Becoming a first-time renter can be exciting… It can also be daunting and mind blowing! There is a lot to think about and knowing where to start can be the hardest part, so we have put together a guide to help you to step into your first rental property. We hope this information gets you on track. Good luck!

We really hope this information was helpful for you.

If you have any feedback about these resources, please let us know:

Some Helpful Hints

Things to think about before deciding to rent

When looking to rent a place, it is a good idea to make a plan by working out what is important for you. Other young people said to consider:

How do you get from place to place?

Do you need to be close to transport? What forms of transport are available in the area you are looking in? Does this match up with your needs?

Who will you live with?

Are you looking with friends, significant others, by yourself? Are you looking for a share house? It may be helpful before moving in with other people to talk about everyone’s expectations when it comes to buying things for the house such as furniture, groceries and even cleaning materials. Another important thing to talk about is how you will share the cleaning of the house especially the areas everyone uses.

How much room do you need?

This is not only about how many bedrooms you will need, but how much living space, too. If you are planning to be by yourself you may feel more comfortable in an apartment or unit, however, this may be too small if there is going to be a few people living with you.

Do you have any pets?

Remember, this is something lessors need to know. It may also restrict the property type you can move into. For example, if you have a dog, it will most likely need access to a yard and secure fencing. If you are allowed to have a pet at the property will be written into the special terms of your tenancy agreement.

What do you do with your time?

Are you working or studying? Is there any place that you may want to live closer to? Do you like a quiet or busy house?

How much can you afford?

Make sure you come up with a price that is affordable and sustainable that you will still be able to afford later down the track. If other people will live with you, what is the combined amount that you can afford? Real Estates told us that rent should equal about 30-40% of the total household income. Find out more in the Budgeting section.

Do you feel safe?

Don’t forget, your safety is important. Make sure to look for things that make you feel safe when you are looking at properties. This may be security on the windows or street lighting so you can see in the dark or anything else that makes you feel safe.

Is there anything else you are looking for?

Accommodation is a personal thing and we all have different needs. Make sure you have an idea in your head of what you are looking for and what is important to you and the people you are planning on living with.

Glossary of Terms

What do all of these words mean?

Like doing anything for the first time there are challenges around finding a place to rent. It can seem like the real estate agent or property manager is speaking a different language. Here is a list of some words that you might hear or read and what they mean.

This is the person who is applying to rent the property. Applicant names go on the lease, so you will need to decide who applies. People who sign and are named on the lease are legally responsible for things like rent payments and any damage to the property.

This is a person who is allowed to live in the house but who is not named as a lessee.

This is a security deposit you pay at the start of a tenancy. It is usually 4 weeks rent. This money is returned to you when the lease ends. If there is damage or unpaid rent, you may not get any bond or less than the full amount back. The bond is held by the Rental Tenancies Authority and not the lessor.

This is where all people in the house have their name on the lease. Each person has the same legal rights and responsibilities.

These are things which have legal fallout so It is important to answer these questions as truthfully as you can.

This means children in your care. If you have children that will be living in your care, they need to be included on the application form.

This is the person named as a Tenant on the lease. More than one person can be named as the lessee.

This is the person who rents the property to you. This person may also be known as the owner, landlord or real estate agent.

This is the amount of money that you earn after your taxes and expenses have been taken out of your pay.

In this space you need to put the name and number of a family member or friend to be contacted in the event of an emergency.

These are letters that talk about you in a positive way. They could be letters from a teacher at school, your employer or someone else in the community that knows you would be a great tenant by paying your rent on time, looking after the place and getting along with the neighbours. If you have been staying with friends but not renting a place you can ask the adult/parent in charge of the house if they will give you a reference. It is a good idea to try and get a few references as they make your application look more appealing.

A tenant is the person who occupies the land or property and pays rent to the landlord. A tenant may also be referred to as a lessee.

This is a written contract between you and the lessor. It includes important information about your legal rights and obligations while you are renting the property. Your tenancy agreement will contain the following information: the name of the tenant, the address of the property, the name of the property manager/owner. It will have the start and end dates of the tenancy agreement, how the tenant should pay rent (eg bank deposit details) and how much the rent is. The agreement will include standard terms, which is a list of what the tenant and property manager/owner can and cannot do. Any special terms are included in the tenancy agreement, this can include pets, and carpet cleaning. Be sure to read over this a couple of times so you do not miss anything.

