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Things to consider when looking for accommodation

Your essential guide to finding and securing accommodation that meets your needs and your budget.


Before you start 

To ensure you are going to find the correct property for your needs, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself.
First consider what is important to you -

Location

  • Do you want to live close to campus, or would you prefer to live in the city? 
  • Which suburbs suit you best? Is being near a shopping centre important?
  • Would you like to live near the beach, or perhaps near family and friends?
  • Do you have children and need to be near their school or day care for pickups and drop offs?
  • Do you have part time work? Is it important to be close to your workplace?
  • Will you start looking for work? Where will you look, and how will you travel between your home, campus and your workplace?

Transport

  • Do you have your own car? Are you relying on public transport?
  • What's the local bus route like and how often do the services run?
  • If you are travelling by car, where will you park? Do you have to pay for parking? Are there free parking options available?

People

  • Who do you want to live with? Do you have friends with whom you are thinking of living, or would you prefer to live on your own?
  • If you are considering sharing, would you like to live in a large share house or a small one?
  • Would you prefer to board in a house with a family where some or all meals may be included?

Facilities

  • Are you willing to share bathroom and kitchen facilities with others in a house?
  • Do you have a fridge, washing machine and microwave? These are things you may need if you do not wish to share with other students.
  • What sort of space are you looking for? Do you need a lot of room to study? Do you need a desk? Is one provided?

Renting

  • How much time do I need to find a property? 
  • Make sure you have references ready if an accommodation provider requests them.
  • If applying through a real estate agent you may also need proof of income, or proof of your ability to cover the rent if you do not work.
  • Set aside six weeks rent, to make sure you are prepared.
  • Most accommodation providers will request two weeks rent in advance plus a bond.

Finances

  • Consider how much you can afford for rent? Don't stretch your funds too far.
  • Do you need to find a part time job?
  • Remember to budget for petrol/ public transport costs and other living expenses.
  • Weight up the cost of living closer to University. Although it may cost more, you may be able to walk to campus, cutting down of travel time and associated costs.
  • Domestic students may be eligible for government financial assistance, such as Youth Allowance or Austudy, as well as rental assistance.
  • What financial assistance is available through Deakin?
Student typing

Students cooking

What type of accommodation are you looking for?

There are many different types of off campus accommodation available, varying in cost and inclusions. Below outlines the approximate cost of each accommodation type to give you a good starting point for your budget.

Shared housing

Shared housing is one of the cheapest, most common and readily available housing options available to students. When staying in a shared house you would have your own room but be expected to share facilities such as the kitchen, bathrooms and living areas with the other occupants of the house. In a shared house, bills will generally be included in the weekly rent and rooms would normally be furnished, however, it is important to check with the accommodation provider before you make any commitments. 

Renting a vacant property

This can be a costly option if you want to live on your own. Many students choose to rent a vacant property with friends, which is much more cost effective. The majority of vacant flats, units and houses are unfurnished, so you may need to be prepared to supply all your own furniture. The availability of one and two bedroom units varies depending on location and can take more time to secure due to availability and demand.

Most vacant properties are managed by a real estate company. They will require you to complete an application for the property you have chosen, detailing your income, identification, rental history and references. Your application for a property is not a guarantee of securing the property you prefer. If you do wish to choose this option you will need to conduct a broad search in a wide range of suburbs, as well as allowing a minimum of three to four weeks to secure accommodation.

Off-campus residences

There are a number of off-campus residences in the community operated by private providers. Off-campus residences offer furnished bedrooms and equipped common areas, as well as residential assistants. Rent includes all expenses such as gas, electricity and water unless the rooms are separately metered. This type of accommodation is considerably more expensive than shared housing but includes more support options.

Boarding

The property owner resides in the property. The rent usually includes a fully furnished room, can sometimes include an evening meal, with utility costs (gas, electricity, and water) included in the set price. Boarding situations are not covered by the Residential Tenancy Act and the boarder has limited rights. For more information please speak with a Housing Officer.

Casual accommodation

This option is perfect for students who study off campus and only need to stay somewhere a few nights here or there at exam time. It's also a good option for students who only require accommodation a couple of nights per week. Rooms are fully furnished and all bills are included, however you may be expected to supply your own food. Casual accommodation can take time to find.


Starting your search

Prior to starting your search newly arrived international students are encouraged to attend a Rental Information Workshop. Students looking for accommodation should register to look for accommodation on the Houseme database.

