If you are looking for a lifestyle that is truly independent, then living off-campus is for you!
Students seeking to enter the rental market for the first time, whether international or domestic students, should be aware of these tips and tricks for renting prior to their arrival in Cairns or Townsville, Australia.
We recommend international students considering living off-campus to arrive at least one week prior to JCU Orientation so they can view properties before signing a lease. Short term accommodation is available on-campus prior to O-week. Please see the information about Casual Stays for rates and to book.
Decide on a location
Key points to consider with location include proximity to campus, public transport options and costs are and safety concerns, for example, crime rate or distance to public transport.
Decide on a budget
Keep in mind that most places are advertised excluding any bills. You’ll usually have to add gas, electricity and internet to the rate.
Approximate cost of living
Furnished room in a share house walking distance to JCU (single board)
$180 - $200
Furnished room bus distance from JCU
$120 - $150
Whole unfurnished house 4 bedroom house
$430 - $465
$10 - $30
$20 - $55
$10 - $50
$50 - $80
Decide on a living situation that suits your lifestyle
The possibilities in terms of the type of people you could find yourself living with are endless. You should take time to consider things like age preference, background, lifestyle, or whether they’re smoking or non-smoking, as these will have a direct impact on you.
Decide how long you plan to lease the room
Most share advertisements have a minimum time frame they wish to have the space occupied for; there may also be fees or charges should you wish to vacate the property sooner than you originally anticipated.
When viewing rooms, it’s usual to be introduced to the other people who reside in the house or apartment. We would at this point recommend you choose a number of properties to view to see what situation makes you feel the most comfortable.
It’s a good idea to get the appointments booked in as quickly as possible so that if you are offered a room you are able to respond to the offer as soon as possible. If you leave it too long you could run the risk of losing the offer.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions - remember you have to be comfortable in the property so the more you ask the better.
You might want to ask:
- Is the flat noisy? Is it near a flight path or busy road?
- Is there parking available, and at what cost? Does street parking require a council permit?
- Is the flat safe and secure?
- What happens when there are repairs to be done? Does the leaseholder or the owners take care of repairs, or is there an agent involved? Remember, all general repairs should be at the owner’s expense, unless the repair is due to tenant negligence.
- Is the rent paid weekly, fortnightly or monthly? How is a receipt provided?
- Are there any services provided with the accommodation (Foxtel, Internet, fixed phone line, etc.)? What is the average cost of the service(s)?
- Is there a cleaning schedule? Or do you have a cleaner, if so at what cost?
- Will the leaseholder or owner inspect the room prior to the new occupant moving in? How will this be documented?
- What are the other occupants’ interests? How are they employed? What kind of hours do they keep?
- Is the house quite social or do you generally keep to yourself?
A majority of rental properties are shown to prospective tenants by open house, usually a short window of time for you to inspect the premises. The most common day of the week to hold these is Saturday. Don’t be disillusioned by a huge group of people attending an open house – just because there are a lot of people there doesn’t mean they will all apply.
It’s worth remembering to:
- Make a list of properties matching your criteria to view. If no open day is listed, make contact with the agent to check
- Prepare copies of your supporting documentation to provide to the agent at the open when completing your application form.
- Get there at least five minutes early so you are ready to inspect when the agent arrives
- Allow enough travel time to get to each open on time
- Introduce yourself to the agent and ask if they are showing any similar properties in the area.
The main point of an application is to assess the suitability of the applicant as a prospective tenant. The agent needs to assess whether the tenant will be able to pay the rent on time for the duration of the lease agreement and whether they will be able to keep the property in a good clean condition.
This assessment is carried out through a number of questions based on employment and rental history. Most agents have their own version, but all will ask the same general questions.
A lot of the problem’s students encounter when applying for properties is due to having no real rental or employment history. In these cases, it’s important to present yourself the right way to the agent. You can:
- provide a bank statement which either clearly displays that you have sufficient funds to cover the rent for a three-month period or shows you have funds being regularly deposited into your account for living expenses
- use a guarantor; your parent/guardian agrees to have their name included on the lease or provides a written guarantee that they will cover any outstanding monies should you not be able to make the rent. An agent cannot ask for a guarantor, but it can assist with putting the landlord’s mind at ease.