Budgeting

How to know what you can afford

Moving out can be expensive and often there are hidden costs that you might not have thought about. Before you become a tenant, you have to work out what money you have and what you can spend it on.

“I personally started by looking at how much I could realistically afford within working two jobs, any bills, or expenses I had such as phone, food and travelling expenses and also any government benefits. After coming out with a set amount I then started looking at rental websites where I viewed many properties that were matched by budgeted amount and rang the real estate agents to book a time to view the properties.”

Caitlin P'Independence'

How do I know what rent I can afford?

A real estate agent will look at how much you and the people you are moving in with can afford before approving the application. Most agents will calculate the maximum rent you can afford to pay at 30-40% of the total, weekly, income for your household. Your ‘household’ is everyone who is paying rent. It is important to compare your income against the amount of rent you can afford.

These are the hourly minimum and weekly wages (for a 35 hour week) for young people. Remember, the weekly wage totals in this table is before you pay income tax.

Junior employee younger than 16 years old $7.17 – Per hour Weekly wage – $250.95 – Less TAX
Junior employee 16 years old $9.22 – Per hour Weekly wage – $322.70– Less TAX
Junior employee 17 years old $11.27 – Per hour Weekly wage – $394.45– Less TAX
Junior employee 18 years old $13.31 – Per hour Weekly wage – $456.85– Less TAX
Junior employee 19 years old $16.08 – Per hour Weekly wage – $562.80 – Less TAX
Junior employee 20 years old $19.04 – Per hour Weekly wage – $666.40 – Less TAX
Apprentice in 1st year $10.72 – Per hour Weekly wage – $375.20 – Less TAX
Apprentice in 2nd year $12.67 – Per hour Weekly wage – $443.45 – Less TAX
Apprentice in 3rd year $15.59 – Per hour Weekly wage – $545.65 – Less TAX
Apprentice in 4th year $18.52 – Per hour Weekly wage – $648.20 – Less TAX

Here is information on benefit rates from Services Australia:

PAYMENT TYPE
FORTNIGHTLY AMOUNT
Youth Allowance Single, no children, 18 or over and need to live away from you parents’ home – $462.50 per fortnight
Youth Allowance Single no children, younger than 18, living away from home to study, train or to look for work – $462.50 per fortnight
Job Seeker Single with no children – $565.70 per fortnight
Job Seeker Single with a dependant child or children – $612 per fortnight
Job Seeker Partnered – $510.80 per fortnight
Disability support pension Single, under 18, and dependent $385.10
Disability Support Pension Single, under 18, and independent $594.40
Disability Support Pension Single, 18 to 20, and dependent $436.50
Disability Support Pension Single, 18 to 20, and independent $594.40
Disability Support Pension A member of a couple, and you’re 20 or less $594.40

When you know the total amount of wages and income, it is time to look at the price of rent across suburbs and towns across Queensland, to give you an idea of how much rent is so you can decide what you can afford.

Making a budget

Making a budget is a helpful first step. It involves knowing how much you earn as well as how much the person/s you are moving in with earn. Next look at the expenses. Some costs involved with moving in can include:

  • Furniture
  • Household items (appliances, white goods, things for the kitchen as well as a few things that make it feel like a home)
  • Transporting your things to the new place.

Once your application is approved, you will immediately need to pay:

  • Bond (usually four + weeks’ rent).
  • 2 weeks’ rent.
  • Connection fees (electricity/gas/phone & internet).
  • It is important for you to know that the average annual electricity bill in Queensland was found to be a little under $1,367.
  • People aged 18-29 reported the highest average annual electricity bills in Queensland at $1,650.

The RTA Median Rent Finder will help you find out how much the average rent is in a suburb you may want live. The median rent finder gives you the option of looking at the average prices of rent for houses, units and town houses.

Using the RTA Median rent finder you can see that the average rent for a 2 bedroom flat on the Gold Coast is $460 per week, that a 3 Bedroom house in Redcliffe is $380 per week, that a 3 bedroom flat in Rockhampton is $330 per week, that a 2 bedroom townhouse in Cairns is $310 per week and that a 1 bedroom unit in Caloundra is $300 per week.

Here are some tips for putting together a budget:

ASIC Moneysmart provides some easy steps to plan and manage how you spend your money.

Rent Assistance is an extra payment to help cover rent costs for people receiving a Centrelink income. Information on eligibility and the criteria for payment rates are on the Services Australia website.

