After years of pondering this moment, it has finally come – it’s time to start renting an apartment. The process of moving out of your dorm or parent’s house, then navigating the steps to rent your first apartment, purchasing all of the things you’ll need for your apartment from scratch, and learning how to make rental payments can be overwhelming. But worry not, we’ve got you covered in this guide.
Finding Your First Apartment
The Real Estate section of Gumtree is an excellent place to get started when you’re planning on renting an apartment. Just keep in mind that there are a couple of scam ads out there, as with any real estate platform. As the saying goes, if a rental ad sounds too good to be true, it probably is. What sets Gumtree apart from other rental platforms is that they usually include details such as amenities and the internet bills in the price. It’s also easier to find a furnished apartment at a reasonable price. You can also use our free tenant app to quickly search for your first apartment or dream home.
Some other resources to consider when you’re looking to start renting an apartment:
- Go for a walk around your city, and check flyers posted by people looking for roommates; they’re hoping to split the cost of renting an apartment
- Chatting up residents in the area who can give you information on subleases, affordable apartments or rooms
- Hostel bulletin boards and staff
Other popular sites that can help you start renting an apartment, often need you to sign a lease contract. If you don’t have a rental history yet, and references from previous landlords, that can be tough to accomplish. It’s clearly a catch-22 situation. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to work around it, which we’ll be talking about later in this article. But for now, here are some other popular real estate platforms to use in your search for your first apartment:
Applying to Rent an Apartment
Once you’ve shortlisted some properties, you’ll need to prepare and submit a rental application to start renting an apartment. The property manager’s or landlord’s primary concern will be your ability to adhere to the terms and conditions of your lease, to pay rent on time, and if you’re capable of keeping the property in good condition.
The information you’ll provide, prior to renting an apartment, will depend on your circumstances. For instance, if you’re living at your parents’ home, you’ll need to indicate some personal references. You may also opt to have your parent co-sign on your lease. If you were previously living at a student dormitory, you can provide the contact details of the dorm supervisor or resident-hall director.
Here are some documents for renting an apartment that you can provide to help the landlord or property manager come to a decision. Speak with the landlord about their exact requirements:
- Employment history and references
- Proof of income
- Utility bills or statements
- References from real estate agents or accountants
- Photo IDs such as your passport, student ID or driver’s licence
- Personal references from people who aren’t related to you
Signing Your Lease (Residential Tenancy Agreement)
When you’re renting an apartment, the lease (otherwise known as the Residential Tenancy Agreement) is the most crucial document to understand. It will be given to you before you formally commit to your tenancy or make any payments. It is legally-binding and specifies the period in which you’ll be renting the apartment, the bond amount, the weekly rental rate, special terms, rules, and your responsibilities as a tenant.
Make sure you read your lease thoroughly before you begin renting an apartment. If you’re ever in breach of the terms and conditions, the property manager may exercise his right to remove you from the premises. That shouldn’t be too much of a concern, provided you fully understand the terms of your lease. Also, if market conditions in the area are favourable for renters, you can even negotiate your lease.
Negotiating Your Lease
Depending on the market conditions, there might be leeway for negotiating the price for renting an apartment. If the property isn’t too popular among other people looking to rent (low demand and market conditions favour renters, you can probably negotiate for a lower rate. It is possible to negotiate other terms in the lease as well.
Paying Your Bond
The bond is a payment you make before renting an apartment. The amount is anywhere from 1-4 weeks’ rent. It is separate from the initial rent payment (which can also be from 1-4 weeks’ rent), and will be used by the property manager or landlord if don’t adhere to the terms and conditions of the lease. At the end of your tenancy, if the apartment requires repair or cleaning, the property manager will use the bond for that purpose. Since it’s kept separate from the actual rent, you usually can’t ask your property manager to use it as your last rent payment.
Signing the Property Condition Report
After you make the bond payment, the property manager prepares a condition report before you begin renting an apartment. This will document the overall condition of the apartment and details of the fixtures and fittings. We advise you to review the condition report thoroughly to ensure that all current issues and damage are accurately documented. Take photos of the property for your reference as well. You’ll need to sign the condition report within a specified number of days, noting any items you don’t agree with in the appropriate section.
Documents You Receive Prior to Moving In
These documents should be provided to you before you agree to start renting an apartment. Although they may vary from state to state, generally, they are:
- Your lease (Residential Tenancy Agreement)
- Receipts for initial rent, bond, and other fees
- Copy of the bond lodgement form
- Information booklet about renting in your state
- Original and copies of the property condition report
- Emergency contact details
- Photocopies of keys
Moving Into Your Apartment
After you’ve signed and received all of the documentation, you can finally move in and start renting an apartment. Make sure you don’t damage the floors and walls when moving your belongings into the apartment. We recommend hiring an affordable removalist or moving company, if you have the budget to do so. Bear in mind that as a tenant, you’ll likely be subject to regular property inspections.
Be Prepared for Periodic Inspections
Once you begin renting an apartment, the property manager might decide to carry out regular inspections to check whether it’s being kept in good condition, and before doing any routine maintenance work. The actual frequency tends to vary from state to state. But it will probably be conducted 6 weeks after you first move in, and then every 3-6 months going forward.