- get a reference from your landlord or put the leaseholders contact details on your form if you have previously lived in shared accommodation
- let the agent know if you are in position to offer three-six months’ rent in advance. Again, an agent is not allowed to ask for more than one month’s rent in advance, but as an applicant you can offer this.
Most agents will request supporting documentation to be submitted along with your application; the minimum requirement is 100 points of identification. An example of how one agency might allocate points could be:
- 70 points: birth certificate, passport, citizenship certificate
- 40 points: driver’s licence, student ID card, employment ID card (with photo)
- 35 points: utility bill, bank statement, group certificate
- 25 points: credit/debit card, Medicare card, membership card for registered club.
- It’s a good idea to have multiple photocopies of this documentation ready before starting your search. If you’re an international student, you should also provide a copy of your student visa and your JCU letter of offer.
Lease / Residential Agreement
A lease or residential agreement is a contract between the tenant and the landlord. It is a legal document and in Queensland is bound by laws under the Residential Tenancies Act (opens an external site). If an agent is engaged to manage a property on the owner’s behalf they can also sign the lease on the owner’s behalf.
While a typical lease has a fixed term period of six or 12 months, the duration can actually be any length as long as it is agreed between both the landlord and tenant. When the fixed term period has expired the lease becomes a continuing agreement.
Notice to vacate/break lease agreement
The landlord or tenant can give 14 days’ notice to terminate the agreement expiry of the lease any time within the last two weeks of the agreement. Once the fixed term period has expired the tenant may give notice to vacate the property at any time. Notice must be given in writing; the required notice on an expired lease is 21 days.
Notice of Termination
A lease can be terminated by either the landlord or the tenant, with notice given to the other party. A notice of termination must be given in writing, state the address of the premises and be given to the other party (landlord/real estate agent, or the tenant) in person or by mail.
Notice on sale of premises
If the rental property is sold and the fixed term period of the lease has expired then the landlord must give at least 30 days’ notice to the tenant, if the premises to be sold are required to be vacant. This notice cannot be given during the fixed term period of a lease.
Notice on breach of lease agreement
If either party seriously breaches a term of the agreement, or the tenant is in arrears by more than 14 days, a notice of termination by either party can be given. This must be given in writing, with at least 14 days’ notice. Tenants in breach of a clause in the agreement must be provided with a written warning of the breach before a termination notice can be issued.
Breaking the tenancy agreement
Should you need to move out within the fixed term period you would be breaking your lease. Your responsibilities when breaking your lease are rent until such time as a new tenant can be moved into the property, as well as payment of all costs the landlord is usually required to pay upon letting a rental property- this can include advertising costs, one-two weeks’ rent, a letting fee and lease document fee.
Signing the lease agreement
Once your application has been approved and you have placed a deposit on the property, it is recommended you spend some time getting the lease organised. Book time to sign the lease as soon as possible. Get the agent to give you a breakdown of costs in writing so you can get funds arranged.
Before signing the lease, make sure any requests are either completed or put in writing with a date by which they will be completed. This will ensure there are no nasty surprises after you have moved in and that you aren’t left waiting for months for requests to be finalised. Ensure all lease holders are present at the lease signing; this ensures everyone is on the same page and can ask any questions at one time.
Make sure you have enough time to read the document thoroughly before signing; it’s a legal document so it’s important know what you’re signing.
Important - The front page is the most important of the entire lease as it details all the lease particulars. So ensure to double check this, in particular names, dates, amounts, etc.
There are two parts to the lease agreement; the first is the lease itself which is to be completed with the agent/landlord. The second is the Premises Condition Report (see below). Make sure you have a copy of the condition report to take with you before moving into the premises.
You should be given as many copies of the keys as there are names on the lease. If the agent has not already done it, get them to take a photocopy of the keys you have been given so that you can check them off when moving out of the property.
Ask the agent what the process is for repairs – each and every agent has a different method.
Find out who will be looking after you moving forward. When dealing with an agency the person who showed you through the property will most likely not be looking after you when you move in.
The condition report forms the second part of the lease. It is the responsibility of the agent or owner(s) to do an initial inspection of the property prior to the tenant moving in. The tenant then has a right of reply. This is to be done within seven days of the tenant moving into the property.
The tenant agrees or disagrees with the initial comments, documents anything that may have been overlooked and returns the completed report back to the agent/landlord, retaining a copy for their records. If you do have extra comments or something has been missed on the agents report then take a photo to document it and send it to them.