See for yourself

If you are 18 and working, your weekly wage is $456 (minus tax), if you want to live by yourself in Chermside, by using the RTA median rent finder, you will find that the average price for a 1-bedroom unit in Chermside is $330. Can you afford this? To work out if you can afford the unit use the calculator below.


What’s Next?

Now that you know how much weekly rent you can afford you can work out what rental properties are in your price range. You may decide that you want to move into a share house and share the costs with housemates to help make renting affordable.

When planning your budget consider all expenses. Do not forget to include some money for going out and enjoying time with friends and family. It might be a good idea to write your budget down – looking at it visually is a great way to see what you can afford.

Don’t Forget:

Rent Assistance is an extra payment to help cover rent costs for people receiving a Centrelink income. Information on eligibility and the criteria for payment rates are on the Services Australia website.

Getting a Bond Loan

If money is really tight

Sometimes getting the money together for a bond can be really tough, especially if you don’t earn much or can’t get help from family to cover the expense. Before you get yourself into debt with a personal or payday loan, it is important to know that you may be able to get an interest free bond loan through the QLD government.

If approved, the loan pays your bond and you can pay it back weekly, without any interest. You will need to meet the current income eligibility to get the bond loan.

A rental grant is a one-off grant that covers the cost of the first two weeks of your rent. This grant is given to people in housing crisis (e.g. homeless, couch surfing, escaping violence) to help make it easier to find a place to live.

Just a reminder: a bond is a security deposit you pay at the start of a tenancy. It is usually 4 weeks’ rent. This money is returned to you when the lease ends if there is no damage or unpaid rent.

Identity Documents

Identity Documents, known as ID, are needed when applying for private rentals

“After the process of contacting and viewing the properties, then came along the rental applications. These were extremely detailed and required a lot of information such as 100 points of ID, any applicable rental history, references, and income details.”

Caitlin P'Independence'

There are many different types of ID you can use with common examples listed below. If you have an ID that is not on the list, just ask the real estate agent – they may be able to accept it!

When applying for private rental, the real estate agent or lessor will usually ask for ‘100 points’ worth of identification. Different real estates or landlords may ask for different forms of ID in the application, so be prepared with a number of types of ID when you are applying for a property.

Common Types of ID:

 Driver’s Licence: issued by the Qld Department of Transport and Main Roads

If you need to replace a lost or damaged licence can apply online or in person. When applying, you will be required to show evidence of other identity documents. For more info on how to apply and what you will need, visit their website.

Student Card: issued by school, TAFE or university

If your student card is damaged, lost or it is about to expire you can get a new one by.

  • High schools: asking at the school administration office.
  • Universities: apply at your onsite Student Centre. To apply you will need a current photo ID and proof of enrolment. The price of a new card varies for each university.

TAFE QLD: go to the customer service office at your campus and ask them to make you a new ID card. To apply you will need a current photo ID and proof of enrolment.

Birth Certificate: issued by Birth Deaths and Marriage Office in the state or country you were born.

You can apply for a Queensland birth certificate if you were born or adopted (and registered) in QLD. For more information on how to apply and costs visit their website.

If you were born in another Australian state or territory contact the department of births deaths and marriages of your birth state/territory to see how you can apply for a replacement birth certificate.

If you were born overseas you have to apply through your home country. It might be easier to use your passport if it is still in date.

Passportissued by the country of your birth or citizenship

A passport is a primary form of photo identification issued by the government where you were born or where you have become a citizen. A passport states your identity and citizenship and can be used for international travel. You can renew or apply for an Australian adult or child passport at the Passport Australia Office website.

Applications for other countries need to be made through the country’s government or embassy.

Australia Post Keypass ID: issued through Australia Post

This is a photo ID card that is valid to prove age and identity across Australia for up to 5 years. There is a Keypass 18+ card for people over 18 and a Keypass Under 18 for people 15-18 years old. It can be used for many purposes including applying for private rental.

Photo Identification Card: issued by the Qld Department of Transport and Main Roads

If you live in Queensland and are aged 15 years or older you can apply for a photo identification card. This card is an ideal form of ID if you don’t have a driver’s licence or passport.

Medicare Cardissued by Services Australia via Centrelink Offices

A Medicare card can provide you access to Medicare benefits in a range of health services. See their website for more information on eligibility and online application.

Bank Card: issued where you have your bank account

A bank card allows you to pay without cash in stores and online. It is also a type of ID because you have to prove who you are when you open the account. To find out how to apply for a bank card or bank account, see your bank’s website.

