International students have the same rights as permanent residents when renting in Victoria. Here are some tips to explain common rental issues and places to contact for more information.
Starting a tenancy
When you’re renting an apartment or house, you will usually have one contact – the property manager (who works for a real estate agency) or the landlord. If you’re in a shared house, you might report to a head tenant who acts as the middleman between other tenants and the property manager or landlord.
Rent payments usually don’t include the cost of bills such as water, electricity, gas or the internet.
Signing a Lease
If you are renting from an agent or directly from a landlord, you will need to sign a lease. This will include the terms and conditions of your rental arrangement. If you’re moving into an existing share house, you might be added to the rental agreement (this is known as a ‘co-tenancy’), or you may lease through the head tenant (this is known as ‘sub-letting’).
Click here for more information about sub-letting.
Make sure you have read and understand the terms and conditions of the agreement., This will help you understand your rights and responsibilities.
The Consumer Affairs Victoria website has information about types of rental agreements.
Typically your rental agreement should include:
- The cost of rent and how it will be paid
- How rent increases will be calculated
- The length and type of agreement
- The amount of bond you need to pay
- Other conditions and special terms
Paying a Bond
You will need to pay a security deposit – called a bond – to the agent or landlord. They must lodge it with the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA). The agent or landlord cannot access the bond and you cannot use it for rent. If you cause damage to the property while you are renting it, the landlord can request the RTBA to compensate them at the end of the lease. This means any damage you cause to the property may result in the loss of your bond.
For more information about Bonds, visit Tenants Victoria website.
When you start renting you are usually required to pay rent in advance to secure the property. A rental provider can ask for a maximum of one month’s rent in advance unless the rent is paid weekly or is above $900 per week. Your landlord cannot increase the rent during a fixed-term agreement or more than once in a twelve-month period.
If you are in a sublet arrangement, you may have to pay rent to the head tenant who is then responsible for paying the full amount to the property manager or landlord. You may also have to pay your share of the bond to the head tenant when you first move in.
If you are continually late paying your rent, you may be charged a penalty fee. You can easily set up a direct debit from your bank account so that you never miss a payment.
As a tenant, you will be expected to keep your rental in good condition. This means making sure it is clean and notifying the property manager or landlord about repairs as soon as possible. Do your best to ensure the property is in the same condition as when you moved in (excluding reasonable wear and tear). If the property has a garden, make sure you ask if gardening is covered in the rental price or whether you are expected to maintain lawns and garden beds. Often this is the responsibility of the tenant and will need your ongoing attention.
When it comes to repairs, this is normally the responsibility of your landlord. There are different rules for urgent and non-urgent repairs. If the repair is urgent – such as a broken toilet or gas leak – your landlord will need to respond immediately. Non-urgent repairs should be addressed within 14 days. When you notify your landlord or property manager, make sure you do it in writing – this ensures you have a paper trail should any issues arise.
Read more about urgent and non-urgent repairs on the Consumer Affairs Victoria website.
No one should hold any of your important personal documents, especially your passport, or possessions while you are renting from them or with them.
If anyone refuses to give you your own key or passcode to enter the building or asks you not to answer the door, these are warning signs that the situation is unsafe, illegal or unfairly controlling. If unsure, you should immediately contact Consumer Affairs Victoria for advice. You will not get into trouble by contacting them and you will have someone to help you navigate the situation.
Click here for information about scams including what to do if you’ve been involved in a scam involving a rental property.
Where to Get Help
If you have any concerns or problems with your accommodation, including renting and house sharing, free help and advice is available:
Study Melbourne Student Hub
No matter how small or big your problem is, the Study Melbourne Team can help.
If you require legal advice about an accommodation problem, you can make an appointment with our free International Student Employment and Accommodation Legal Service. Phone 1800 056 449 or visit the Study Melbourne Hub, 17 Hardware Lane Melbourne.
- Explore the Study Australia website for questions answered about your rights as a tenant in Australia and what your landlord can and cannot do.
- Tips on creating a strong rental housing application.
- Tips to find the right home and house mates for you.