7 Things You Should Never Overlook When Renting

Renting can be stressful, so it’s not surprising that sometimes you cut a few seemingly harmless corners to secure yourself a property. But Malcolm Gunning, president of the Real Estate Institute of Australia, an independent association for Australia’s real estate sector, says that there are some key areas that no young renter should overlook.

To ensure you secure a place that fulfils your needs and remains within your budget from the beginning to the end of the lease term, Gunning provided seven helpful tips. So next time you’re looking for a rental, make sure you’ve factored in this advice.

#1 Use the inspection to actually inspect

When you walk into a property on inspection day, don’t just wander around aimlessly imagining the dinner parties you’ll host, or how good an indoor plant will look in the space. This is your chance to inspect that state of repair the house or apartment is in, and make sure everything is in working order.

“Walk around the property and turn the taps on,” says Gunning. “Check the water pressure and make sure it’s to your liking. Make sure the cupboards close. Take note for signs of water damage or white ants. Flush the toilets. Open things, smell things, touch things. You want to ensure it’s clean and functional.”

He also adds that the state you find the property in is the state you’ll be expected to leave it in, so take notes and photos as you see fit.

#2 Write a checklist 

All prospective tenants should have a checklist of their priorities, summarising the elements of a property that are of highest importance. For example, if you’re living alone, you don’t want to have to walk down a dark lane to access your property. If you have a car, you may need a parking spot available with the property.

“You need to have a very clear picture of what you need from the property as far as your life is concerned,” advises Gunning. “Twelve months can feel like a long time in a place you don’t love, or that’s too expensive. And once you sign the lease, you’re bound to it.”

#3 Know the restrictions

Before you sign a lease and prepare to move into a property, you need to know exactly what restrictions are applicable in the building.

Breaching lease terms can have serious legal, financial or reputation consequences.

“Pets are the classic restriction people overlook,” says Gunning. “So is the amount of people you can have living in the property. You need to know what you can and can’t do in the property. Are you expected to undertake garden maintenance? Are you able to sublet the second bedroom? You need to know exactly what the lease stipulates.”

He adds that breaching lease terms can have serious legal, financial or reputation consequences – meaning you might find it hard to secure another rental property. If you’re unsure about any term of your lease, always ask your real estate agent or landlord for clarification and more information, preferably before signing.

#4 Learn the lease

Despite being a long and verbose document, Gunning says it’s easy to learn to understand lease documents and translate them into layman’s terms. No matter how many times you’ve rented property in Australia, he says it’s important to be able to read and interpret a lease thoroughly.

Refer to websites such as realestate.com.au, Consumer Affairs Victoria or Just Landed to better understand your lease obligations and decode any complicated language or industry jargon.

#5 Be prepared to negotiate

Depending on the property and state or territory in which you’re seeking to rent, you may be able to negotiate some of the lease terms. Gunning says that pets are often a condition that can be negotiated, especially if you’ve got a proven record of responsible pet ownership.

“Pets these days are allowed in most properties,” he says. “So if the landlord says ‘no pets’, present a reference to them proving how you kept your pet previously, and accommodated the needs of the animal, the neighbours and the landlord. Ask them if they can reconsider.”

#6 Save easy money

Moving into a new rental can be costly, and most tenants are required to pay a bond, the first month’s rent, as well as cover any utility set-up costs, removalist fees and insurance overheads for the new property.

“The most important thing with young tenants is to think pocket first, heart second. Don’t fall in love with a property without knowing what it requires from you legally and financially. Think of convenience and security as top priorities,” Gunning says.

#7 Present well

Gunning says that the final key point to consider when hoping to secure the perfect rental is to ensure you present well. From first inspection through to application, show yourself as a reliable prospective tenant with a track record of renting ease and success.

“Make sure you have references for your application,” he says. “Attach a good comprehensive resume with comments from past managing agents to say you’re a good tenant and pay your rent on time. Consistency is really important.”

If you’re ready to go ahead with your rental application, check out this checklist for moving into your rental.

Izzy Tolhurst is a copywriter and editor. She writes about music, the arts, employment and international development. She also sings and plays an impressively amateur level of guitar in Melbourne band Go Get Mum. Find her rambling on Twitter @izzytolhurst.