them something to take back to the landlord and remember you by. When you inspect the home, come in a presentable way as first impressions are very important. Lastly, if you’re on social media, make sure your page is a good representation of yourself and how you want to be seen (if your settings are not on private, remember anyone can see your page!).

...if you’re on social media, make sure your page is a good representation of yourself and how you want to be seen (if your settings are not on private, remember anyone can see your page!).

Rebecca Oelkers

BHC provides homes for tenants from very diverse backgrounds and with a range of different life circumstances and we work with all our tenants to help them understand what is needed to sustain their tenancies. This can be things like taking care of their home, respecting their neighbours and communicating with us as soon as possible about any issues or concerns they have that might impact on their tenancies.

This approach is not only important in affordable housing, but also in the private market - so it’s important for us to help tenants build the skills that will give them a platform for success wherever their housing futures may be.

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