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Australia’s leading rental experts share their top tips and pieces of advice to remember when renting for the first time.

Senior safety experts

Sara Young
Coronis Principal
Coronis

Leo Patterson Ross
Chief Executive Officer
Tenants' Union of NSW

Amy Sanderson
Sales Executive
YourPorter

Greg Bader
CEO
rent.com.au

Jo Chivers
Director
Property Bloom

Rebecca Oelkers
Chief Executive Officer
BHC

We asked them:

What tips do you have for first-time renters looking 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 and 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 and 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 and 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 also be cheaper options.

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.

Jo Chivers

Not having references is hard for a landlord to assess a tenant application. We look for a rent payment history and if the tenant always pays their rent on time. We always ask how has the tenant looked after the place? 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. This can also 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. These may include shopping, health services or using the local library.

We believe you need these things in order to live a well-rounded, happy and healthy life. Lots of properties are 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 when choosing to rent?

Sara Young

If you choose to rent an apartment, there are many questions you may not think to ask.

Parking is often an issue and 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 when facilitating the move.

Asking this question before signing a lease will allow you to organise time off work and book removalists accordingly.

Leo Patterson Ross

Some questions people might not think about asking can often seem obvious, and that’s exactly why you should ask.

Is there a phone line connected? This is a common question that comes up. The short answer is there may be a port, but if the line is not connected you’re up for an extra $300.

Can I see a copy of the by-laws? This is particularly important question because the landlord is not obligated 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 (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 your landlord from the get-go. Sometimes, renters worry about asking questions regarding their lease or property will sound presumptuous.

Applying for properties is a two-way street, so ask questions and be engaged! When you get a chance to talk to a landlord or agent, ask questions about the property and the neighbourhood. This will show you care about where you want to live, and 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 understated with your interest, your potential landlord may feel like you don’t want the place, or that you won’t take care of the home.

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?

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 place cleaned before leaving.

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 near other people or sharing facilities, you may want to ask about activities to help you connect with fellow tenants.

What qualities will 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 or property manager and 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. If things go wrong, they will report them immediately and see to simple repairs themselves, including tightening a screw or a drawer handle.

Communication is another key attribute of a quality tenant, even when things don’t go to plan, they will choose to communicate openly and honestly with the landlord.

Leo Patterson Ross

You have to make yourself seem like the least risky prospect. This can be very difficult if you don’t have a rental history, or stable, high-paying employment.  

You may need to try something to act as a circuit-breaker. Reveal a more human side to yourself by adding information on your application that will 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, maintain the property and how you can demonstrate this to a prospective landlord. Provide items including past tenancy history, employment details, ownership details of investment properties and mortgage payments or details of other financial sources.

If you have pets, consider providing details for them including a description and reference. Anything that you think might provide a level of comfort and assure that you are able to pay the rent on time and 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.

If you’re genuinely interested in a place, set yourself apart from others being considered by ensuring your application is complete.

Providing all the need-to-know information in an application will show your level of responsibility and allow you to go above and beyond.

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. This gives them something to take back to the landlord and remember you by.

When you inspect the home, come in a presentable manner as first impressions are very important. 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

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 about any issues or concerns they have that might impact them.

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 skills that will give them a platform for success wherever their housing may be.