Looking for a Rental Property

Now that you know what you are looking for in a rental property (location, who to live with and safety) and what you can afford, you can start searching for a rental property

“All the anxiety, fear and nerve racking emotions came about when contacting the real estate agents and viewing the properties as I personally felt I had to portray myself in a way that would break the stereotypes of young people.”

Caitlin P'Independence'

You can visit real estate agencies in the area you want to live and ask for a list of the current rental vacancies. There are a number of places online to search for rental properties. Some regularly used websites include Realestate & Domain.

If you have decided that you will need to look for a share house to save on expenses and don’t already know who you will move out with you can look on Flatmates.

Inspecting the Rental Property

Once you have found a place that you are interested to rent, contact the real estate to arrange an inspection. There are often many potential tenants who go to inspections, so it always helps to be dressed well (clean and tidy) and have your paperwork ready to complete an application form and submit on the same day. Being organised might help you to secure that dream place to live. Be confident when talking to agents. First impressions count!

Help to find a rental

If you find that you keep getting knocked back for properties that you are applying for, RentConnect might be able to help. RentConnect is a service that can help you find and apply for a place to rent if you don’t have a rental history or much knowledge about how to apply for a private rental. They have RentConnect Officers that you can contact over the phone or at a Housing Service Centre. Make sure to check out the RentConnect Brochure, and the RentConnect info from the QLD Government.

The National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) provides private rental housing at least 20% below the standard market rate. This is for people who earn a low to moderate income and may find it hard to pay standard market rental prices. Potential tenants must meet the eligibility criteria. For more information about the NRAS and to register online by completing the NRAS Tenant Application Form see their website.

How To Complete a Rental Application Form

When you’re ready to get started, here’s some help on completing the forms

“These applications at first felt as though I was going into a test blindsided and had no idea of what I was doing. However, with the assistance of support workers and real estate agents I was able to fill these forms out with the necessary documentation and information.”

Caitlin P'Independence'

The rental application form is a document you must fill in and give to the lessor. It may be a paper form or online. They use the information in the application to compare different applicants and work out if you can afford to live in the place. They want to know:

  • Who is going to live in the place,
  • If you can afford the rent, and
  • If in the past, you’ve paid your rent-on time, looked after the house and got along with neighbours.

The application form covers a wide range of information including your employment, income and credit history, your rental history, references from landlords, employers and others, and ID documents. Having all of the required documents ready to, go  when you inspect a property or apply online is great as it shows that you are serious about securing the rental property, and may also increase your chance of being one of the first applicants to register interest.

A number of Real Estates use “1form” which is an online application form, the real estates that use 1form include LJ Hooker, First National, Harcourts, Raine & Horne, PRD and Little Real Estate. You can create a “1form” account before starting to look for a rental property so that your details can be saved and used across multiple properties. This can help save time and effort instead of filling out your details over and over again.

What to do if you don’t have a rental history:

A rental reference is a letter written to support your application and make you look appealing to potential lessors and real estate agents.  For someone who doesn’t know you, it can provide information on your personality/what you’re like, and your abilities and achievements. A real estate agent/lessor will be looking for certain information about you from the reference. They want to know that rent will be paid on time – therefore, you will need to be responsible, reliable and organised. They’ll also want to know that you are respectful, considerate, and responsible so there are less likely to be complaints from neighbours, and that the property will be looked after and kept clean and tidy.

If you haven’t rented before and are moving out for the first time it might be helpful to ask a teacher,  support worker or someone you’ve lived with to write one for you. It is important to let the person writing the letter know that they could get a call from the real estate agents or potential landlords about the reference letter they wrote.

The Queensland Government provides a number of free templates for Tenant References online.

Know Your Rights

When you become a renter/tenant you have a number of rights and responsibilities

When you become a renter/tenant you have a number of rights and responsibilities. There are laws in QLD for renting and leasing that are set out in the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008. It can be a bit wordy and confusing, but it’s good to know that there is legislation in place to establish these kinds of things. The Act covers residential tenancies in Queensland, these include general tenancies (flats, units, houses), moveable dwellings (caravans and rooming accommodation (when you only rent a room and share facilities). The Act does not apply to some renting situations, like boarders, but it does cover a bond paid by a boarder.

The Act sets out the rights and responsibilities of everyone involved in a tenancy.

RTA Renting

The RTA Renting page provides heaps of info about renting. The ‘Before You Rent’ tab is very helpful if you’re looking for a place to rent.

