Beginning a new chapter of your life in Australia is likely to be exciting and hectic in equal measure. There’ll be a lot to arrange, and chief among your priorities may be to find a place to rent. Fortunately, Australia has plenty of options on this front, no matter which part of this vast country you’re moving to.
To give you off to a great start, we’ve put together this quick guide to renting a property in Australia Down Under, covering everything from the best ways to search to the legal details you should be aware of. Let’s dive in.
1. Finding the right place to live
Thanks to the internet, looking for renting properties in Australia doesn’t require you to phone up countless real estate agents or visit their premises in person. Indeed, you can start your search well before you even arrive in the country.
There are a few approaches you can take here. One possibility is to look up the most reputable real estate agents in the town or city you’re moving to. They should have their latest listings available to browse on their websites.
A more efficient strategy is to use property portals that aggregate the listings from different agents. Major examples of such sites are Realestate.com.au and Domain, which make it easy to focus on the kind of property you’re after. You can filter your search by property type, number of rooms, price, and location, which means you won’t be flooded with irrelevant listings. What’s more, both these sites have dedicated sections for houseshares. This is handy since many immigrants to Australia will prefer to move in with other tenants – both as a way to keep costs down and make new friends.
If you’re intent on living in shared accommodation, you should also look at the Flatmates portal, which specialises in connecting people who might be good fits. Yet another great site that immigrants to Australia should consider is Rent, which as the name suggests is entirely dedicated to rental properties (as opposed to sites like Realestate.com.au and Domain, which also list properties for sale). The Rent portal also features lots of resources and tips for those looking to explore the Australian rental market.
2. Viewing the property
These days, many agents and property managers will let you virtually view the property using video conferencing tools like Zoom or Skype. This can certainly be a useful way to cut your shortlist down to some prime candidates, especially if you haven’t yet arrived in Australia.
However, it is highly recommended that you conduct an in-person inspection before committing to any apartment or house. This is the only way you can really be sure the property lives up to expectations and doesn’t show signs of damage or other significant flaws. Plus, you can make a good first impression with the agent, which can be critical to standing out from other people who may be interested in the property.
Some of the factors you’ll want to double-check during the inspection include:
- Whether any bills are included
- Which items of furniture come with the property (it’s important to confirm this even if the property is listed as ‘furnished’)
- If the property has air conditioning, as summers can be very hot Down Under
- Whether tenants are permitted to make any superficial changes, such as painting the walls or putting up shelves
- Who you should contact in the event of an urgent issue, like a leak or a malfunctioning boiler
- Whether there are any special stipulations (for example, no pets allowed)
3. Providing documentation
Once you’ve picked out a property you like, you’ll have to undergo the rental application process. Real estate agents and property managers will have their own criteria for assessing the suitability of potential tenants. To be in with the best chance of being accepted, you’ll need to provide some vital information and documentation with your application, likely including the following:
- Official photo ID like your passport and foreign driver’s licence
- Evidence you can afford the rent, such as recent payslips and bank statements
- Proof of your employment in Australia, such as employment contract or reference
- Contact details for people who can provide personal references – ideally individuals who can be regarded as unbiased, such as an employer, former landlord, university tutor, and so on.
Another thing agents like to see is information about your rental history. As you’re moving to Australia, you obviously won’t have a rental history in the country, which can be an obstacle. You should tackle this head-on in the cover letter attached to your application form, explaining your accommodation history so far, and providing contact details for an agent or landlord in your home country if relevant. The cover letter should be written in a formal, professional way, but don’t be afraid to talk about your background, why you’re moving to Australia, and why you’d love to live in the property.
Some real estate agents will process your application through an online platform, others may be happy to do this by email. Double-check so you’re clear on what’s required.
4. Paying your bond and first month’s rent
If your application to rent a property in Australia is accepted, you’ll be all set to sign the tenancy agreement and pay your security deposit (or bond) and some rent in advance. The amounts you can legally be expected to pay will depend on your exact rental situation, and which Australian state you’re moving to.
For example, if you’re settling in Melbourne, which is in Victoria, you can be asked to pay a maximum of one month’s rent in advance, unless the rent is paid on a weekly basis, in which case you can only be expected to pay up to 14 days’ rent in advance. As for the bond – you can only be asked to pay the equivalent of one month’s rent at the most. However, no such caps to bonds and advance rental payments apply if the weekly rent $900 or above.
In most parts of the country, your bond must be lodged with a state-run authority, and you’ll be given a bond receipt. At the end of your tenancy, the landlord or property manager may want to deduct some of the bonds to cover damage to the property (beyond the usual wear and tear) or any other breach of the tenancy agreement. If there’s a dispute about an intended deduction, you can ask the state authority to investigate and resolve the disagreement.
As exact rules on payments and contact details for relevant authorities will differ from state to state, it’s important to do your homework and be clear on these finer details before signing the tenancy agreement. Once all of this is done, you’ll be ready to collect your keys and move in.
Further reading: The Guide to Renting a Property in the UK