If you’re heading to uni for the first time this year, moving out of home might also be on your agenda. Renting is a popular option among tertiary students, but arranging a property can be a challenge if you’re a first-time tenant. If you’re not sure where to start, read on for our five-step student tenancy checklist.
1. Do plenty of research
First, do some research into the areas you are considering. Is public transport available? Is there a supermarket? How long will it take you to get to class? Major real estate websites often have suburb guides that can provide this information, and you can also have a chat to local real estate agents or get in touch with accommodation advisers on campus. The most important thing is that the location you choose is a good fit for your circumstances — just bear in mind that you may need to compromise if you’re moving in with a few housemates. You might also think about the type of property you want (an apartment, a unit or a house) and the features you need, such as a car spot or a bedroom big enough to fit your study desk.
2. Consider each property carefully
Attending property inspections is crucial. Seeing photos online or being promised ‘pristine condition’ isn’t enough. When attending inspections, weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of each property against your needs and preferences. You’re probably not fazed by a small paint chip on a wall, but noisy or leaking pipes could be a genuine concern. As with appeasing housemates (see above), compromise may come into play here too. You might find a property where you can roll out of bed and make it to class in less than half an hour, meaning you could need to give up hopes of an off-street car space or a renovated bathroom.
3. Choose housemates with care
Most uni students living out of home enter a share house arrangement, which means living with a housemate or even a group as large as four of five. You can move in with friends, other students you’ve met on campus or search for housemates using online resources (Gumtree and Flatmate Finders are good examples). Our tip is to think about potential housemates very carefully. Remember that you will be living with them for the duration of your lease, which may be anywhere between six months to two years. First, think about your lifestyle and how it compares to theirs — you might need peace and quiet, so you won’t be too happy in a household that throws weeknight house parties. Next, be sure you are choosing housemates who you can trust to contribute to bills and help out with housework.
4. Consider your budget
Living out of home can be expensive, so make sure you can comfortably pay the rent before committing to a property. Working out what you can afford can be difficult, but there are various resources online that can help you work out where your money goes and how much you can allocate towards your accommodation. You should also see if you are eligible for government allowances or scholarships — these can help cover the start-up costs of moving out, as well as helping to cover rent and bills once you are living out of home. When determining your budget, make sure you take into account costs paid on top of rent, such as groceries and utilities, as well as general expenses such as clothing and nights out with friends.
5. Understand the paperwork
The main documents you need to know about are the application form, lease, bond statement and condition report. Your application form provides the landlord or real estate agent with basic information such as your name, the names of other applicants (housemates), your current address, where you work and details of referees. Your lease (also sometimes called a ‘rental agreement’) gives you information such as the length of your stay and tenancy conditions, as well as details of the steps you’ll need to take to extend or cancel your agreement. It’s a legally binding document and should be taken very seriously. If you are required to pay a bond, you will receive a statement that states the amount that will be held. It’s important that you understand the conditions of your bond, including those under which money may be subtracted from what you get back when you move out (for example, you damage the property beyond general ‘wear and tear’). A condition report should be supplied when you first move in, with your real estate agent or landlord making notes about the condition of property, such as pre-existing wall markings or stained carpet. You should also have a chance to contribute and supply photos as evidence.
You can get more information about renting by visiting your institution’s accommodation service, chatting to friends or family, or by visiting real estate agencies to begin researching your options. You can also read about your accommodation options in our Student accommodation section, including the advantages and disadvantages of renting.