OzTREKK Student Tips: understanding accommodation in Australia
You’re going to study in Australia. So, are you ready to go apartment hunting? If you’re a little nervous, that’s completely understandable. But hundreds of former OzTREKK students have done it… and so can you! We have assisted thousands of students understand the steps required to securing accommodation in Australia—and we haven’t lost a student yet!
First, do your best to arrive a few weeks before Orientation. This will give you enough time to find suitable accommodation and settle in before classes commence. Former OzTREKK students have told us that it takes 2–3 weeks to find accommodation, especially in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. Keep in mind that if you arrive just after Christmas, you can bet real estate agents are still on holidays!
Consider the following:
- Ensure you have temporary accommodation arranged.
- Be prepared financially for the time you may need to spend in temporary accommodation.
- Make housing your first priority.
- Avoid rushing your house hunting. Feeling rushed can hinder your ability to make wise choices.
- Be informed. Before you arrive, read as much as you can about the various housing options and how to arrange them. Then you can get straight into house hunting after you arrive, rather than trying to figure out where to go and what to do.
- Have a bank account set up before you get to Australia—you usually cannot pay bonds and deposits in cash!
- It’s okay to choose on-campus accommodation for the first semester/year! Lots of OzTREKK students do this.
“Residences on campus are a good place to get your feet on the ground in Australia, but they fill up fast, so apply as soon as you get your offer.” OzTREKK student
1. Think about your needs and budget.
Like most of the decisions you are making as you prepare to become an international student, there are many issues to consider. Your accommodation options in Australia are varied, and when searching for off-campus housing, you will need to contemplate location, public transportation accessibility, proximity to campus and shopping, lifestyle, your study habits, and cost, among other factors.
2. Understand your rights and responsibilities as a tenant in Australia.
As an international student, it is important for you to review and understand your rights and responsibilities for renting property in the Australian state in which you are planning to rent. Visit Australian Government: Buying, selling or renting property for more info.
3. Research your long-term accommodation options.
To begin your research for accommodation, you need to know how to find and view rental properties. Generally, most Australians would view private rental listings via the internet (e.g., realestate.com.au, or craigslist), in their local newspaper or through a local real estate agent, who will provide a listing of local rental properties currently available. Most Australians rent an apartment or house through a real estate agent, who acts as the landlord for the property owner.
Take the time to explore your Australian university’s “Accommodation/Housing” website. Most universities have extensive information about where to look, which suburbs you should consider, and outline your choices for on-campus and off-campus housing. For off-campus accommodation, most Australian universities have private rental databases for students to explore options before they arrive in Australia.
It is recommended that you do not pre-book rental accommodation, but use the private rental database to become familiar with your options before arriving in Australia.
“DON’T arrange accommodation before arrival—it’s much wiser to live in an airbnb while looking for a roommate/permanent place to stay. You’ll want to explore all your options and what’s most convenient for you. Places may not appear as advertised and climate makes a big difference (i.e., places without A/C and good ventilation make living difficult).” OzTREKK student
4. Know how to secure off-campus accommodation.
Here is a general overview of the process to secure a private rental apartment or house in Australia:
Complete a Rental Application: This application will have to be approved in order for you to begin your tenancy. It’s a good idea to prepare an “accommodation folder” with copies of everything you may need. We highly recommend you bring the following documents with you from Canada, as you may be asked for these when applying for a rental property:
- receipts from previous landlords
- reference letters from previous landlords
- driver’s licence
- student card
- health card
- bank statement / evidence of money to pay your rent and bond deposit
Sign a Tenancy Agreement: Once your application is approved, the real estate agent or landlord will give you the tenancy agreement to read, understand and sign. Any questions should be directed to the real estate agent or landlord for clarification. Keep a signed copy of this.
Pay a Bond and Rent Advance: Most properties require a bond, or security deposit, to be placed on the property when a rental application is accepted. This is usually the cost of one month’s rental. The security deposit is paid into the Residential Tenancy Bond Authority (RTBA)—a government body—and it remains in this trust account until you vacate the property.
The bond will be refunded at the end of your lease if you return the property in the same condition (excluding reasonable wear and tear) as when your tenancy began. You will also need to pay your landlord a rental advance (usually the first month’s rent) up front to secure the property. These funds go to the landlord as part of his rental earnings.
To complete this phase, you pay the bond and the amount of rent required in advance. The real estate agent or landlord will give you a bond lodgement form to complete and sign. Keep a signed copy of this. You will then receive a receipt from the RTBA within seven days of receiving the bond. Keep this receipt as you will need to access your bond money at the end of your tenancy!
Complete a Condition Report: The real estate agent or landlord then fills in a property condition report and marks down what he/she believes to be the condition of the premises. You can then make comments on what you believe to be the condition of the premises and hand in the condition report within seven days.
“Come early and bring documents showing rental history, proof of financing/bank statements, references, etc, to increase your chances of winning a bid on a place.” OzTREKK student
How to protect yourself
- Never pay a deposit on a private rental until you’ve seen it in person.
- Always inspect a property in person. If the landlord doesn’t let you, move on.
- Search the property online and find out where it is and if it suits your needs.
- Ask about all the terms and conditions of your stay.
- Try to look for accommodation through official channels and websites rather than through forums and social media.
- Keep copies of all correspondence with the people you’re renting from.
- When you find a place you like, take your time going through it when you’re filling out your condition report. Take photos if you think you should!