What to know before coming to Australia
Renting and Tenancy
All renters are treated the same in Australia, but there is some information that is worthwhile for international students to know before coming to Australia, or when making any decisions about housing.
As a person renting in Australia, you may be considered a tenant, boarder, or lodger in your housing depending on your circumstances. To understand the difference between boarders, lodgers, and tenants, see the NSW Tenant’s Union information here: Tenants.org – Boarders and Lodgers
View the Property Before Signing Anything!
Before you sign a lease, it is important to view the property in person in advance before paying any deposit, including rent and bond. Remember signing a formal lease, or making a written or other form of contract, is where you are making a real agreement to stay to a certain date. Check the place you are moving into is OK for that time and think carefully before you sign something that commits you and the substantial (bond or deposit) money you are handing over. You can refer to the SRC Rental Accommodation checklist for things to look out for before signing a lease: SRC Rental Accommodation Checklist The University has information on accommodation options here: https://sydney.edu.au/campus-life/accommodation.html The City of Sydney also publishes a list of things to check for before you sign a lease here: City of Sydney – Share Accommodation Tips.
Breaking a Lease Early
We find it is common for international students or exchange students to need to break a lease before the date on the end lease or contract. If you have signed a lease (or contract), you will most likely be considered a tenant under the NSW Residential Tenancy Act (2010). It sets down rules for both you and your landlord. If you are considered a tenant, you may have to pay a break fee of between 4-6 weeks rent. This is additional to the rent you pay up until the day you move out and return the keys. You can try to negotiate to break your lease early and reduce the loss the landlord faces, for example by convincing your landlord to let you find someone else to take over your lease in exchange for no or a reduced penalty. They do not have to do this, but they also need to make an effort to find someone and may be willing to negotiate. If your room is in good order you are entitled to receive a refund of your bond. If you are not sure of the break fee in your circumstances, you can get advice from a SRC Caseworker to check your rights. Call (02) 9660 5222 for an appointment or emailing email@example.com.
You may be considered a boarder if more than 5 beds are provided for by the licence holder. You may considered a lodger if you are a ‘subtenant’ (renting from your flatmate) without a written agreement. If you are considered a boarder or lodger, there is sometimes a clause in the contract you signed about how to break the lease early. Like a tenant, you may be able to convince your landlord to allow you to find someone to take over your lease so that you do not need to pay a large break fee. If this doesn’t work, you might want to speak with an SRC lawyer about breaking your contract with as little financial penalty as possible. If you are a subtenant without a written agreement, you will need to sue in court to get your bond back. Talk with a SRC Legal Service solicitor for assistance. Call (02) 9660 5222 for an appointment.
Tenants NSW has some great factsheets on your rights as a tenant. You can also call your local Tenant’s Advocacy service from 10am-2pm Monday to Friday. They can also assist you if your landlord is trying to evict you from your housing without grounds. These factsheets, and phone numbers for your local Tenant’s Advocacy Service, can be found here: http://www.tenants.org.au/.
Fair Trading NSW also has information available on your rights, like getting your bond back. Check out their webpage here: Fair Trading NSW – Tenants. You could also speak with a SRC Caseworker if you are having trouble getting your bond returned.
If you have to leave Australia but your housing issue is not resolved, you have the right to give someone else the ‘authority to act’ on your behalf at NCAT. This means they can represent you at Tribunal hearings, or meetings. You can give ‘authority to act’ to SRC Caseworkers to assist you with your tenancy matter if you have made a complaint to NCAT but are returning overseas. Contact us on 9660 5222 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Important Notice and Disclaimer:
This information does not constitute Legal advice. Seek qualified professional advice before making decisions about educational, financial, migration or legal matters. This information can change from time to time. Check for the most up to date information.
Information current as at February 2018