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First-time renters: Your essential guide to leasing your first property

Mark Bristow avatar
Mark Bristow
- 5 min read
First-time renters: Your essential guide to leasing your first property

Stepping into the world of renting can be both exciting and daunting for first-timers. While having a place of your own can bring a tremendous feeling of freedom, you’ll also have to take on the kinds of responsibilities that you likely won’t have had before.

Whether you're moving out of your parents' home, leaving student accommodation, or moving in with a group of friends, it’s important to be prepared, and understand the ins and outs of the rental process. 

What do I need to know before renting my first property?

Renting your first property is a big step, and there's a lot to consider before signing your first lease.

The first step is to assess your budget, so you can better understand what you can afford. Remember that there’s more than just rent to consider – you’ll need to factor in utilities, internet, and other living expenses like insurance as well. If you’re moving out with friends or a partner, it may be worthwhile to discuss how you will split these expenses ahead of time. 

When moving into a rental property for the first time, it’s important to know your rights and responsibilities as a tenant, as well as the rights and responsibilities of your landlord.

Where do I find a rental property?

The search for a rental property often begins online. There are several websites that feature rental listings, providing a brief overview of a property and letting you directly contact the agent to arrange an inspection time. Social media groups and community boards can also be valuable resources. 

When choosing a rental property, it’s important to consider its location in relation to your workplace or university, as well as its proximity to public transport and other amenities such as shops. If you drive, it’s worth checking out how many car parks the property has, and if there is street parking – if not, it’s important to know whether the amenities you need are within walking distance.

What do I need before applying for a rental?

Before applying for a rental, ensure you have all the necessary documentation ready. This usually includes identification, proof of income and references - lessors will typically also want to see your rental history, although if you are moving out of home for the first time, you will not have one of these.

You could consider creating a “renter's resume” that includes references and details about you, such as your occupation and course of study. This could help to make your application stand out.

Before you apply for a rental property, it’s also wise to save enough money for upfront costs like the bond and first month's rent, as well as moving expenses.

How do rental inspections work?

A rental inspection is a chance for you to walk through and inspect a property before applying to live there. If the area is popular or if rentals are limited, then inspections can be crowded, so it pays to plan ahead, and even have your application filled in ahead of time so you can hand it in on the spot if you like the property.

An inspection can also be an opportunity to make a good impression on the landlord or property manager, so do your best to arrive on time, dress neatly, and prepare a list of questions about the property and lease terms. Inspect the property thoroughly for any issues and consider whether it meets all your needs.

What is a residential tenancy agreement?

A residential tenancy agreement, or lease, is a legally binding contract between the tenant and landlord. It outlines the terms and conditions of your rental, including the duration of the lease, rent amount, rules for living in the property, and the rights and responsibilities of both parties. It is important to make sure you read and understand the agreement before signing, and make sure that you abide by the terms of the agreement while in residence.

What is a bond?

A bond is a security deposit paid at the beginning of a tenancy. It's held as a safeguard against damage to the property or unpaid rent. The bond amount is usually equivalent to four weeks' rent, but the amount can vary.

At the end of the tenancy, you will need to apply for the bond to be returned to you. Your landlord is required to refund it, as long as the property is in a good condition and there are no outstanding rent or bills.

What is a condition report?

A condition report documents the state of a property at the start of a tenancy period. Both the tenant and landlord should complete this report, noting any existing damage or issues. It's crucial for protecting your bond, as it provides a baseline for the property's condition at the beginning of your lease.

Other tips for first-time renters

  • Understand your lease: Know the terms of your lease, including how and when to pay rent, maintenance requests, and the process for renewing or ending your lease.
  • Budget wisely: Keep your living expenses, including rent, within a manageable portion of your income.
  • Consider renters insurance: Protect your belongings against theft, fire, and other damages.
  • Communicate with your landlord: Establish a good relationship with your landlord or property manager by communicating openly and promptly.

Entering the rental market is a significant step toward independence. By understanding the rental process and preparing accordingly, you can make your first renting experience a positive and successful one. Remember, every renter's journey begins with the first step, and being well-informed is key to navigating this exciting phase of life.

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Product database updated 23 Jul, 2024

This article was reviewed by CEO Paul Marshall before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.