Tips for students renting in Queensland

31 Jan 2022

In this episode of Talking Tenancies, we discuss tips for students renting in Queensland with RTA's Kate Edmonds.

Transcript

Host - Belinda Heit – Communication and Education – RTA 

Guest – Kate Edmonds – Quality and Training - RTA 
 
Host: Welcome to the Talking Tenancies podcast, brought to you by the Residential Tenancies Authority.  I’m your host, Belinda Heit. Join me as we explore everything you need to know about renting in Queensland, with experts from the RTA and industry. We're here to help make renting work for everyone. 

Whether students are renting in purpose-built student accommodation, sharing a house with others, or going it alone in a unit, it's important they understand their tenancy rights and responsibilities. For some students, this may be their first time away from home and renting on their own, or their first time in Australia. Students are encouraged to read their agreement and ask questions to clarify expectations before they sign and be aware that they should receive a receipt for any money they pay. Today's expert from the RTA is Kate Edmonds. Welcome Kate. 

Guest: Thank you, Belinda. Good to be here. 

Host: Now, can you tell us about your role at the RTA and what you're responsible for? 

Guest: Yes, certainly. I am a Quality and Training Officer here at the RTA, and I’m responsible for ensuring our operational people get the best possible support in order to help them deliver accurate and consistent customer service and I do this by coaching, training and knowledge management. 

Host: And what an amazing job you do. Now, today we’re talking about students renting in Queensland. and when starting a tenancy it's really important that you get it right when you're a first-time renter. So before you start looking for rentals, what are some of the things you need to consider? 

Guest: That's right, Belinda. It’s really important to make sure when students are starting the tenancy off strong, there are a few things they should consider when starting their research. Firstly, you want to pick a rental property that meets your needs. Consider things like public transport options, distance to the nearest shops, parking options if you have a car, distance to your place of work and study. You may also want to think about types of rentals you'd be willing to consider. There are all kinds of options, such as renting a room in an existing share house, starting a share house with friends, living in a private rental of your own, renting a room in purpose-built student accommodation. You might not be able to find something you like in the format you want, so it's nice to know your options and cast a wider net before making a decision. 

Lastly, consider what is your budget. You may prefer to share accommodation with someone else so it can be a bit cheaper for both of you. As a prospective tenant, you don't need to sign the agreement straightaway. Take some time to read it carefully and make sure you understand everything that's in the agreement. Ask the manager or provider questions about anything you don't understand. Make sure you make your decision about the rental property within five days. The tenancy agreement will include the weekly rent for the rental property, know what the rent includes and for example, does it include water, electricity, garden maintenance?

There could be several other things, but make sure you know what it includes. Make sure you also check whether your tenancy finishes on a date that is suitable for you. Leases usually go for about six or 12 months—if this timeframe doesn't suit your schedule, you can try to negotiate a different length for the tenancy agreement with your manager or provider. If there is no specified end date, it means you will be renting the property for an indefinite amount of time until either party decides to not continue.  

There are different types of tenancy agreements depending on the type of rental property. I won't go into detail here, but to find out more you can listen to our previous podcast episode about tenancy agreements or visit the RTA website. Most tenancy agreements will include special terms to clarify expectations around keeping pets, rules, lawns, garden maintenance and water charging. If you don't understand or don't agree with some of these special terms, you can ask questions and try to negotiate a change. 

If you are entering a tenancy with other people, make sure you are clear on who is listed as a tenant on the tenancy agreement with you, because you will be sharing the rights and responsibilities of the tenancy with them. This also means that if they damage something or don't pay the rent, and you leave, you could be responsible. 

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Host: Oh, so important to be across that one. Now, for those who don't know, what is a rental bond and does it need to go to? 

Guest: Yeah, a rental bond is like a security deposit and it's paid at the start of the tenancy. It is not compulsory though for the manager or owner to request a bond, but it is fairly common practice. If the manager or provider takes a bond, they must provide a receipt to the person who paid the money and lodge it with the RTA for safekeeping within 10 days. A tenant can lodge their bond directly with the RTA using the Bond Lodgement Web Service or Bond Lodgement paper form. They can also pay it to the manager or provider who will lodge the bond on their behalf.  Once your bond is lodged with the RTA, you will get an official notification from the RTA about your bond with a bond number. At the end of the tenancy , if no money is owed to the property manager for rent, damages, cleaning, or other costs, tenants may receive the full refund of their bond. 

Host: Now, what is an entry condition report and when do you complete it? 

Guest: Yes, this is a very important one to remember. So, an entry condition report is a report that helps you and the property manager or owner record what the condition of the rental property is when you moved in. The manager or provider should give you an entry condition report when you move into the property. In the report, the manager or the provider will indicate if each item on the list is clean, undamaged and working. You, as a tenant, can agree or disagree with the condition of the items by including your own comments in the report. 