If the condition report is not completed and returned to the agent/landlord this could leave you open to a claim on your bond when you move out of the property. Some agents are great at providing tenants with a very detailed report on the property, complete with photos; others will barely tick the form.
Don’t feel that just because the agent hasn’t taken the time, neither should you; fill in the form as thoroughly as possible to protect your tenancy and your bond.
Share, boarder or lodger agreements
Some share accommodation providers ask that occupants sign a piece of paper variously referred to as a tenancy agreement, a boarder agreement or a lodger agreement. Please be aware that unless it is a Residential Tenancy Agreement, this agreement is not enforceable by law or the Consumer Trader and Tenancy Tribunal.
We have seen many cases of such agreements being entered into and the occupant believing it protects them. It’s only when a dispute arises that the occupant becomes aware that the agreement they have signed only serves to benefit the provider.
If you are offered one of these agreements to sign we recommend getting in touch with the JCU Accommodation Services to discuss.
Share accommodation in most circumstances is an informal arrangement between occupants of a property and the leaseholders or landlord; in most circumstances there will not be an agreement with your name on it. For this reason, it’s imperative to be comfortable with, and trusting of, the people you are living with- as well as having a good understanding of the circumstances of the living situation.
There are certain steps you can take to cover yourself: https://www.rta.qld.gov.au/
Rent amount should be agreed upon before signing the lease. The payment period (usually weekly, fortnightly or monthly) will be clearly set out on the front page of the lease agreement. Payment of rent is always required in advance, never in arrears.
A bond is an amount of money paid as a form of security, in case the tenant does not follow the terms of the lease. After the tenancy ends if a tenant owes rent or has damaged the property, the landlord can claim for these costs to be taken from the bond. A bond is not mandatory but will be requested in the vast majority of cases.
The bond is usually the equivalent of four weeks’ rent.
Claiming your bond back
You will receive a receipt from the bond board confirming your bond has been lodged with them, and giving you a bond number. After the final inspection, the landlord or agent should fill out a Refund of Bond money claim form which would be given to the tenant to sign. The tenant or agent needs to send the money to the Office of Fair Trading in order to have the bond returned by a posted cheque or with funds to be directly deposited into a nominated account.
Utilities and services
Services such as gas, electricity and telephone require the tenant to set up an account upon moving into the property. Most agents will provide you with your options for which companies you can sign up with and may also be able to set up your services on your behalf.
Make sure to view all utility bills to ensure you are paying the correct amount.
You should try to be aware of your surroundings and your flatmates in things like cleaning up after yourself and turning off appliances and lights after use. General cleanliness and awareness is vital to ensure the smooth running of a household and avoid unnecessary confrontations.
Repairs and maintenance
At the commencement of the lease agreement it is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure the property is clean and fit to live in. Throughout the tenancy the landlord must continue to maintain the premises in a reasonable state of repair, excluding standard wear and tear.
We’ve included some tips for property repairs.
All repairs need to be reported to the landlord or agent as soon as they are found. If a tenant fails to report a repair and this leads to more damage being created, this will be due negligence on the tenants part. In this case the tenant may be required to pay for repair or replacement of the item.
Repairs should be reported in writing to the landlord or agent unless they are of an urgent nature.
Urgent repairs include burst pipes, no hot water, the oven/stove not working, no electricity, flooding and gas leaks.
Keep records of repairs reported in the event of issues arising later on. Email is useful as you can easily find out when something was sent and keep track of any replies.
For any significant damage take photos; it is a good idea to document any changes.
Even if you aren’t living in JCU residences, JCU Accommodation Services can help you with all sorts of accommodation needs, such as:
- The search for private and/or share accommodation
- Professional advice on tenancy matters
- Short to long-term accommodation providers
- Emergency accommodation
For any queries, email the JCU Accommodation Services team, or call +617 4781 5592.
The information, contacts and links provided by the JCU Accommodation Service are to assist you in your search for accommodation and provide you with details of the services you may require. The information provided is compiled in good faith, and is intended as a guide only. JCU Accommodation Services does not investigate the content of any information or link provided nor does it endorse, guarantee, or recommend the accuracy of the information or necessarily subscribe to any such opinions or recommendations. We do not profit in any way or sponsor any of the contacts listed, they are provided solely as a convenience and service to you.