Before you start looking
Before you start looking at properties, it can help to think about:
- your budget
- which suburb or area you want to live in
- the features you want a property to have
- who you'll be living with
Make a budget
There are both ongoing and one-off expenses involved in renting a home. Making a budget can help you:
- work out how much rent you can afford
- decide if you’ll live on your own or share with other people
- identify other living expenses
- plan for the costs involved in moving
Ongoing living expenses are those costs you’ll need to pay regularly, and can include:
- bills such as electricity, phone and internet
- any debts, like credit card bills or loan repayments
One-off expenses are those costs you’ll only need to pay once when you move, and can include:
- rental bond
- rent in advance
- removalist fees
- utility connection fees
- furniture and household items
Know what you want
Having a clear idea of what you want in a home will help save you time and energy when you start looking. Think about:
- the location – do you want to be close to shops, public transport, schools or parks?
- the number of bedrooms – is there enough room for all your household members?
- the amount of storage – will all your belongings fit into the space?
- if you want a parking space or if you'll need street parking
- any other features that are important to you
You’ll also need to decide how much rent you’re willing to pay for the type of property you want.
Shared housing is a home you share with people who are not members of your family.
Your rights and responsibilities in shared housing will depend on whether you’re a:
- head-tenant – you’ve signed a lease for the whole property
- co-tenant – you’ve jointly signed a lease with some or all of your household
- sub-tenant – you’ve signed an agreement with the head-tenant
- boarder or lodger – you rent part of the property from a live-in owner or manager
Finding a place to live
There are many online real estate websites that list homes available for rent. You can usually take an online, virtual tour to see if a home is right for you before inspecting it in person.
Another option is to leave your details with one or more real estate agents. If a property comes up that matches your needs, you may get notified before it’s listed publicly.
When looking for a rental property, it’s important to consider the real estate agent you will be dealing with. You may want to:
- research their reputation
- check they have a valid real estate agent licence at Service NSW
Inspecting a property
You can attend open home inspections during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic if social distancing and good hand hygiene are maintained. It’s important to stay home even if you have mild symptoms of coronavirus.
Learn more about the health guidelines when inspecting a home at NSW Fair Trading.
You usually need to view a property in person before you apply or sign a lease.
When inspecting a property, pay attention to:
- its condition
- if the doors and windows are secure
- the amount of natural light
- if it’s properly insulated
- if outdoor areas will need a lot of maintenance
- the street parking conditions if there’s no car space
The landlord or agent will need to tell you if the property:
- is going to be sold or repossessed
- has been affected by flooding or bushfire in the last 5 years
- is listed on the loose-fill asbestos insulation register
- was the scene of a serious violent crime in the last 5 years
Applying for a property
In most situations, you'll be asked by the landlord or agent to complete an application form and provide supporting documentation that shows:
- proof of identity
- proof of income, such as a payslip or bank statement
- past rental records
- personal and work references
There can be a high demand for rental properties, which means it’s likely there’ll be more than one person applying to live in the property.
Before you attend an inspection, it can help to be prepared, which can include:
- checking the real estate agent’s website to confirm the application process
- completing the application form in advance
- having a copy of all the required documents ready for each adult in your household who plans to live in the property
- submitting the application as soon as possible after inspecting the property
Rent bidding is when an applicant offers the landlord or agent more rent than was advertised. This can drive the rent up, as other applicants can then be asked to match or beat the higher price.
While rent bidding is legal, landlords and agents can’t initiate it or advertise a rent amount they’re not willing to accept.
If you’ve been offered the property, the landlord or agent can ask you to pay a holding deposit to secure it for you until the lease is signed.
If you’ve paid a holding deposit and sign the lease, the deposit will go towards your rent.
If you’ve paid a holding deposit and the landlord doesn’t sign the lease, they must give you the deposit back.
If you’ve paid a holding deposit and don’t sign the lease, the landlord or agent can keep the deposit.
