Cheat Sheet for First-Time Renters

Cheat Sheet for First-Time Renters

Renting for the first time? No worries!

There is a lot to learn when you’re new to it all, but we’ve put together this handy guide to help you through the process. With some preparation and a little knowledge, you’ll be on steady ground and in your own place in no time.

Take the inspection process seriously

It sounds obvious to visit a property before applying, but a surprising number of first-time renters simply rely on online photos. Looks can be deceiving. When it comes to property, nothing beats going there and inspecting it with your own two eyes. Make sure to visit it at least once and check that there are no damages, that the garden is maintained, and that all appliances are working.

The best thing about physically inspecting a rental is also getting face-to-face time with the property manager. It’s the perfect opportunity to ask them any questions you have and get their honest opinion on how to best fill out the application form. It’s a great way to start building rapport.

Prepare these things before your application:

When you’re looking for a new place to live and have never rented before, it can get a little overwhelming. You don’t have a rental history. But the good news is that every renter has been in this position before, and there are still many ways to demonstrate that you would be a great choice.


  • Proof of identity: You will need 100 points to prove you are who you say you are. Accepted documents may include: a driver’s license, passport, proof of age card (50 points each), copy of gas/water/electricity bill (30 points), Medicare card (20 points), and more.
  • Proof of employment and income: It assures your residential rental provider that you can cover the rent. You could include recent payslips or bank statements. If your income comes from something like investments, you need to provide documentation proving that as well.
    Providing a resume can also go a long way toward moving your application to the top of the pile. A property manager can check this on sites like LinkedIn quickly, so be honest about what you’ve included and make sure it’s relevant.
  • References from your employer/manager: It can prove your employment and demonstrate your responsibility & reliability.
  • Personal references (e.g. teachers/neighbours): They can speak to how you are as a person and bolster your application.
  • Have you been living in student accommodation? If so, you could also offer a reference from your complex manager.


Fill in the residential rental application form correctly

Pro tip: Don’t leave gaps!

It may sound obvious, but the reality is that property managers get a whole slew of applications. Your goal is to convince them that you are the right one.

Filling out the rental form carelessly, or skipping parts of it, can give the residential rental provider & property manager a bad impression. If they think that you’re not even conscientious enough to fill out the form properly, they will certainly not trust you to take care of their property.

If you’re a pet owner, put in as much information about your pet as possible and include a photo. In most cases, being upfront about yourself and your companion can prove to the rental provider that you are a responsible owner, and will go a long way towards winning them over.

What is a rental agreement/residential tenancy agreement/lease?

If your application is successful, congratulations! After that the rental provider will want you to sign a contract known as a rental agreement, formerly called a “lease” or a “residential tenancy agreement”.

It’s a legal contract that outlines:

  • The amount of rent, and when & how it is to be paid
  • Standard terms – what the renter and the owner/property manager can & can’t do
  • Details on what happens if you break the agreement or ask to leave before the agreement expires
  • The amount of bond required
  • Special terms agreed on in advance (e.g pets)
  • Any other conditions and rules

What is a bond?

When signing the contract, you will be asked for a bond, which is a deposit that serves as security for the residential rental provider/owner in case you don’t meet the terms of your rental agreement.

In Victoria, the bond is paid to the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA), where it is held in trust until the end of your rental agreement.

What is a condition report?

A condition report is a record of a property’s condition when your rental agreement is signed. It will be given to you by the residential rental provider/property manager (within the first few days of your moving in), for you to sign and confirm.

Make sure you go over it with a fine-tooth comb! Anything that is dirty, damaged, or not working should be noted. It’s an essential part of protecting yourself as a renter.