Aug 16, 2012

Renting in Sydney - a whole different ballgame

After almost two years, we're moving.

This place was a godsend when we found it. A great location, lack of competition, and we got it fast despite having no rental history.  But we now need a bigger place, and one with some outdoors for the kids.

We're excited about the new place, but are also overwhelmed by the task of moving. Moving and renting here is a lot more work than in Malaysia, and I'm struck by how much the landlords have the upper hand. The tight market's the source of it all, and renters are stuck in a low supply, high demand equation.

Take it or leave it
1) Houses for rent are typically open for viewing only once a week - for 15-20 minutes on a Saturday. 2) Be prepared for the competition for good offerings. The last place we checked out had 30 people view it in that 15 minutes.
3) You have to fill in a form that is 3-5 pages long to apply for the place, and attach supporting documents. Sometimes you need to do this for every adult person staying there. For one of the applications we filled in, we faxed something like 30 pages over to the agent.

Listen to the boss
3) Landlords have a lot more power and control here than in Malaysia. When renting in Malaysia, we used to bring in pets (for landed) and sub-let without any difficulties. Here, you can't without express permission in writing. Usually, it's a no where pets are concerned. My rental contract even specified no blu-tack to be used on the walls.
4) We would also stay in a rented house for years without once ever seeing the landlord or agent. Here, the agent does inspections on the state of the upkeep of house - and can enter your house to do so four times a year.
5) Being a landlord in Malaysia can be tough - I've had friends who have had tenants thrash their place, or fail to pay rent on time repeatedly, and there was little they could do. Even if the tenant doesn't pay rent, evicting them isn't easy! Here, your payment record is sort of like a credit history. If you ever want to rent again or be on top of the pile of applications, you have to have a good record.

Make it shine!
6) When a tenant leaves a place, he has to return it to the state it was in when he entered - excepting fair 'wear and tear'. If not, the bill's on you. This means that when moving in, you need to record carefully on the inspection sheet, any missing or torn or stained items, so that you won't be held responsible for it when leaving.
7) You also have to leave the place spick and span. In other words, you do all the work so it's ready to be let out again. Here's part of a cleaning checklist we got :-

clean all scuff marks, fingerprints, dust, dirt, on walls and ceilings;
carpet to be thrououghly vacuumed and professionally cleaned if necessary; (professionally cleaned is the preferred mode, which typically costs $150 to $250 for a three bedroom house)
light fittings cleaned inside and out;
windows and sliding door tracks cleaned and dirt-free;
oven/stove/grill to  be free of all grease;
floor tiles in bathroom to be scrubbed and mildew and mould removed;
garage clean and oil stains removed

That's just a small part of the list! Some people - either due to time pressures, or because they want their bond back - hire cleaners, which costs a few hundred dollars. Some forums I visited say to hire the cleaners the agents recommend - a bit of a monopoly there, I say, but apparently the better the chances of getting your bond back in full!

Now, we've always been good tenants, and did most of these things even when we weren't being compelled to. We moved on to owning so I do understand the point of the property owner as well. But I think consumer power needs to be strengthened here because there is a lopsidedness to this renting/owning affair. Of course, you could say money is power, but the employer/employee relationship is more balanced here, so why not the tenant/owner relationship? It riles me because it reminds me of - if I may put it crudely - a feudal system that seems out of place in 'fair' Australia.

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