I recommend that you take photos while completing the entry condition report, so you have some evidence to support your comments, especially if something is damaged or needs repairing. This will be especially helpful at the end of the tenancy when you need to return the property back to the same condition as when you moved in. The tenant must return the completed entry condition report to the manager or provider within three days of receiving it. The manager or provider then has 14 days to send the tenant a copy of the final signed and completed report. 

Host: Yeah, it's so important in an entry condition report that you put as many comments in there as you can because the more detail you’ve got, the better off you'll be. Now, what happens if you enter into a tenancy partway through an agreement? 

Guest: There are three ways this can happen. So, you may have taken over the agreement from a previous tenant, or you may have been added to the agreement as a new tenant, or you may be subletting from the original tenant.  

If you have taken over the agreement from a previous tenant and the previous tenants portion of the bond, the previous tenant should complete what we call a Change of Bond Contributors request. This will ensure the portion of the bond is transferred to you and it makes the bond refund process much smoother at the end of the tenancy. The RTA's Change of Bond Contributor Web Service lets you do this quickly and easily online. Otherwise there is a paper form you can complete the same request. If you move in partway through a tenancy, you will be responsible for the original entry condition report that was completed when the tenancy first began. Make sure you agree and are aware of the comments and conditions indicated on this report. If you're subletting, it will be a head tenant and subtenant scenario, which we've covered in a different podcast episode. You can listen to that and find out more. 

Host: Yeah, it's important to know the difference between a tenant and a bond contributor there. And again, using our Change of Bond Contributor Web Service makes it so easy so you know who's on the bond and who's not.  

Guest: Exactly, it’s a seamless process. 

Host: Yeah, so easy. Now, during a tenancy there’s also some important processes we need to be aware of as a first-time renter. What do we need to know about inspections and maintaining the property

Guest: First of all, one of your main responsibilities is to make sure your rent is paid on time. Secondly, in terms of maintaining the property, you should keep the place clean and tidy and free from damage. Sometimes further responsibilities and expectations are outlined in the special terms of the agreement, and that is why reading through the whole agreement is so important. Throughout your tenancy, there may be regular inspections by the manager or provider to check that the accommodation is being kept tidy and in a good condition, and to also check if there's issues that need to be fixed. 

If the manager or provider needs to inspect the property, they need to follow the rules for entering a rental property and give you the appropriate notice about their entry. If you've identified repairs that are needed in a property, it's best to contact the manager or provider first. If you have a verbal conversation, document it in writing such as sending an email to confirm what was said. 

Host: Yeah, so important you know your rights there too because you don't just want a managing party storming on in and, you know, entering the place without any notice. 

Guest: And also documenting what was sent too, so important as well. 

Host: Yeah, so what if something goes wrong and there's a disagreement between the tenant and the property manager? 

Guest: Most tenancies tend to go smoothly but if an issue does come up, speak to the other person in the first instance and try to work together to find a solution. Most of the time there is a disagreement because of misunderstandings or miscommunication or people just having assumptions. We’ve got a lot of tips on good open, communication steps you can take to resolve the dispute on our website. Whatever the outcome, remember to put any agreements you have reached in writing. This makes sure that everyone is on the same page and the next steps are clear. If you can't come to an agreement with the other person, you can request free dispute resolution at the RTA. Our conciliators can help parties find a mutually agreeable solution while preserving the relationship. 

Host: Yes, our dispute resolution service is so helpful for so many people. It stops things getting out of hand sometimes, so make sure you reach out and get some help, it's free, so we have that service there. Of course, all good things must come to an end, Kate. What do look out for when it's time to end a tenancy? 

Guest: When the tenancy is coming to an end, the manager or provider may offer to renew or extend your current lease. If they don't, or you haven't negotiated an extension, or you decide not to stay, then a Notice to end the tenancy must be given in writing. Getting their bond back is usually the next step to tick off the list for a lot of people. To maximize the chance of getting all of your bond back when you move out, make sure the property is returned to the same condition as when you first received it, when you moved in at the beginning of the tenancy. To make sure the condition is the same as it was, you'll need to complete what we call an exit condition report. Now, this is why the entry condition report is so important. At the end of the tenancy, you compare the condition of the property to the condition that was recorded on the entry condition report. If the condition report at the start and at the end matches and are the same, then you are more likely to be able to get all of your bond back.  

Of course, we again recommend that you take photos when completing the exit report to support your comments and your notes. Once you've left the property, return the keys to your manager or provider and when the tenancy has ended either you or the manager product can request the bond refund. Remember that bonds are refunded into Australian bank accounts only, international money transfers and cheques will not be issued. So if you're an international student, don't close your Australian bank account before you get your bond back. 

Host: That's some really useful tips to know if you're an international student. And I guess we just really need to reinforce the fact that just keep as much detail as you possibly can. It really covers you should there be a disagreement anywhere along the way. Well thank you Kate, for helping us to get a greater understanding of all we need to know as a student renting in Queensland. 

Guest: Thank you, Belinda 

Host: Thank you for listening to the Talking Tenancies podcast. For more information about the Residential Tenancies Authority visit rta.qld.gov.au.

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