Whether you’re moving out with your partner, family or friends, renting for the first time can be an exciting process. When choosing your new rental home, it is worth putting some careful thought and time into finding the right property for you, but where do you start? From inspections, applications, what questions to ask, and what you need to know on moving day, here’s our first-time renters’ guide to help you on your search.
Your property search
Before you start your rental search, it is important that you set a budget and are financially prepared for paying rent and the associated costs. It is also important to know what you are looking for before attending inspections, so take some time to establish your criteria so your search is more productive. This will not only include your budget and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, but consider things like parking, storage, space required to fit your furniture, security, as well as outdoor entertaining areas, including a garden.
Start your search by heading to Allhomes, the leading website for all things real estate and property in the ACT. Here, you can browse thousands of listings and read up on local property news, advice and research, including suburb rental data. You can search for properties by suburb, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, rental price per week, and more. Inspection times are usually advertised on Allhomes so be sure to check the site regularly. If you have found a property you are interested in and an inspection time is not yet listed, contact the property manager and register your interest.
Property viewings are held during the week and on weekends for approximately 15–30 minutes. You might need to inform your employer of your rental search so you can make arrangements to attend inspections mid-week. It is important to put your best foot forward from the outset — arrive to inspections on time, be polite and well presented. Before attending an inspection, make a list of everything you need to know about the property, which might include the preferred length of lease, pets, measurements for furniture, deposit amount and bond required, any rent increases and any special conditions. It is important that you leave the inspection having your questions answered and understanding the terms of the lease.
Once you’ve found a property that ticks all of the boxes, ask the property manager to provide you with the application details. The application process requires completing a residential tenancy application and providing supporting documents, which often includes proof of identification, proof of income, references, paying a deposit as well as paying a bond. Your application is a crucial part of securing a tenancy so make sure your paperwork is in order. Start by making copies of your identification documents and obtaining your proof of income such as payslips and bank statements. This includes telling your references, like your employer, that they might be contacted come application time. As a first-time renter you won’t have any rental history so you will need to provide as much financial information as possible as evidence to prove you can pay the rent. Preparing paperwork is easy but it can be time consuming so to avoid delaying your application, do this well in advance. If you’re not sure where to start, ask the property manager for the details before you attend the inspection; sometimes this information may be available on the agency’s website. While it might be obvious, when it comes to the tenancy application, it is crucial that it is filled out completely and accurately. Take the time to read through it thoroughly before you submit it — errors will be noticed so try to make a good first impression.
Once your application is approved, the property manager will explain the process of moving in, paying your deposit and bond, picking up keys and ensuring that the electricity, gas and water is turned on from the day you move in. They will provide you with a copy of your tenancy agreement, a list of emergency contacts, and other important information about your tenancy. Before your move in day, the property manager will create an inventory of the condition of the property and its inclusions, noting any existing damages. You will have an opportunity to thoroughly inspect the property and provide additions to this report. The property manager will explain this process to you before you move in.
To make moving day a breeze, make a start on packing up your belongings well before your move date — this will make the task less stressful if you have boxes labelled and ready to go. On the day, be careful when moving boxes and furniture in to your new home, as you will be liable for any damage made to walls, floors, and doors. If you are buying new furniture, such as a fridge, washing machine or a new lounge, be sure to ask the retailer about delivery times. Sometimes, you might have to wait several weeks for new items to be delivered, so ask before you buy.
If you’re new to renting it’s vital that you protect your valuables and possessions from the very first day you move in. Contents insurance, also known as renters insurance, covers the loss and damage of household items not structurally attached to a property. This can include items damaged or destroyed by fire, storm and theft, with some insurers covering ‘accidental damage’ such as breakages and/or spills. Be sure to obtain several quotes a few weeks before you move in and request a copy of each insurer’s product disclosure statement (PDS). This will give you enough time to read through the fine print to ensure you get the right type of cover to suit your needs. Don’t forget to review your policy every 6–12 months to ensure you have the right level of cover to cater for any newly purchased items or changes to your contents.
Know your rights
It is extremely important to know your rights and responsibilities as a tenant. The best way to avoid disputes is by making sure that you understand the lease agreement and the laws that govern tenancies. Amendments to the ACT Residential Tenancies Act, which came into effect on 1 November 2019, give greater freedom and protection to tenants with respect to rent increases, basic home modifications, keeping pets, and break lease fees. Further information about the ACT Residential Tenancies Act can be found here. The Tenants’ Union ACT website is a great resource offering free information on renters’ rights and responsibilities, with a range of fact sheets, helpful links, and more.
For all of your property needs, contact your local Peter Blackshaw office.