Tenants Queensland

Tenants Queensland is an agency that seeks to represent the concerns of all QLD tenants who live in rental accommodation. They also provide a great range of tenancy information fact sheets and advocacy services.

QLD Statewide Tenant Advice and Referral Service (QSTARS)

QLD Statewide Tenant Advice and Referral Service (QSTARS) provides free statewide advice and referral services for QLD tenants. The QSTARS program is managed by Tenants Queensland and delivered in collaboration with partner organisations across Queensland. They also have a fact sheet for information on Starting a Tenancy.

Rental Discrimination:

Have you been going through the process of applying for a place for a while and keep getting rejected? Have you experienced treatment that made you feel like you were discriminated against because of your age, gender, race, religion, sexuality?

This is not allowed.

Legally, people who are under 18 who are ‘independent’ can apply for housing.  Housing is a necessity of life so young people can enter into tenancy agreements.

There are places that can support you and explain your rights when facing discrimination. If you are a young person 10-18 in QLD Youth Advocacy Centre (YAC) can help you to understand your rights when moving out.

Once Your Application Has Been Submitted or Approved

Congratulations! All your hard work is finally paying off

“…then came to a period of a waiting process. This was the most anxious part for me. I literally had butterflies in my stomach not knowing what the verdict would be… Though some of the outcomes were knockbacks and I felt depicted negatively as a young person due to the strong stereotypes in place, I knew that the only thing to do was keep trying… after a few attempts I was finally accepted into my own rental property.”

Caitlin P'Independence'

Now that your rental application has been approved it is important that you know what date you are signing your lease, paying your bond and getting the keys to your first rental property. There will be heaps of paperwork to sign once your application is accepted. It may be a good idea to take a friend or family member with you to look over the documents.

Your lessor also must give you any receipts for your bond and any rent paid in advance.

 Your lessor is responsible for giving you the following documents:

RTA Pocket guide for tenants - houses and units

Want to know more about your legal rights and responsibilities as a tenant? The RTA have put together a booklet so you can be informed.

General Tenancy Agreement Form 18a

Before you move into the property, you will need to sign a general tenancy agreement along with any co-tenants that will be moving in with you. You must sign and return the general tenancy agreement within five days of receiving it. The property manager/owner needs to sign and return a copy of the agreement within 14 days. It is the property manager’s responsibility to organise the agreement before you pay any rent or bond money. The RTA states that a general tenancy agreement should include;

  • the name and address of the tenant/s and property manager/owner
  • the start and end date of the agreement (or state that it is “periodic”)
  • how and when the tenant should pay rent and how much is to be paid
  • standard terms (what the tenant and the property manager/owner can and cannot do)
  • any special terms (these should be agreed in advance, e.g. a dog is allowed but must be kept outside)

Remember if there are any special terms that you don’t feel comfortable with you can get advice from TQ. To see an example of a general tenancy agreement see their website.

Bond Lodgement form - Form 2

When you pay your bond, you need to complete a bond lodgement form. This will include the names and details of how much money each tenant has paid toward the bond. You will generally pay the bond to the property manager/owner and then it is their responsibility to lodge your rental bond with the RTA within 10 days. Once this has been received you will get an ‘Acknowledgment of Rental Bond’ form from the RTA.

Entry Condition Report Form 1a

This is a document that records the condition of the property when you first move in. The lessor must give you a prepared Entry Condition Report before you move in or on the day you move in, for you to make note of the state of the house, what is dirty, marked or damaged. It is important to take note of the condition of the property when you are first moving in so you can note these on the report. The best way of supporting what you write on the report is photographs and video recordings and saving them with the date they were taken so you have visual proof of the condition of your new place. This is done so you do not get blamed for any damage, and have your bond refunded at the end of your tenancy. It is vital that you fill out the report because if you do not it means that you are agreeing to everything the property manager/owner has written. You will need to give this back to the lessor but keep a copy for yourself so you can compare it with the condition of the place when you move out.

We really hope this information was helpful for you.

If you have any feedback about these resources, please let us know:

Acknowledgements

The First Time Renter project is a collaboration between Queensland Youth Housing Coalition (QYHC), Community Connections (CLA Inc.), Tenants Queensland (TQ), and Youth Advocacy Centre (YAC).

The information in this guide has been compiled through an Action Research process undertaken between young people and workers of Community Connections and other stakeholders. We wish to thank all of the young people who have shared their experiences and wisdom to help other young people aged 15-25 in Queensland to access a secure place to live.