As a student, it may be your first time moving out of home and seeking rental accommodation. On this page we've provided information about the four main stages of renting – before you rent, starting a tenancy, during and ending a tenancy.

Before you rent

Think about your needs. It’s important to pick a rental property that meets your lifestyle, study, and work requirements. Some things to consider include: 

  • your budget – remember to factor in other costs in addition to rent (e.g. electricity and internet) 
  • distance to your place of study/work
  • access to public transport, shops and amenities.

Use the RTA’s property checklist for help deciding if a place is right for you.

Think about what type of rental best suits your circumstances. Types of rentals for students include: 

  • purpose build student accommodation such as:
    • on campus accommodation, which will be either on campus or nearby. Meals and other services may be provided as part of the rent
    • independently owned and operated student rooming accommodation. This often includes shared kitchens, bathrooms and other facilities.
  • private rental properties or rooms. Options include: 
    • renting a room in an existing share house
    • renting a property with friends
    • renting a property on your own.
  • homestay programs. These involve renting a room in a private home, usually with a family in the local area. Meals and other services may be provided as part of the rent.

Look out for rental scams. Read our article on protecting yourself from rental scams to find out what you should look out for.

Starting a tenancy

Once you find a place you like, make sure you understand how much the rent is and what is included (e.g. electricity, water costs, furniture, yard maintenance). Before you move into the property or pay any money, ask questions and read the proposed agreement. The moving in checklist for new renters provides a list of things to consider at the start of your tenancy.

Signing a tenancy agreement

A tenancy agreement or lease is a legally binding document which outlines the terms of your rental. It’s important you understand it and read it carefully before signing. There are different types of tenancy agreements for different rental accommodation:

  • general tenancies: where you rent the whole property (usually a unit, house or townhouse) and are responsible for the whole premises. If you and your flatmates have signed as co-tenants, you are jointly responsible for ensuring the rent is paid in full – not just for paying your portion of the rent.
  • rooming accommodation: where you rent the room only and have shared common areas such as kitchen and bathroom. You will most likely also have house rules to follow. Most purpose-built student accommodation is rooming accommodation.

It’s also important to understand if you are entering into a fixed-term or periodic rental agreement.

  • fixed-term tenancy agreements have a set start and end date. Your tenancy end date may be several weeks or months after your semester ends. There can be penalties for ending a fixed-term lease early – so if the length of the lease isn’t right for you, try to negotiate a change before you sign the agreement
  • periodic agreements have a start date and run for no specific length of time. These agreements do not have an end date.

If you rent a unit or townhouse, you will need to comply with the by-laws that are part of the agreement. Similarly, if you are renting a room, the house rules must be followed. 

You should also read through any special terms in the agreement. These are extra terms which are added to a standard tenancy agreement to clarify rules around things such as keeping pets, maintenance, and water charging. If you don’t understand or don’t agree with some of the terms, you can ask questions and try to negotiate a change. 

Paying a rental bond

A rental bond is security money paid at the start of the tenancy and lodged with the RTA. It’s not compulsory for the property manager/owner to request a bond, but it is common practice. Bonds must be lodged with the RTA. 

You can either:

If the property manager/owner takes a bond, they must give you a receipt and lodge it with the RTA within 10 days. You will get an official notification from the RTA when the bond is lodged. Find out more on the rental bond page

Moving in 

Once the agreement has been signed, and you’ve paid the bond and first payment of the rent, you will be given the keys and can move in. The property manager/owner must prepare, sign and give you a copy of the Entry condition report at the start of the tenancy for you to complete.

In the report, the property manager/owner will note if each item on the list is clean, undamaged and working. You can agree or disagree with the condition of the items by including your own comments in the report received. A copy of the report must be returned to the property manager/owner, within 7 days. It is a good idea to take photos as further evidence to support your comments on the Entry condition report.  

During a tenancy

During a tenancy, you have responsibilities to keep the place clean and pay rent. There may be regular inspections by the property manager/owner to check that the accommodation is kept tidy, and in good condition. They will also check whether there are any issues or repairs for consideration. The property manager/owner must follow the rules of entry, giving you notice before they enter. 

There may be times when the property requires maintenance and repairs outside of your responsibility. This could be a routine repair, like a leaking tap, or could be an emergency repair such as an electrical fault. In any instance, it is best to contact the property manager/owner first. If you have a verbal conversation, follow up in writing to confirm what was said (for example, send an email to the property manager/owner). 

Issues during a tenancy 

Most tenancies go smoothly, but if an issue arises, speak to the property manager/owner first and try to find a resolution. Remember to put any agreement you have reached in writing. If you can’t come to an agreement with the property manager/owner, you can ask for help from the RTA through our free dispute resolution service.  

If you do not pay rent on time or if there is a significant problem during an inspection, you may be issued with a breach notice. A breach notice is a formal document advising that you have broken your agreement and asking you to fix the issue within a particular time. If you don't fix the issue, you may be asked to move out.

Notify the property manager/owner of any required repairs either verbally or in writing. Try to work out a solution together first. If a repair is not made within a reasonable timeframe, you can issue a breach notice. This formally ask the property manager/owner to fix the issue within a specific timeframe. If the issue is not fixed within the timeframe outlined in the breach notice and you cannot agree on actions moving forward, RTA’s free dispute resolution service may be able to help. You may also have the option to end the tenancy. 

If you stop being a student, this may impact your entitlement to live in student accommodation. Read our FAQ below about what may happen with your tenancy if you are no longer a student.

Replacing a tenant part-way through a tenancy

Sometimes, a new tenant moves in part-way through an agreement and/or takes over the agreement from an existing tenant. The new tenant may join the agreement as a co-tenant, where they are jointly responsible with the other tenants for the terms of the tenancy. Co-tenants can only be added to the lease following the approval of the property manager/owner. Alternatively, the new tenant may be a sub-tenant, who rents a room from an existing tenant. More information is available on the sub-letting page.

Ending a tenancy

If you or your property manager/owner decides to end the tenancy, notice must be given in writing. Your property manager/owner may offer a renewal or extension of lease. Visit the ending a tenancy section of the website for more information. You can also read the moving out checklist for new renters, which provides a list of things to consider at the end of your tenancy.

You get your bond back at the end of the tenancy if no money is owed to the property manager/owner for rent, damages, cleaning or other costs. To maximise the chance of getting all your bond money back at the end of the tenancy:

  • ensure the room/property is thoroughly cleaned and returned to the same condition as when you first moved in
  • take photos while completing your exit condition report
  • return your keys.

Either you or the property manager/owner can request a bond refund once the tenancy has ended. Bonds are refunded into Australian bank accounts only. International money transfers and cheques will not be issued. 

Tip: International students should keep their Australian bank account open until they have received their bond refund from the RTA. Direct deposit refunds in Australian bank accounts are secure and take less than a week to process.


Further information

For more information contact the Residential Tenancies Authority.

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Other languages: You can access a free interpreter service by calling the RTA on 1300 366 311 (Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5:00pm).

Pocket guide for tenants - houses and units (Form 17a)
v14 Aug23

The Pocket guide for tenants - house and units (Form 17a) is for tenants who live in houses, flats, units, townhouses and houseboats. It includes information the tenant will need while renting and explains their rights and responsibilities under the law.

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