If you think you've been discriminated against
It’s illegal for a landlord or agent to discriminate against an applicant based on:
- sexual orientation
- marital status
A landlord or agent can refuse an applicant based on:
- employment status
- rental history
- if they smoke
Starting a lease
If your rental application is accepted, there are usually several things you’ll need to do before you move in, including:
- sign the lease
- pay the rental bond and any rent in advance
- complete and return the condition report within 7 days of signing the lease
Sign the lease
When signing the lease, the landlord or agent will give you a copy of:
- the tenant information statement
- the tenancy agreement (lease)
- the condition report
- the by-laws, if the property is in a strata scheme
The lease will set out details like:
- the names of all tenants
- start and end dates
- the amount of rent
- the process for repairs and maintenance
- if you can have pets at the property
- notice periods for ending the lease
- deposits and fees
It’s a legally binding document, so it’s important to read and understand the terms and conditions of the lease before signing it.
Landlords or agents can’t charge you:
- for preparing a lease
- for giving you keys to the property
- an extra bond for pets
Pay the rental bond
Most landlords or agents will ask you to pay a rental bond before you move into a new home. It acts like a security deposit in case you break the terms of the lease.
The rental bond can be a maximum of 4 weeks rent.
You can pay the rental bond:
- to your landlord or agent, who will submit it to NSW Fair Trading, or
- directly to NSW Fair Trading through the rental bonds online service (your landlord or agent will email you an invitation so you can do this)
You’ll get the bond back when you move out, unless the landlord or agent makes a claim for all or part of the bond because:
- you owe money for unpaid rent or water bills
- you’ve broken the lease early
- the property was damaged
- the property wasn’t cleaned
- locks need replacing if keys weren't returned
Complete the condition report
You’ll receive a copy of the condition report when you sign the lease. It details the general condition of the property, room by room.
You’ll need to complete your part of the condition report and return a copy to the landlord or agent within 7 days of starting your lease.
It’s important to be as detailed as possible and note down any damaged, broken or missing fixtures if not already listed on the report. You can also take photos to prove your claims.
- carpet stains
- scratched paint
- holes or cracks in walls or tiles
- signs of mould or dampness
When you move out, any damage not listed in the condition report that isn’t considered reasonable wear and tear may be taken out of your rental bond.
Get help with rent and moving costs
Depending on your personal situation, there are different types of support available to help:
- find and secure a new property
- with the costs of moving
- pay the rent
You may be eligible for Rent Assistance if you get one of the following income support payments or benefits:
- Youth Allowance
- Parenting Payment
- Special Benefit, or
- more than the base rate of Family Tax Benefit
You will also need to be paying either:
- fees in a retirement village
- board and lodging, or
- site or mooring fees if your main home is a caravan, relocatable home or boat
The amount of Rent Assistance will depend on how much rent you pay.
You don’t need to apply for Rent Assistance. You'll be automatically assessed to see if you qualify when you claim one of the relevant payments.
Rent Choice helps tenants find and pay for rental accommodation for up to 3 years. The different types available include:
- Rent Choice Assist - rent support for low income households in certain regions that have had a financial shock, such as job loss or illness
- Rent Choice Start Safely – help finding and paying for a safe place to live for those who’ve experienced family or domestic violence
- Rent Choice Youth – help finding and paying for a place to live for those aged 16 to 24 who are homeless, or are at risk of becoming homeless
- Rent Choice Veterans – help finding and paying for a place to live for former members of the Australian Defence Force who are homeless, or are at risk of becoming homeless
Rentstart offers help to low income earners who are eligible for, or already living in, social housing.
