COVID-19 update: If you are having difficulty paying your rent, because you have lost work due to COVID-19, or need to end your contract early to return overseas, contact an SRC caseworker for information on what your options are. Call 9660 5222.
Choosing your home
Consider the following when choosing your home:
COST – You should not be paying more than 50% of your income on rent.
LOCATION – Check how long your commute to Uni is, and if needed, is there safe, free parking nearby. Factor in the cost and time taken to travel, when deciding what you can afford. Spend some time in the area to see how loud the passing planes or what effect roadworks may have.
CONDITION – Inspect the home, looking for things like rodents or pests (look at the inside edges of the kitchen cupboard doors for cockroach poo and small holes in the bottom of walls or cupboards), mould, water pressure, temperature, and general cleanliness of the home.
There are lots of housing scams designed to steal money. Do not sign an agreement or transfer money without inspecting the property, and always get a receipt, not just an electronic bank transfer record. Remember that if a deal seems too good to be true, it is probably a scam.
Bonds and deposits
Residential Tenants (usually people who don’t live in the same home as their landlord) will usually pay a bond of no more than the equivalent of 4 weeks rent. It is meant to be kept by the NSW Rental Bond Board, and you should receive a receipt within a couple of weeks of moving in.
Deposits (like a bond for other types of renters) have no rules, so make sure you keep a copy of the receipt. Your bank statement will not always be considered a receipt.
Housing NSW has a scheme called Rentstart Bond Loan, to help low income earners ($650 per week or less) afford to live in a rental property. They will give you 75% of your bond as an interest free loan. Conditions include being an Australian citizen or permanent resident, and having rent of less than 50% of the household’s income. The University also has interest free loans that you might be able to use.
Never sign a blank form or a document you have not read and understood. Pay special attention to what the penalties will be if you leave the home before your contract is finished. Take a photo or scan the document after you sign it, and email it to yourself so you don’t lose it. Make sure you know the full legal name for the landlord and have an address to contact them, just in case you need to go to the tribunal.
Condition report and photos
Before you move in to your home take photos of anything that is dirty, broken, or damaged. Email those photos to yourself so they are time stamped. Your phone can put a timestamp on your photos, but the tribunal prefer emails. Some renters will be given a condition report at the beginning of the tenancy, which outlines what condition you need to have the property in when you move out. Take the time to complete the condition report thoroughly, noting everything that is dirty or broken, and return it within seven days, as this will save you a lot of money in the long run. If you do not get a condition report take photos of anything that is dirty or damaged, and email them to yourself.
While you are living there, contact your landlord by email to have a written record. If you talk on the phone, email them a follow up summary of what you talked about. Report anything that needs repairing, even if you don’t mind if it is repaired or not, so that there is a record of you taking care of the home.
When you move out, take photos of every wall, floor, oven, bathtub, sinks, windows etc., and email them to yourself, to prove that you did not damage anything.
Notice of moving out
If you are on a lease there are rules about the amount of notice you have to give, or your landlord has to give, for you to move out. E.g., if you simply want to move when your lease finishes you must give written notice of 14 days for fixed term or 21 days for a continuing lease. If you have a contract there should be conditions listed in the contract. If you do not have a written lease or contract you can leave whenever you like, but it is usually polite to give notice of the same amount of time as your rent period, e.g., a fortnight.
Fleeing domestic and family violence
If you are fleeing domestic and family violence there are additional supports that might be available to you, including rehoming your pets. Talk to an SRC Caseworker for details.
Emergency or temporary accommodation
SRC Caseworkers may be able to help you with some (limited) temporary and emergency accommodation. Make an appointment by calling 9660 5222. If it is outside of business hours call Link2Home on 1800 152 152.
Free furniture etc.
Op Shops can provide cheap or free furniture and appliances. Visit affluent suburbs on their council clean up days for things they no longer want. Check Facebook groups for “street bounty” or “pay it forward” items.
Share housing can be an experience that ranges from really fun and invigorating, through to a special type of hell. For tips on how to make the most out of your situation go to the Share Housing Survival Guide at sharehousing.org.