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First Time Renters: How To Apply For A Rental Property If You’ve Never Rented Before

By Laura Anderson

Having no rental history is something every prospective renter faces at one point their lifetime, so don’t feel deterred from entering the market.

For those in this position, it’s particularly important to provide as much financial information as possible along with references such as current or previous employers.

By providing adequate evidence to support your ability to pay rent, most landlords and tenants will have no issues renting to a tenant with no history.

In most states, renters can also appoint a “guarantor”, otherwise known as a rental guarantee. A guarantor is person or entity, such as a family member or employer, who agrees to be responsible for the renter’s debt should the tenant fail to pay.

Casual workers, students, low income earners and pet owners may also find it challenging to secure a rental, but it’s not impossible.

How to apply for a rental property if you’re a casual worker

If you’re a casual worker and don’t have a regular salary that provides stable income, property managers and landlords will want to see:

  • Bank statements showing recent payments from casual work
  • A recent tax return showing your annual earnings
  • A letter from your employer verifying your income and character
  • A rental ledger showing proof of previous rental payments made

It can also be helpful for your application to nominate a guarantor such as a parent or relative who agrees to cover rent repayments if you are unable to.

How to apply for a rental property if you’re a student

It is against the law for a landlord to stop somebody from renting a property based on their age. With that in mind, so long as you can afford the rent, there is no reason being a student should limit your chances of renting a property.

Students need to provide evidence of their income to support their ability to pay rent such as pay slips from a casual job or statements showing Youth Allowance or Rent Assistance payments.

How to apply for a rental property if you’re a low income earner

When applying for a rental property, real estate agents and landlords look for evidence to support a person’s capacity to pay rent regularly and on time. For low income earners this may include allowances from Centrelink that provide a regular income along with pay slips from recent jobs.

Applications are often rejected because property managers determine that the property is outside the applicant’s price range. If the rent comes to more than 30 per cent of your household income, consider searching for properties in a more affordable area, or alternative accommodation options such as sharehousing.

There are also affordable housing initiatives, such as the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) which provides people on low to moderate incomes with an opportunity to rent homes at a rate that is at least 20 per cent below market value rent.

Applying for social housing – short and long-term rental housing owned and run by the government or not-for-profit agencies – is an option for low income earners. Priority for housing is given to people who need help because of homelessness or other critical circumstances.

How to apply for a rental property if you’ve been blacklisted

In Australia there are several “blacklists” otherwise known as tenancy databases that list “bad tenants” as reported by real estate agents and landlords. These databases are run by private companies and require a membership or fee to be accessed by both agents and the public.

If you are on a blacklist you will already be aware of this. Real estate agents and landlords need to let tenants know so they have a chance to dispute the listing. In addition, if an agent finds a prospective tenant on a database when applying for a property, the agent is required to notify them. The agent also needs to let prospective renters know which databases, if any, they intend to search when tenants apply for a property.

The criteria for being blacklisted differs from state to state but generally requires a serious lease breach such as:

  • Owing more rent than the total of the bond
  • Seriously damaging a rental property
  • Endangering neighbours’ safety
  • Causing physical harm to another person
  • Using a rental property for illegal purposes
  • Sub-letting a rental property without consent

It is possible to have your application be successful even if you are on a blacklist, either because the real estate agent or landlord didn’t check the relevant database or they’re willing to overlook the listing. If you are currently on a blacklist and intend to apply for a rental property, it’s advisable to be upfront up your situation and provide an explanation if possible.

Being blacklisted lasts a maximum period of three years in every state or territory.

How to apply for a rental property if you have kids

The only instances where a landlord or agent can refuse to rent out premises to a person with children is when the property is the landlord’s main residence or the property’s location and design make it unsuitable for occupation by a child.

Excluding these instances, it is against the law for a landlord or owner to stop somebody from renting a property based on certain personal characteristics including their parental or marital status.

If you feel you are a victim of rental discrimination, you can contact the Australian Human Rights Commission.

How to apply for a rental property if you have pets

Whether or not having a pet is allowed in a rental property differs from state to state.

In most other states, whether or not a renter can have a pet is at the discretion of the landlord and whether your tenancy agreement specifies that pets are allowed. Some rental properties will explicitly advertise whether they are pet-friendly or not.

If you have pets and want to make your application stand out, considering the following:

  • Provide a “pet reference” or “resume” introducing your pet to the agent/landlord.
  • If you have previously rented from another agent with this pet, ask them to provide a reference on your behalf.
  • Choose an appropriate pet breed to suit the amount of space in your rental property
  • Paying a “pet bond” to cover potential damage is a currently possible in Victoria and Western Australia. In WA, if the tenant is permitted to keep pets capable of carrying parasites which can affect humans, a pet bond of no more than $260 may be charged, unless the weekly rent is more than $1200. In Victoria, a pet bond can be negotiated on top of the existing bond as long as the legal maximum bond is not exceeded (or permission is granted by VCAT).

How to apply for a rental property if you’re from overseas

Like any other person who is seeking to rent in Australia, a prospective renter who has recently moved from overseas will be asked to provide evidence of regular income using pay slips, bank statements or other means.

If you have previously rented in another country, ask the property manager or landlord to provide you a written reference to include with your applications in Australia.

It is against the law for a landlord or owner to stop somebody from renting a property based on their nationality, ethnicity or their religious beliefs and activity.

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