Starting a tenancy

If you need help understanding private rental the Tenants Union Victoria website contains fact sheets to inform you of your rights and responsibilities. These are a great start:

Download RentRight, the free mobile app for renters brought to you by Consumer Affairs Victoria.

RentRight has information and tools to help renters in Victoria manage their tenancy. RentRight puts information at your fingertips and covers topics such as repairs, rent costs, condition reports, and getting your bond back.

Inspecting a property

When choosing a place to live we recommend that you do not exchange money or sign a lease until you have viewed the property in person.

You should always do a thorough check to make sure that everything is in good working order before you sign a lease or pay any money. If you can, bring a friend or family member with you especially if you have not rented before, it can be helpful to have a second opinion.

Ask about what is included in the lease, for example, does the property come with white goods e.g. refrigerator, washing machine, dryer or oven? If not then you will need to either negotiate having white goods included or factor-in purchasing these items which will be an additional cost. Other questions to consider include; does the property come with curtains or blinds? Which utility bills is the tenant responsible for? If there is an outdoor area e.g. a lawn, who is responsible for maintaining this?

Remember: once you have signed a lease you have accepted the property in its current condition. If the landlord offers or agrees to repair or improve the property before you move in (e.g. install a heater), make sure it is included in the tenancy agreement or get the promise in writing.

Things to check

  • heaters and air conditioning
  • gas or electric stoves
  • curtains
  • flyscreens
  • locks on windows and deadlocks on doors
  • phone and TV antenna sockets
  • power points

Watch out for housing rental scams. Always inspect a property in person.

Making an application

If you like a property, you will need to complete an application form.

Securing accommodation can be competitive; to avoid delays we recommend you prepare the following information to support your application before you start your accommodation search.

  • Proof of identity. The 100 point check is a personal identification system adopted by the Australian Government. A Property Manager will typically expect you to provide 100 points of personal identification.
  • Proof of ability to pay. Income or bank account balance.
  • Previous rental history.
  • References e.g. a reference from a previous Property Manager outlining their experience of you as a tenant.

Application deposits

A real estate agent or landlord may ask for an application deposit along with your rental application.

Remember: if you pay a deposit always ask for a receipt. The deposit must be refunded if you do not get the property or deducted from your first rental payment.

Bond

A bond is a security deposit held by the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority for the length of your tenancy. You will usually be required to pay one months rent as your bond money.

Your bond will need to be paid prior to moving into the property, your landlord should then lodge your bond money with the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority.

The Tenants Union of Victoria (TUV) has useful fact sheets on the topics of Bonds and the Department of Human Services operates a Bond Loan Scheme which you may qualify for.

To work out your bond, multiply your weekly rent by 52 and then divide that amount by 12.

Example:

Weekly rent = $100.

$100 x 52 weeks = $5200

$5200 divided by 12= $433.00 per calendar month

Bond = $433.00

Condition report

When you pay your bond, your landlord must give you a condition report. The condition report outlines the general condition of the property you are moving into, which includes fittings and fixtures.

When you move into a new rental property, check over the condition report and ensure the property is in the same condition as stated in the report. If the property has damages or stains that are not listed:

  • amend the condition report
  • return it to your landlord for them to sign.

Condition reports can be used as evidence if there is a dispute about who should pay for cleaning, damage to a property or the replacement of missing items.

Remember: tenants and landlords, or residents and owners, should agree on the contents of the condition report before signing it. It is a good idea to take photos of the property, especially of any damage or stains, and provide these with the condition report.

Advance rent

Usually you will have to pay up to one month's rent in advance before you move into a property.

If you are receiving a Centrelink payment and cannot meet rental payments on time, you may be able to access the Housing Establishment Fund. You can contact your local housing provider to be assessed for the Housing Establishment Fund. This fund is not applicable to international students.

Lease

The lease or tenancy agreement is a contract between you and your landlord.

Your lease will outline:

  • the period of time you will be renting the property
  • how much rent you need to pay
  • when you need to pay your rent
  • the terms of leasing the property

Remember: make sure you understand your lease agreement. It is a legally binding document and it can be very difficult to end your tenancy before the end date. Never sign your name to something you do not understand and never sign any blank documents.

Moving in

There’s a lot to think about when moving into new accommodation, some forward planning will ensure a less stressful move - here are our tips for a smooth move.

Crisis support

In the case of an emergency call 000 and ask for Fire, Police or Ambulance.

If you are experiencing housing difficulties, are homeless or facing homelessness, please speak with a Student Support Advisor at RMIT Connect about your options.

You can also contact Centrelink to be assessed for rental assistance, student payments and concession and health care cards. In general, social security payments from Centrelink are only available to people who reside in Australia and are either Australian citizens or permanent visa holders with some exemptions including refugee and humanitarian visa holders.

If you find yourself homeless you can contact a transitional housing manager from the Crisis Help Network to discuss your situation. The Crisis Help Network can also assist with emergency accommodation in Melbourne.

Unable to live at home

Sometimes due to the environment or personal circumstances, you may be unable to live at your family home.

If you can no longer live at home, you might be eligible for financial support through Centrelink by filling out form: unreasonable to live at home.

To meet the guidelines it must be unreasonable for you to live at home because of:

  • extreme family breakdown (other than normal parent/adolescent conflict)
  • serious risk of your physical or mental health if you continue to live at home
  • your parent(s) cannot provide a suitable home as they do not have stable accommodation.

For accommodation advice and assistance talk to a Student Support Advisor at RMIT Connect.

Quick meal fixes

Being a student and renting out of home can become expensive and cause problems like rental debts and homelessness. Access cheap food and emergency relief services next time you are in need.

RUSU Realfoods in the City Campus cafeteria provides healthy and affordable meals, snacks and drinks.

Free and low cost food in a time when grocery prices may not be within your budget you may qualify for some emergency relief.

10 dollar meals if you are looking for a cheap dinner on a budget why not try a restaurant with a cheap deal.