Rental Information Workshops

The workshops are designed to assist newly arrived international students with:
* Understanding their rights and responsibilities as a tenant
* An outline of the advantages and disadvantages of a variety of accommodation types
* Support with finding the right property to suit your needs and budget
* Understanding of signing forms and paying money
* Support with asking the right questions up front
* Using the Houseme database

Workshops are conducted three days per week during peak periods and run for around 45 minutes.

Rental Information Workshop registration.

Local students

The Off-Campus Housing Service organises Open Inspection times for a variety of local accommodation types prior to each Trimester. Once registered you will be able to see a list of open inspection times and dates.

Each trimester's intake varies, and below we outline the ideal time to begin your accommodation search.

T1  - The earlier you start your search the better. Once you have your VTAC offer, mid to late January, check out the open inspections link on the houseme database.
T2 – Minimum of two weeks prior to the start of trimester.
T3 – Minimum of two weeks prior to the start of trimester.

Deakin recommends that you stay in short term accommodation for a brief period in order to find a suitable long term accommodation option. Many students want to pre-organise permanent accommodation to move straight into, and attempt to organise this online, by phone or via email prior to their arrival. This can be very dangerous and many students end up losing their money. The safest and best option is to organise a few nights of short term accommodation for when you arrive..If you are arriving with your family and looking for a vacant house or unit, be aware that many students have reported it taking up to 4 weeks, and longer in some cases to secure suitable accommodation.

Interstate students

Some students choose to specify a date and come to campus prior to enrolment to secure accommodation before returning home. Alternatively you may wish to consider arriving a couple of weeks prior to the trimester start date.

T1- Minimum of two to three weeks prior to the start of trimester.
T2- Minimum of two weeks prior to the start of trimester.
T3- Minimum of two weeks prior to the start of trimester.

.Deakin recommends that you stay in short term accommodation for a brief period in order to find a suitable long term accommodation option. Many students want to pre-organise permanent accommodation to move straight into, and attempt to organise this online, by phone or via email prior to their arrival. This can be very dangerous and many students end up losing their money. The safest and best option is to organise a few nights of short term accommodation for when you arrive. If you are arriving with your family and looking for a vacant house or unit, be aware that many students have reported it taking up to 4 weeks, and longer in some cases to secure suitable accommodation. Some students choose to arrive in Australia, prior to their family's arrival, to secure accommodation and then send for the rest of the family. This is a great way to save money and reduce stress.

International students

International students looking for off campus accommodation may wish to consider arriving a week or two prior to enrolment to give yourself enough time to secure suitable accommodation.

T1- Minimum of two to three weeks prior to the start of trimester.
T2- Minimum of two weeks prior to the start of trimester.
T3- Minimum of two weeks prior to the start of trimester.

Students and parents must be aware that there are limited Deakin services available to students prior to enrolment. Please note there are no facilities for student to enrol prior to the set enrolment dates. Deakin recommends that you stay in short term accommodation for a brief period in order to find a suitable long term accommodation option. Many students want to pre-organise permanent accommodation to move straight into, and attempt to organise this online, by phone or via email prior to their arrival. This can be very dangerous and many students end up losing their money. The safest and best option is to organise a few nights of short term accommodation for when you arrive. If you are arriving with your family and looking for a vacant house or unit, be aware that many students have reported it taking up to 4 weeks, and longer in some cases to secure suitable accommodation. Some students choose to arrive in Australia, prior to their family's arrival, to secure accommodation and then send for the rest of the family. This is a great way to save money and reduce stress.

Students sitting in lounge chairs


Students having a BBQ

Property inspections

Prior to viewing any properties, it is a good idea to prepare yourself and think about the things you would like to know about the property.

Before the inspection

It is best to develop a list of questions to ask the accommodation provider. Some of these questions could be asked over the 'phone prior to booking an appointment, and may help you decide if the property is suitable for you and therefore worth inspecting. Some examples of questions you may wish to include in your search check list include:

About the property

  • Is your property/room still available for rent?
  • Is it available now, or on a set date?
  • What is the address and how do I get there?

Rent, Lease and Bond

  • How much is the rent per week?
  • How do I pay the rent? And do you require me to pay rent in advance? If so, how many weeks?
  • Do I have to pay a bond? If so, how much?
  • Will the bond be lodged with the Residential Tenancy Bond Authority?
  • Will I receive receipts for all payments made?
  • What does the rent include? Are utilities included? Water? Electricity? Gas? Telephone? Internet? Cleaner? Gardener?
  • What is the lease term? How many months?
  • If the lease term is not fixed? What does that mean?

