International students have the same rights as Victorian renters. Here’s some tips to explain common rental issues for international students. If you have a question you need answered, contact the Study Melbourne Hub for advice.
Starting a tenancy
When you’re renting an apartment or house, you’ll 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.
Expect to pay between $175-$400 a week for a room in a share house depending on where you live and how many people you share a house with. Rent payments usually don’t include the cost of bills such as water, electricity, gas and 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.
You need to 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 and advise that 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
- Other conditions and rules
- Any 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 - https://tenantsvic.org.au/advice/common-problems/bonds/
When you start renting you will be usually be required to pay rent in advance to secure the property. A rental provider can ask for a maximum of one months rent in advance unless the rent is paid weekly, or is above $900 per week. Your landlord is not allowed to increase the rent during a fixed-term agreement and then never more than once in a twelve-month period.
If you’re in a sublet arrangement, generally you’ll pay rent to the head tenant who is then responsible for paying the property manager or landlord. You may also pay 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 to cover the admin required to follow up on these payments. You can easily set up a direct debit from your bank account so that you never miss a payment.
As a tenant, you’ll be expected to keep your rental in good condition. This means making sure it’s clean, notifying the property manager or landlord about repairs as soon as possible, and doing your best to ensure the property is in much the same condition as when you moved in (although, fair wear and tear is acceptable). If the property has a garden, make sure to ask if gardening is covered in the rental price or whether you’re 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, your landlord is usually responsible for having them taken care of. 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 to do so 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 living space 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 you’re in is unsafe, illegal or unfairly controlling and you should immediately contact Consumer Affairs Victoria for advice. You won’t get in trouble for doing so and you will have someone to help you navigate the situation.
Be on the lookout for accommodation scams. 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 renting, before or after signing your lease, free help and advice is available.
- Tenants Victoria provide lots of information about renting in Victoria, and what to do if you have a problem.
- Starting your tenancy
- Ending your tenancy
- Common problems
- Problems with landlord
- Language resources
Study Melbourne Student Hub and ISEALS
Contact the Study Melbourne Student Hub to for a confidential discussion about your situation. If you require legal advice about an accommodation problem, you can make an appointment for the International Student Employment and Accommodation Legal Service. Phone 1800 056 449, or visit the Study Melbourne Hub, 17 Hardware Lane, Melbourne.
Consumer Affairs Victoria
International Students – Renting in Victoria is a video from Consumer Affairs Victoria. See more information about renting on the International Students page on their website.