For those who aren’t planning on making Melbourne their permanent home, or will only be living in Australia for a set amount of time, it makes much more sense to rent a home (as most expats do). While renting in Melbourne can be relatively cheap (when compared to urban areas in Europe), it can be extremely competitive.
The following table outlines the general price range you might expect to pay for property within the areas of Melbourne previously mentioned in other sections. As this data in prone to constant fluctuation (usually trending upwards), it’s highly recommended you check a local real estate website (such as domain.com.au, http://www.domain.com.au) for the latest data on suburbs you are interested in.
Average Rental Price*
|Inner City – CBD / Southbank||$650 – $750/wk|
|Inner City – Docklands||$550 – $650/wk|
|Bayside Suburbs||$500 – $600/wk|
|Inner Suburbs – East||$500 – $600/wk|
|Inner Suburbs – North||$400 – $500/wk|
|Inner Suburbs – West||$300 – $400/wk|
|*based on available listings (2 bedroom) April 2010|
Rents in Australia are always quoted in weekly costs, although it is rare that you will pay on a weekly basis, with agents or owners accepting total payment every month (see Calculating Payments and Inclusions section below).
THE RENTAL PROCESS
Finding a home
Under Australian law, it is not possible to sign a lease unless you have personally inspected a property. This is often tedious and time-consuming so be prepared to devote yourself to it – and wear comfortable shoes. Inspections are either By Appointment or Open for Inspection (a set date and time, open to all interested). Open Inspections are generally only 15 minutes, allowing just enough time to check the basics and submit an application. Inspections arranged by appointment usually involve visiting the agent’s office and exchanging your photo ID and a $50 key deposit for keys to the property. Once you have the keys you are allowed to inspect the property alone as long as you return the key within a given time frame (usually about an hour). While the By Appointment inspection often allows you to look over the property more thoroughly, this can be a frustrating process if you are not familiar with Melbourne or the agent’s office is a significant distance from the property.
Unfortunately, the attitude of Melbourne’s real estate agents towards renters is often less-than-stellar. Even though there is an increasing tendency for Melburnians to rent for long periods of time, the high number of applicants and shortage of available rentals means that these agents don’t have to work very hard to fill vacancies. Be prepared to encounter dismissiveness or outright rudeness, and never expect to receive a call back unless your rental application has been approved.
If you like a property, you will need to fill out an application form. If there is to be more than one adult living at the address, you will need to fill out one each as both/all of your names will be on the lease and you will be jointly responsible for it.
Information required on the application will include your name, date of birth, residency status, employment details, number of children, details of any pets, references for past tenancies and references to confirm your income and employment details.
Once you find a home that suits you and your rental application has been approved, you will be asked to sign a lease. A standard lease is twelve months, but it is not uncommon to find leases available in 24 months, 6 months or month-to-month durations. Unless there are problems with the tenancy, you will have the option to extend your lease at its end, although there is no guarantee that the rent will remain the same.
Lease agreements are legally binding documents, specific to the laws of the state of Victoria. The lease agreement outlines the rights and responsibilities you have as a tenant, along with what to expect from your landlord. It will include details of the rental property, the agreed rent and when/ how it should be paid, the bond amount, when the agreement begins and ends, and the contact details of the landlord.
Calculating Payments and Inclusions
In Melbourne, your rent payment will generally be calculated per calendar month (PCM). This is your weekly rent, multiplied by fifty two weeks and divided by twelve months.
(Weekly Rent x 52) / 12 = Rent PCM
Your rent includes your right to occupy the property only. It does not include electricity, gas, bond or any other costs (unless specifically stated in the lease agreement / contract). You may also have to pay water rates and/ or council rates, depending on the agreement you sign.
Rental properties in Melbourne require you to pay a security bond, at the time of signing a lease agreement. This will normally be equal to a month’s rent, and will be at the disposal of the landlord, in the event that damage is done to the property during the time you occupy it. If a property is leasing for less than $350 per week, by law the bond can not exceed one month’s equivalent. If it more than this amount, the amount of the bond is at the discretion of the agent and owner. If you own a pet, expect to pay an additional Pet Bond in case of any damage caused by animals. The bond must be lodged with the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA) within three days of being received by the agent. This functions as an escrow to protect renters, and there are steep penalties for any agent who tries to retain it.
Rent in Advance
Your rental payments will be required in advance. So if your lease agreement is monthly, you will be expected to pay a month of rent in advance, at the same time each month.
Prior to occupying the property, you will be invited to fill out a condition report/inspection report. This provides a record of the condition of the property when you assumed residence. Any damage to the structure, fixtures, fittings and amenities should all be itemized and graded as good, fair or poor condition.
To avoid disputes later, it is often a good idea to take date stamped photographs, particularly if there is any existing damage.
With current vacancies rates at an all time low, it’s not uncommon for real estate agents to receive between 50-100 rental applications in a single Open for Inspection. With competition that fierce, it’s important to take any advantages you can get. The following are a series of tips intended to help you secure a home for yourself as an expat more easily.
If there are two of you, work as a team. Arrive at an Open for Inspection early, and have one person fill out the application while the other inspects the property. While it’s no guarantee that you’ll secure the property, being the first of the interested parties present to submit an acceptable application may be all that it takes to beat out the crowd.
While it is illegal for real estate agents or landlords to discriminate, the unfortunate truth is that there are certain conditions that will count against you when applying for rentals that may include:
- Having a low income
- Being a single parent
- Having pets
- Wanting a short lease
While these conditions will not completely prevent you from finding a home, your search may be more difficult, so you should be prepared to be extra diligent.
There have been reports from expats that greasing the wheels, or added incentive can help to secure a rental unit in such a competitive market. While bribery is clearly illegal (don’t even try), mentioning to the agent that you are willing to pay 4-6 months rent in advance (if you have the means) may result in your application ‘jumping’ to the top of the pile. While the legality of this tactic is murky (for the agent, not for you), the opportunity for an agent to quickly settle a rental agreement without having to worry about an applicant’s ability to pay is understandably enticing for them.
If your move to Australia is sponsored by a company, or you are coming to Melbourne to assume a position you have already been hired for, it’s always a good idea to get assistance with relocation from your employer if possible. Many a weekend of house hunting and application filing may be saved by the good graces of a well-connected human resources department.