1. Maintenance matters
Problem: The upside of renting is that you don’t have to pay for general maintenance problems. Unless, of course, you’ve done something serious to damage the property. With repairs left to landlords, sometimes renters are left waiting.
This can mean having to live in a property with a broken stove while the landlord or real estate agent organises for such issues to be fixed.
Solution: Do your due diligence before signing a lease. How responsive is the agent or property manager? Has the property had ongoing maintenance issues? Does the agent have a budget they can spend without seeking permission from the owner?
Problems can always arise in any home, so always email the managing agent or landlord as soon as you notice something. Include a photo where you can.
Being proactive can help you stop any maintenance issues growing bigger. Don’t be afraid to nicely ask for what you need – it’s in your best interests as well as the landlord’s or agent’s – to keep the property at its best. If all else fails, seek advice from the tenants’ advice and advocacy service in your state and territory.
Solution: Before you sign any lease, state your intentions upfront to the letting agent. Make sure they know whether you want a long- or short-term rental.
Asking the agent some quick questions about why the landlord is renting the property can also reveal a lot. Is the property solely an investment? Is the landlord overseas? Does the owner plan to move in later on?
The reality is that as a renter you can be asked to move on, so check the fine print of your lease agreement for the terms and conditions of any notice periods.
3. Making improvements
Problem: Most tenants aren’t allowed to alter the property they rent in any significant way. Can you improve security, hang pictures, paint a room, get flyscreens, upgrade the garden, build a fence, or make small changes to the property? Will your landlord agree?
Solution: There’s no harm in asking nicely about small improvements, especially if it will increase the property’s livability or appeal to other future tenants.
For instance, a landlord may agree to instal air-conditioning in a west-facing room. Some landlords will agree to let tenants hang pictures, or even paint a room.
Some long-term tenants even offer to foot the bill or do the painting themselves, just to get it done.
But always seek permission first. It helps to state your case clearly and say why it would be a good idea from the landlord’s point of view.
4. The money
Solution: Only sign a lease that outlines the financial obligations for both sides.
If your landlord increases the rent, do some research and check the market rental value of your property. Seek advice from the agent or your local tenants advocacy group.
A rental bond should always be held by an independent organisation (for instance, in QLD the Residential Tenancies Authority) and you can always make a claim through the local tribunal if you feel that your bond is being held unfairly at the end of a lease.
Make sure you uphold your side of the bargain by paying your rent on time or, if you can’t, be sure to explain any financial troubles in advance to your agent or landlord. You may be surprised at how understanding many agents are to rental clients.