Whether it’s your first time renting, or your tenth, understanding the ins and outs of the rental process can help you stand out from your competition, secure your dream rental and ensure you get your bond back at the end of the lease.
This article will outline some key tips to bear in mind throughout most stages of the rental process, to make sure you get the most out of your rental property.
1. Find the right time to start your hunt
With most people moving for work, university or lifestyle at the start of the year, the residential rental market is particularly busy. This means more people competing against you for properties, as well as generally higher prices charged by property managers at this time of year.
If you’re on a rolling lease, or are able to hold off from starting a new lease at the start of the year, consider waiting until March/April, when listings that remain vacant during the start-of-year will often post cheaper rents, in attempts to encourage tenants to move in quickly.
Note: If you’re looking for accommodation in areas near major universities, it’s worth bearing in mind that students will tend to enter the rental market throughout February. If this is the case, try finding a place by the end of January and get into the market before the rush begins.
2. Do your research
Finding and moving into a new rental can be a mentally and financially exhausting process, which, when you find the perfect place is almost always worth it. However, all too often, prospective renters fail to research the property and end up renting properties that don’t fit their needs.
As a result, any time spent researching both the property and its suburb is time spent well. Getting to know restaurants, cafes, parks and transport hubs is useful and can help you gain an idea of the feel of the suburb.
Additionally, it’s worthwhile attempting the commute from the rental house you’re looking at to your workplace, so you can gauge the rough time and price of your commute. In some cases, the extra money spent on finding a rental closer to your work can be offset by reduced commuting costs.
3. Figure out what type of lease agreement works best for you
It’s worth understanding your lease options and figuring out what works best for you. There are two main types of lease agreements; fixed-term and ongoing (sometimes called “month-to-month” or “rolling”. Both are valid agreements to undertake, although they have differences surrounding duration, notice and rent increases.
Fixed term A fixed term lease agreement is an agreement that has a definitive “start” and “end” date. An example would be February 1st 2019 to January 31st 2020. This is an example of a 12 month lease.
Fixed term leases favour renters such as families, that would prefer stability and the cheaper rent that a longer lease term often provides.
Ongoing An ongoing lease agreement is the most common type of agreement, and is characterized as being for one month’s rent, which continues until either party gives notice to vacate.
Ongoing lease agreements favour those who prefer flexibility, such as students or people that often travel for work.
4. Add a cover letter to make your unique story stand out
Very few property managers will request a cover letter, but including one in your application greatly improves your chances of standing out from the handfuls of applications that leaves the section blank.
Often, property owners are absent from inspections but are often the final arbiter over which application is approved. Writing a cover letter helps to create an emotional bond with the property owner, and is the single best thing you can do to stand out.
5. Be prepared and organised
Although few agents demand supplementary documents such as character references or proof of identity to go with your application, it’s recommended to have these ready and to include them in your application.
A few references, paired with a rent ledger, collated in advance and provided early can give you a significant advantage over less organised applicants.
Ensuring you have all your documents ready can make it easy for you to jump to the front of the queue, as the agent is likely to recognise you as being organised, indicating that you’d be a good tenant and be organised enough to pay rent on time and look after the property. On top of this, being prepared makes it easier for the agent and they are likely to appreciate this.
6. Submit an online application, wherever possible
Digitizing your printed documents and completing a digital application may seem like an unnecessary effort, however it’s incredibly helpful and helps you stand out from the rest.
Most agents have to deal with multiple applications for each of their many properties, leading to stacks of paperwork. Online applications make things easier for the property manager, and although uploading documents can seem like a tedious process, doing it once means you have digital files for future applications.
Note: Most online application forms will include a space for personal remarks, so be sure to use it!
7. Have your deposit ready to go
Many renters assume that if your application gets the tick of approval from the property manager, it means that the property is yours. However, this is actually only the case when a deposit is handed over. For example, if a property manager calls a prospective tenant to notify them of their successful application, and they don’t indicate a willingness or ability to pay it straight away, the manager is likely to move onto the next application.
Rental experts advise that applicants who are slow to pay their deposit may end up missing out on the property. Waiting for even just 24 hours for a deposit to be paid in a fast and competitive market could be the difference between securing your dream rental and losing it altogether.
As your ability to pay the deposit will create a first impression for your ability to pay rent on time, it’s especially important to set a good first impression. Most property managers will assume that if the applicant is unable to pay the deposit quickly, it’s due to them waiting on other properties or the rent exceeding their price range.
8. Don’t let youth or a lack of rental history stand in your way
If you’re new to renting, don’t stress, as there are many ways to prove your ability to be a responsible tenant, even if you haven’t rented before. Understanding what property managers and owners are looking for in a tenant can help guide your application and supporting documents.
When looking for a new tenant, property managers and owners are primarily looking at two potential risk factors - the ability for the tenants to pay their rent consistently on time, and the ability for the tenant to look after the property itself and not cause negligent damage.
Finding ways to exemplify that you represent neither of those risks is key to securing the property, even if it’s your first rental. Character references from colleagues and family as well as records of steady payments can help prove that you are reliable and of good character.
9. Don’t ditch the condition reports
One of the main problems that renters will be faced with during their time renting, is disagreements over the condition of the property. One way that can help preventing any disputes down the line is through being present for both ingoing and outgoing condition inspections. This allows for both the tenant and property manager to be on the same page regarding the state of the property and its furniture, appliances etc.
Furthermore, taking photos of the property can help down the line to protect yourself from any arguments about any damages caused to the property. If you can see any damage or significant wear and tear in the primary inspection, be sure to take photos.
Additionally, renters are entitled to a pre-vacate inspection roughly 2 weeks prior to vacating the property. Although not essential, this is a good opportunity to be alerted to any damage (if any) to the property, and any issues that may incur a bond claim if left unattended.
10. Understand your rights as a tenant
For many years, tenancy legislature has been criticized for heavily favouring the property owner, and providing little rights or power to the renter. However, recent legislative changes have seen a progression towards a better balance between tenant/owner rights.
It’s worthwhile gaining an understanding of your rights, particularly in the situation of a claim against your bond, or if complications arise regarding the lease agreement.
Note: Tenancy rights and regulations vary by state so be sure to research your state-specific tenancy fact sheets and legislature.