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What to expect when you’re renting

We’re not hearing a lot that’s positive about our Sydney-siders renting experience of late, or even further afield really. Since 2020 we’ve seen a decline in rents and all of the hardship both tenants and landlords have experienced and from 2022 and well in 2023, we’ve seen weather-related issues with properties and rents rising exponentially.

It’s quite clear that for everyone involved in the renting experience that there is a lot of difficulty in striking a balance between the rental market and the disparity in rents. We are all playing some serious catch-up following COVID’s impact and its rental market reductions and now, the rising cost of everything.

Following on from my previous “Landlords Expectations” blog, here’s one for tenants. Regardless of what the media or those who have had poor renting experiences have to say, there are some expectations you not only should have, but must have, and these need to be upheld during the renting experience.

Disclaimer; Any landlords and agents that do the right thing need not have any fear!

We all have expectations ahead of or during any transaction or process, so here are some of the basics.

There is Law & (hopefully) a Lease Agreement

If you’re new here, you probably don’t know how much I bang on about leases. Firstly, making sure you get one but also ahead of signing your lease, making sure you read it thoroughly.

The lease outlines in simple terms what the owners’ and tenants’ rights & responsibilities are. Some landlords may add special conditions but if they’re not reasonable or practical then they mean nothing – believe me.

When you get a new lease sent to you, the condition report must come to you at the same time but you’ll have 7 days after you take possession of the property to complete your end of the report. Do not skip that last step and be thorough because some agents are not detailed when completing these reports and you should take the opportunity to have your say. My tip is to do this before moving furniture in as you can see everything without obstruction.

From the outset though….

From the day you inspect a property, you need to know that the property you are applying for is “as is”. Unless you have any commitments of alterations or improvements in writing, the property is generally offered “as is” so make sure you are happy prior to applying. Obviously, cleaning is a different matter but the requirement is that it is handed to you in a reasonably clean state, spotless / eat off the floor clean is ideal but rare.

I think it’s important to set your expectations for the property to be fairly clean, however, tenants need to understand that the property is leased “as is” meaning that any requests for additions, changes, and improvements would only be approved at the owner’s discretion. Hence when you see a property, that’s likely to be what you will get, unless pre-agreements have been made.

Repairs, Maintenance & Other Requests

The landlord has responsibilities regarding the maintenance of the property and what is provided within the property and to keep it in a good state of repair. It is quite clear cut so tenants should be able to expect action in a timely manner on reported issues, however, expectations surrounding timeliness should correlate to the level of urgency of the issue. Then there are complicated issues that take time to resolve. As long as delays or context surrounding delays are communicated then I think these delays are a part of life and getting things done. Tradespeople are not always readily available and, in many cases, agents and owners need to do their due diligence, obtain quotes, etc.

Requests made for improvements or additions don’t always get approved, like flyscreens for example but these requests are separate from repairs or maintenance. Tenants should always report any repairs and other requests in writing and keep these emails for future reference.

An agent must always present your requests or reported issues to the owner for their consideration and instructions. It is important for tenants to understand that text messages are not an accepted communication format for most matters such as reporting repairs or maintenance.

Tenants are responsible to report maintenance in a timely manner and you should provide as much detail as possible.

Safety & Security

Tenants need and should expect a level of security and safety that is reasonable, this means electrical and plumbing infrastructure that works effectively and is safe. Security means properly functioning locks and devices to keep yourself, your home, and your possessions secure. The landlord must provide these locks and devices as well as functional infrastructure for your safe use during your tenancy. Some examples that breach these that I come across are, loose or sparking lights or power points. Ensuring that any door locks are easy to operate and work effectively is a must to ensure you can safely enter and exit the property as well. This also means that you need to have working smoke alarms that are checked by the landlord annually, our clients leave these to the professionals, and it’s a non-negotiable.

Aside from paying rent, you have to…

Keep the property in a reasonable state of cleanliness, ventilate it, and care for any gardens or courtyards. You also have to replace any light globes that blow, so do these as they arise. Tenants are also responsible for Pests and any Pest infestations during (but not at the beginning of) a tenancy. Other responsibilities are things like being accountable for the actions of anyone that comes into the property and you need to not interfere with the peace and quiet enjoyment of your neighbours.

Providing access is a big one too, for fire safety inspections, agent’s inspections, repairs, and maintenance. Pre-agreed or pre-arranged access is going to be a part of life.

The rent may unfortunately increase

As we have seen this year and had not seen for the preceding 2 years, rent increases are always a hot topic, and depending on the rental market at the time they are a regular occurrence, that is, within the set allowed intervals. Whilst there is no formula for calculating rent increases, the proposed rent does need to be appropriately justified against comparable properties. There is no set formula as each and every tenancies rent is at different levels based on the properties attributes and where it sits in comparison to the market. Also, we find, every property owner has differing priorities or needs that influence the regularity and their approach to rent increases. While every tenant may expect a rent increase after the initial lease term has expired you need to receive the minimum 60 days written notice of the increase (NSW).

Periodic Inspections of your home

From time to time your Property Manager, and maybe even the property owner will come and do an inspection of the property. It’s going to be a regular occurrence where your Property Manager is looking to see how the property is being maintained and kept but also to identify any immediate or future repairs or maintenance that might be needed. These inspections are an important part of a Property Manager’s role to be able to get onto issues early and also report back to the owner so they’re also in the know as to how their property is faring. These inspections are not to judge tidiness but they are simply to check in on the property and assess if the tenants, and even the owners, are keeping up with their ends of the agreement. Here at The Management Agency, an inspection is carried out between 1 – 2 months after a tenant moves in, these are great for seeing how tenants have settled in but also to address any teething issues – because these are a part of the process.

Questions, complaints, and when it’s just not working out

Property Managers, or Real Estate Agents in general get a bad rap and this is mainly due to the standard of service that tenants get. My advice here is to arm yourself with knowledge and for that, the Lease Agreement is a great starting point. Beyond this, I would ensure any issues are always raised in writing, highlighting the nature of your complaint, and routinely following up until there is a response and/or resolution offered.

If you are not getting the desired outcome, make sure you speak to the licensee in charge of the Real Estate Agency but failing that or getting any resolutions if you work directly with the landlord then there are other avenues to get yourself heard. The tenants’ union of NSW is a great starting point as is the office of fair trading which have a helpline to assist with any renting issues, both of these agencies can advise you of your rights and how to enact them.

In an ideal world, any concerns or issues should be able to be resolved between the tenant and the Property Manager who acts as a go-between the tenant and landlord. In defence of Property Managers, in some cases, the responses they pass on is not the one they want to, but they have to act on their client’s instructions.

From my point of view, I think most (if not all) disputes and issues can be resolved with some compromise from both sides, through open lines of communication – it’s that simple.

I hope you’ve found this to be helpful and that possibly it encourages tenants to approach their property manager in a way that allows the parties to openly discuss their position and desired outcomes, ideally before matters are unnecessarily escalated. In my experience matters that go beyond the parties involved can become time-consuming, costly, and stressful for all, and in many cases, no party achieves the desired outcome when the decision-making is taken out of both parties’ hands.

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– Antonio

Director & Property Manager