Shared Houses

  • Can you tell me what kind of atmosphere the house has? Party house? Study house?
  • Can you tell me about the other people living here?
  • Can I meet any of them today?

Furnishings

  • Is the home furnished? If so, what is included in the bedroom/kitchen/living/dining and other shared areas?
  • Are the bathrooms shared, and if so how many people share each bathroom?

Location and Transport

  • Is there public transport nearby? Or how long would it take to walk to campus?
  • Where can I park my car? Is there on-street or off-street parking?

Booking the inspection

When you find a property you would like to inspect, simply call and book an appointment with the accommodation provider. When you have found a property you would like to inspect -

  • Check that you know the address and what transport you will take to get there.
  • Be punctual for the appointment.
  • If you are unable to attend the appointment, contact the accommodation provider to inform them, and possibly make another appointment.

At the inspection

When you go to the inspection, it is important to look carefully at the condition of the property.  This will help you decide if it is an environment in which you can see yourself living. Below is a list of things to look for or do-

  • Meet with the current occupants if possible, and remember if you choose this property, these are the people you will be living with. In order to get a good fit, consider the background of the current occupants. Are they quiet or loud? What are their study habits? Are they older or younger? What are their personalities and lifestyles like? How does all this fit with your lifestyle and expectations?
  • Is the property clean or messy? How does that fit with your living style?
  • Are the property and fixtures in good working order?
  • Does the property have adequate security? Does it have security screens on the front or back doors? Does the property have dead locks on the external doors, and do they work properly?
  • Do individual bedrooms have locks?
  • Does the property have smoke detectors and do they all work?

You may be living in a property for up to 12 months so, if there is something you see that you are not sure about, don't be afraid to ask questions.


Know your rights

Understand how to make well resourced accommodation choices.

Accommodation types and how they may affect you

Rooming House
One or more rooms available for rent, at least 4 people may rent those rooms, each tenant pays rent, shares communal facilities such as bathrooms and kitchens. Rooming house accommodation is covered by the Residential Tenancy Act.

Tenancy
A room or entire property may be let/sub-let from an accommodation provider. Tenancies are covered by the Residential Tenancy Act.

Boarder
The property owner resides in the property. The rent usually includes a fully furnished room, can sometimes include an evening meal, with utility costs (gas, electricity, and water) included in the set price. Boarding situations are not covered by the Residential Tenancy Act and the boarder has limited rights. For more information please speak with a Housing Officer.

Be prepared

As a tenant it is as much your responsibility as the accommodation providers to understand your rights and responsibilities. The Off-Campus Housing Service conducts regular online Rental Information Workshop for newly arrived international students which include relevant information you should know prior to starting a tenancy. The Tenants Union Victoria publishes a wide variety of fact sheets which you may find helpful. These are available in a range of languages.

Remember to keep all relevant documents and receipts in a safe place. Make sure all communications between you and the accommodation provider are in writing, signed and dated.

Do I have to pay rent in advance?
In most cases, your rent will be payable in advance. If you pay rent weekly, then the accommodation provider cannot ask for more than 14 days rent in advance.

Do I have to pay a bond?
Your accommodation provider can ask you to pay a bond. A bond is a security deposit (usually equal to one month's rent) that you pay to the accommodation provider at the start of your tenancy. At the end of your tenancy the accommodation provider may be able to claim all or part of your bond as compensation for any damage you have made to the property including for unpaid rent.
If you pay a bond make sure you sign a Residential Tenancy Bond Authority lodgement form and retain the yellow copy. In addition, make sure you complete a Room Condition Report before you move in. The condition report is your evidence of the state of repair of the property prior to and at the completion of the tenancy, and is used to determine the amount of bond that will be repaid.

Can an accommodation provider keep your bond in his own bank account?
No. If your accommodation provider takes a bond from you they are required by law to give you an official, completed and signed 'Bond Lodgement' form for you to sign. A copy must be sent to the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA), once lodged you will receive an official receipt within 21 days.

Rooming houses

Rooming houses are the most common accommodation option chosen by students.

So what is a Rooming House?

You may be living in one right now! A Rooming House is a building where:

  • There are one or more rooms available for rent, either for short or long periods
  • At least 4 people may rent those rooms
  • Each resident/tenant pays rent
  • Residents/tenants rent a room and may share communal facilities such as bathrooms and kitchens
  • Different rental agreements may exist for different residents/tenants.

What must a Rooming House provide?

