What Do I Need to Know about Renting a House?

Hey guys,

So I'm almost embarrassed to say that I've never rented before and have no idea how it works.

The background is that my family and I have owned a home for 10 years and will build somewhere new but in the meantime I need to rent for a year or so. We have already decided on the Marsden Park NSW area and have two adults, two kids under 4 and no pets.

The question is what do I really need to know and how does it actually work? Do I need references, do we pay all the bills, what are the inspection like, what can and cant be done to the house etc.


  • +9 votes

    Don't annoy your neighbour's otherwise they will come here and post for solutions to noisy and rude neighbour


    I will try to answer some of your question from my experience. Note that my experience is with regards to VIC.

    Do I need references?

    Some agencies may ask your employer details to confirm your employment details. Cannot remember if someone ever asked for personal references

    Do we pay all the bills?

    In case of a house, arranging contracts and paying bills for all utilities (gas, power, water) is tenant's responsibility. The agent might ask you to get it done by themselves but beware that they might put you on a very expensive contract. So, I would suggest to research your available options and make an informed decision. What you don't pay is council's rate notice.

    What are the inspection like?

    Depending on the demand, you might be one of many or a few applicants for renting the property. What to inspect really comes down to what your preference is e.g. floor vs tile vs carpet, centrally heated or not. Some of the new houses do not have a door in en-suite which I do not like.

  • +1 vote

    Visit a real estate agent, they will tell you what is involved.
    Basically, you pay a bond that is refundable when you vacate, you pay your rent ON TIME and do not damage the property.
    You are not allowed to modify the property without the owners permission.

  • +5 votes

    It's like your own house. But not.

    Don't make permanent changes, don't FUBAR the place.

  • +15 votes

    Take a heap of photos and video when you get in. Right down to the last scratch and dent.

    • +9 votes

      Especially take photos of the condition of the carpet and walls. Also, fix little things like tap washers yourself. Real estate agents like quiet people who don't rock the boat. Save the boat rocking until you need it.


        Great advice guys, I like it


        fix little things like tap washers yourself

        I recommend don’t, unless you have permission in writing. You’re not allowed to change anything affixed to the property.

      • +4 votes

        I wouldn't bother fixing anything myself. That's why you are paying rent. If you fix it yourself, and something goes wrong then it's essentially your liability.

        But yes, lots of photos.

        Also, always write "soap scum on shower walls" on the condition report….. That's an old fallback trick (dirty) agents love to use when they can't find anything wrong, but if you write it preemptively, it will save you lots of grief later on.


      @ndwalters seriously can not stress this one more, basically you must assume that the real estate agent's entire job is to wind up keeping the bond at the end of the rental period, state of the property and the quality of your time as a tenant do not matter, if you can't prove that it wasn't you then you're paying for it.

      things to take photos off and write the state of you might not think of, top surface of inside of oven, behind and beside of oven even if its in the most perfect of gaps, does a panel slide off the oven for easy moving, remove it and take a picture, top of light shade/fixings, tops of shelving units etc, if a thing this a freestanding wardrobe, fridge or something can be moved, even though it looks like it hasn't been moved in 30 years, move it and document the state, absolutely scour the walls for marks and nails holes, if you don't note one and they do, it's on you, and don't forget the outside of the property too, state of the weeds etc.

      when you sign the contract they should give you the condition report that both parties must sign, and they should give you some time, as in days/weeks of key in hand time, to check it, add to it, and sign it, they will then either fix the problem or (more likely) just accept that as the state of the property, if they try to get you to sign it without time, get suspicious.

  • +2 votes

    I'd say don't go with a private landlord where you deal with them directly, I've always had issues when trying to get them to fix things. Go through an agency as they'll normally have a yearly budget for necessary repairs.

    One cost I didn't expect the first time was the moving out clean which is written into the contract. I paid $400 for a small one bed apartment for a full end of tenancy clean where they steamed the carpets.

    As others have said take photos/videos of everything and write down anything that's in need of repair/cleaning when you move in. I even noted things like windows dirty on the outside so I'm not expected to clean them on the way out.

    • +1 vote

      Annual budget? That's not correct. At the end of the day the cost is passed onto the owner if repairs/maintenance is required.


        The agency has an agreed amount which they can spend on repairs without verifying with the owner, that's what I meant about "budget". Beyond that it needs owner approval.

  • +4 votes

    Treat the home as if it were yours, mow the lawns, keep it clean and don't smash things. You pay for electricity, water, gas, internet etc and the landlord pays rates and building insurance. Look at getting a contents policy for all of your stuff though. Note any damage or wear and tear on the contract when you do the initial walk-through.

  • +1 vote

    If you’re in a position to, pay your rent annually or 6 months in advance and it can help with the process in terms of references and you can potentially negotiate on rent.


      This is more of a red flag than anything, I would put the money in investments rather than prepay rent.

      If you prepay rent you are either a drug dealer, or have something to hide. Just think about the time value of money.


        Hmm it’s a good point but not everyone thinks about the time value of money in the same way. I was just sharing an experience that I had when I was trying to rent a place in Melbourne competing against 17 other candidates and the agent asked if I was willing to pay 6m in advance. I think it could possibly be of concern though if the tenant raised the idea like you’ve said.

        • -1 vote

          Maybe the landlord was a drug dealer or had something to hide lol so he needed extra money in advance to fund his other "business".

  • +4 votes

    When I rented about 7 years ago, there was shortage in St George region in Sydney and we couldn't get our first rental for months. So, I offered 6 months in advance to the agent and we magically got the place, no references, no questions asked. Before we moved in, I took a photo of every single mark and dent, rust and broken window etc. Printed all, dated and went to the agency and had the agent sign the booklet with photos. We only had one agent visit in 18 months, all was good. Make sure you don't leave any stains or chips behind you, because they will most likely try to withhold your bond. From my experience, landlord's agent will do as little as possible for you. Be assertive (not rude) when you need something done.

  • +1 vote

    Don't mention that you're only looking for a year or so, that will have your application in the bin straight away, you have no obligation to tell them.

    It does bring up something you need to consider, generally with renting you sign a yearly lease and if you want out before the year is up you pretty much have to pay for the rent until they find a new tenant, though this is mostly to stop people up and leaving on a whim and most real estates/owners will work with you if given plenty of time, as i said you don't need to mention it up front but as soon as you know a relatively concrete move date start talking to the real estate about it.

    I don't think any references were ever called but every application asked for at least one.

    Inspections, if you mean the ones where the agent comes to check on the property, vary wildly of course but really they are just to make sure you aren't a secret hoarder, they don't care about average mess or last nights dinner plates next to the sink, as long as you aren't wrecking the place they wont care much, the thing they get the most anal about from my experience is the grass if the property has any.
    The most annoying part of inspections is they will only give you a time frame for when they will do the inspection, because they will do it without you being there, if you don't want someone in your house unattended you will have to take a day off.

    pretty much nothing can be don't to the property, but you can always ask, if its going to increase the value or protect its value they'll likely let you do it, doesnt hurt to ask worst they can do is say no


    Be clear about what is/isn't included and the terms of the lease, for a house the LL pays the water supply and sewer charges and you pay the usage only (NSW). Be careful about places with pools or large gardens, ask if the upkeep is provided, remember with a pool you will be paying electricity to run the pump unless there is a solar system. Most of the time the tenant has to maintain the gardens, pools etc to a reasonable standard. Also be aware once you sign a lease you are pretty well stuck there without a good reason to break it.

    Inspections depending on the agent, but they send a written letter then call you to organise. They will want to see all the rooms and will ask questions about any damage or any problems. Most people clean house prior but its not mandatory (edit you should also be present!).

    If something is broken (and not your fault), you can ask the land lord to fix it, dont fix or change anything by yourself with out telling the agent (unless you did it ;P).

    When you move in really make a good record of any damage, stains etc the LL/Agent will be trying to keep your bond at the end. Any minor damages you have done try to fix yourself because if they take it from your bond it is at tradesman rates.

    If they decide to sell the house while you are there you will have to live with open houses.

    What I found when looking - the cheaper stuff had more competition for people looking, as the price\quality went up less people to compete with. Land lords don't want the place empty for too long - if a place has been empty for a while try to negotiate the rent down 5-10%, its always worth a try.

    Also this https://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/housing-and-property/rent...

    Good luck

  • +1 vote

    Photos of everything - excellent advice!

    Scan and save the condition report so you don't list it. It's the bible when you do your final clean and inspection. Be brutal with the comments. Mine are always COVERED in information. The property managers don't waste their time doing it properly. At the end it is very likely they will ask for at least some of your bond and a thorough condition report is your best asset. You don't have to return in it better condition and in fact, you live in it, so depending on how long you're there for, it may be in worse condition (especially if your landlord doesn't like maintaining their property). Don't forget to include the state of the garden.

    Meowsers is spot on - there probably will be soap scum, faulty grout/silicone sealant, dirty fans, oven/oven tray dirt. Just make sure you get a photo and record it. You don't have to improve the place… Just respect it and take good care of it while you live there.

    Never trust that your property manager will remain the same and record everything in writing.

    Finally, almost all rentals have picture hooks or small holes where picture hooks once were or even dodgy cover ups from picture hooks. Make sure you record these. If it's vague then you could put your own in. Small holes from picture hooks have never been mentioned to me.

    I agree with CompAddict - private landlords are annoying as they can be a bit in your face so you don't get to enjoy your house in peace.

    Always, always, always call the tenants union before agreeing to anything major. They are the best.

    Finally, getting a rental can be tricky. I recently bought a place but I had been renting from 18 until 32 (about 10 houses). My biggest piece of advice is to come prepared to the inspection. Even if you don't end up applying, if you're ready to be the first one to apply then you're off to a good start.
    -cover letter explaining while you like the house and why you're a safe tenant (job, established in the area).
    -You're looking for a long term rental.
    -I always offer three months rent in advance (never been asked to pay it).
    -I have also shown a bank balance.
    This may be controversial but if it's a cut-throat rental market and you want a place to live, it works.

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