Did you know a Rooming House MUST have:

  • At least one toilet for every 10 people
  • At least one fixed bath or shower and one washbasin for every 10 people
  • Continuous and adequate supply of hot and cold water to all bathing, laundry and kitchen facilities
  • Working smoke alarms fitted throughout the premises
  • Rooms and communal areas in a clean condition and well maintained.
  • Is required by law to be Registered with Council under the Public Health and Well-being Act

What are house rules?

The accommodation provider can set and change rooming house rules. You need to be told about any changes in writing, at least 7 days before the change begins. You must obey the rooming house rules – not doing so could result in receiving a Notice for Breach of Duty and possible eviction.

Fire safety

Fire safety is important not only for your safety but the safety of your housemates and neighbours. It is your accommodation provider's responsibility to make sure there are smoke detectors installed throughout the house, but it is the tenant's responsibility to make sure the batteries are changed regularly. If you have any concerns about fire safety you should approach your accommodation provider immediately.

Will furniture be provided?

Accommodation provider's are not responsible for providing furniture unless specified in the advertisement. If furniture is provided it must be clean and in working condition. An accommodation provider is not allowed to take a separate 'furniture bond' from you.

What should I do if I think something is not right?

1. You think there are too many people staying in the rooming house you live in. Contact the Off-Campus Housing Service by completing the 'Need Help' form. A staff member will help you understand your rights and may assist you by putting you in contact with relevant organisations.

2. You think your accommodation provider has been accessing your room without the proper notice being given. Complete the 'Need Help' form and a staff member will be in contact to discuss your situation.


Forms and finances

Once you have decided on a suitable property and have collected an income or bank account balance, previous rental history (if any) and references it is time for you to complete application forms and commence payment.

Application deposits

Please note that it is acceptable for your accommodation provider to ask for an application deposit along with your rental application and paperwork.

It is very important that, if you pay a deposit, you must receive a receipt. The deposit must be refunded if your application is unsuccessful, alternatively it must be deducted from your first rental payment if your application is successful.

Bond

A bond is a security deposit (usually equal to one month's rent) that you pay to the accommodation provider at the start of your tenancy. At the end of your tenancy the accommodation provider may be able to claim all or part of your bond as compensation for any damage your make to the property including for unpaid rent.

If you pay a bond, make sure you sign a Residential Tenancy Bond Authority lodgement form and retain the yellow copy. In addition, make sure you complete a Room Condition Report before you move in.

Condition reports

The condition report is your evidence of the state of repair of the property prior to and at the completion of the tenancy, and it is used to determine if your bond will be repaid. Before you move into a rental property go through the condition report and make sure all damages, marks on walls, furniture and carpets are documented, including photographic evidence, if possible. The condition report will be used as evidence if there is a dispute about who should pay for cleaning or damage to the property or the replacement of missing items at the end of the tenancy.

Rent in advance

If the rent is $350 or less per week, you can be asked for a maximum of one month's rent as bond. In addition, if your rent is paid -

  • Weekly you can only be asked to pay 2 weeks rent in advance.
  • Fortnightly you can be asked to pay one calendar month in advance.

If your rent is more than $350 per week, there is no maximum limit on the amount of bond or rent an accommodation provider can charge in advance, however, the accommodation provider must stipulate the expected frequency of payments prior to you signing the lease.

Lease

A lease is also called a residential tenancy lease agreement and is a contract between you and your accommodation provider.

A lease will outline the following information:

  • the period of time you will be renting the property
  • how much rent you need to pay
  • when you need to pay your rent
  • the terms of leasing the property.

It is important that you understand the content of the lease agreement. It is a legally binding document and it can be very difficult to end your tenancy before the end date. Never sign your name to something you do not understand, and never sign a blank document.


Moving in

The Tenants Union of Victoria has a number of step by step guides to assist tenants through the moving process.

Moving in to your rental property

When you find the right property for you, you will need to fill in an application form.
You may have to give information such as:

  • income or bank account balance
  • previous rental history
  • references.

Utilities

If you are moving into a rental property and not a share house, you will most likely have to connect or disconnect utilities such as:

  • electricity
  • gas
  • water (usage)
  • telephone and internet.

It is important to remember that most utility companies usually take three working days or longer to connect or disconnect your power, 'phone and gas. So make sure you leave yourself enough time to have the utilities connected prior to your shift-in date.
Try comparing prices of utility companies at the site below to make sure you are getting the best rate:
You compare

In addition to the cost of rent, you will also need to factor in the cost of connecting and ongoing charges for utilities such as electricity, gas, water, telephone and internet. The following links will help you find the cheapest option for your needs and can even assist in getting these services connected.

Gas and Electricity
Energy Watch
Switchwise

Furniture and household items

Here are some tips to help you save money on furniture and white goods:

  • buy second-hand items at local markets and opportunity shops which are located around each campus
  • buy online or at discount stores
  • rent white goods and other large items. Be aware that this will increase your weekly expenses
  • Speak with DUSA.

Be sure to remember that cheaper white goods may not be as energy efficient and may mean higher utilities charges.

Contents insurance

If you live in a shared house most insurance companies offer contents insurance for individuals. The cost of insurance will depend on how much your belongings are worth. Hence the more your contents are worth the more insurance you will be required to pay. It is a smart idea to shop around and compare the costs and coverage before deciding on one.

The Insurance Council of Australia has a website that offers advice on things to consider as you shop for the best insurance policy for you.
Be aware that insurance companies may need the property to have home security measures such as deadlocks, keyed window locks, smoke detectors or a burglar alarm system.

Redirecting your mail

For approximately AU$15 per month Australia Post can redirect your mail to your new property.


student riding bike

Moving out

The tenants Union of Victoria has a step by step guide to ending a tenancy that can be extremely helpful. The guide details the steps to take for providing notice periods, breaking leases, and what to do once your lease expires.

When your tenancy ends

Your tenancy ends when you vacate the property and hand in the keys. Make sure you hand in the keys as soon as possible, as you may be considered to be in possession of the property (and liable to pay rent) while you still have the keys. If you gave notice to the accommodation provider that you were leaving (see the When you want to leave fact sheet for more information), you can move out before the notice expires. However, you will still be liable for rent until the end of the notice period, unless the accommodation provider finds new tenants before the notice period expires.

Condition of the property

When you move out, you must leave the property in a reasonably clean condition. This doesn't necessarily mean that you must steam clean the carpets, although accommodation providers often try to insist that you do this. What is considered 'reasonably clean' can depend on how long you have lived in the property and what state it was in when you moved in. However, if you installed any fixtures or fittings (such as picture hooks) or made any alterations to the property, you must remove these and restore the property to its original condition. Otherwise the accommodation provider may make a claim against your bond or make a compensation claim for the cost of restoration. If possible, take photographs of the property after you have cleaned it. If you have the carpets steam cleaned or you hire equipment to do it yourself, make sure you keep the receipt.

Ideally, you should arrange a joint inspection with the accommodation provider at the time that you move out. However you cannot insist on the accommodation provider inspecting the property with you.

Getting your bond back

At the end of the tenancy, you and the accommodation provider can decide how the bond should be paid out. You can agree that the bond be returned to you in full, or that part or all of the bond be paid to the accommodation provider. When you reach an agreement, both you and the accommodation provider must sign a Bond Claim form, which the accommodation provider must then send to the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority. The Bond Authority will then pay out the bond according to the form. The bond will be paid directly into the bank account you nominate on the form, (usually by the next business day after receiving the form). If you and the accommodation provider cannot agree, the accommodation provider must apply to the Tribunal within 10 business days of the end of your tenancy. The accommodation provider cannot claim any money from your bond without your agreement or without an order from the Tribunal.
If you have moved out but you haven't got your bond back, you should apply to the Tribunal as soon as possible. There is no cost for applying for return of bond. See the Bonds fact sheet for more information.

Your belongings

Moving can be stressful, but there is always help available to make the process as smooth as possible. Things to consider include:

  • Will you move yourself, or organise for a removal company to do the job for you?
  • Use the Yellow pages to find a local removal company that suits your budget.
  • Find out what is included in the service. Boxes? Packing? Insurance for your items?
  • Are you moving into another house, moving home or somewhere where you may need to store some of your belongings? You can use Yellow pages to find local storage companies
  • Remember to take all your belongings with you.  More information can be found at Goods Left Behind

Disconnecting utilities

If you are renting a vacant property, you will need to disconnect the services you had connected when you moved into the property. Give at least 48 hours notice for any reading. Failure to do this may result in you paying for services charges accrued after you have left the property.
Remember to:

  • Arrange gas and electricity final readings
  • Arrange telephone and internet disconnection.

Redirecting your mail

It is important to get your mail re-directed to your new address, do not rely on the next tenants to forward your mail for you. Australia post will redirect your mail to your new address for around AU$11 per month.

If you have time to notify people of your new address make sure you notify

  • Deakin University
  • Road Traffic Authority
  • Electoral Office
  • Your Bank
  • Your work and superannuation fund.
Page custodian: Division of Student Life
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