It's aimed at making it easier when moving out of social housing into a new home in the private rental market. Support from Rentstart includes:
- Rentstart Bond Loan - an interest-free loan to help pay the bond
- Advance Rent – a grant to those who have a Rentstart Bond Loan and are having trouble with the costs of their new tenancy. It also covers a deposit for those moving into caravan parks, registered boarding houses and hostels where a bond isn’t required
- Rentstart Move – a loan for tenants leaving public housing to help with the cost of moving
- Tenancy Assistance - help to pay any outstanding rent or water bills
- Temporary Accommodation – provides short-term accommodation for those who are homeless
Other types of help
For those waiting for or leaving public or social housing, other types of help include:
- Private Rental Subsidy – helps those with disability with the cost of rent until an offer of social housing can be made
- Private Rental Brokerage Service - helps those who have a physical or mental illness, drug or alcohol problem, a physical or intellectual disability or other complex needs to find and keep a home outside of social or public housing
- the Department of Communities and Justice can give a reference to tenants through a Statement of Satisfactory Tenancy when they are moving out of public or social housing
Changes, repairs and damage
Your landlord or agent is responsible for keeping the property in a reasonable condition that’s fit for you to live in.
This doesn’t mean it needs to be in perfect condition. What’s considered reasonable will depend on the age of the property and the amount of rent being charged.
As a tenant, you’re responsible for any damage that's caused deliberately or through lack of care. In most situations, you’ll be responsible for the cost of repairing the damage.
If you want to make any changes to the property, you can do so if:
- your lease allows it, or
- your landlord or agent gives you written permission
In most situations, your landlord or agent cannot refuse minor changes, including installing:
- fly screens on windows
- a phone line or internet connection
- curtains or blinds
- hooks or nails to hang paintings or picture frames
Unless the landlord agrees to pay for these changes, you will need to pay for them yourself.
It’s important to continue paying your rent, even if your landlord or agent doesn’t organise the repairs. Getting behind in your rent will breach your lease agreement, and you may be asked to move out.
Any request for repairs will need to be made in writing to your landlord or agent. Your lease will usually set out the process you need to follow.
Any repairs to the property should be paid for by the landlord or agent.
In most situations, if the repair is urgent and the landlord or agent doesn’t respond, you can:
- check your lease for the contact details of a preferred tradesperson
- get the work done, and
- get repaid for the cost of the work up to $1,000
Urgent repairs include:
- a serious water or roof leak
- an electrical fault or broken hot water service
- a blocked toilet
- a broken stove top or oven
- serious storm or fire damage
Your landlord or agent may not reimburse you for the cost of the urgent repair if:
- you caused the damage
- you didn’t try to contact them about the repair
- you didn’t give them a reasonable amount of time to organise the repair
- the repair was not carried out by a licensed tradesperson
If the repair will cost more than $1,000, or you can’t afford to pay for the repair, you can apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal for an urgent hearing order.
You can end a lease if you want to move out of the property. The landlord or agent can also end a lease if they no longer want you living in the property.
In most situations, this involves:
- giving the correct amount of notice in writing
- moving out of the property by the specified date
- leaving the property clean and empty
- conducting a final inspection
- arranging for the bond to be returned, if applicable
If either you or the landlord want to end a lease, the amount of notice required will depend on the type of lease and the reason for ending it.
Ending a lease is not the same as an eviction. It’s the termination of the rental agreement and gives notice to the tenant or landlord that the property will be empty by a certain date.
Ending a lease early
If you are on a fixed term lease (for a specific period of time) and want to move out before the end of the lease, you’ll likely have to pay some costs, unless you:
- are experiencing financial hardship - in this case, you'll need to apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal
- have accepted an offer of social housing, or
- need to move into a nursing or care home
If you’ve been affected by coronavirus and want to end your lease early, you can apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal if:
- your landlord has refused to participate in a formal rent negotiation process through NSW Fair Trading, or
- you and your landlord have attempted a formal rent negotiation process but were unable to come to an agreement
In these circumstances, the tribunal can cap the cost of breaking your lease to a maximum of 2 weeks rent.
If your landlord ends the lease
The amount of notice your landlord or agent needs to give may have temporarily changed, as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) measures introduced by the NSW Government on 15 April 2020.
While these temporary measures are in effect, your landlord or agent will need to give at least 90 days’ notice if they wish to end a lease that's:
- fixed term at the end of that term
- periodic (month by month)
- in breach of the tenancy agreement, or
- lasted for 20 years or more
The extended notice won't apply if you:
- are behind in your rent and not affected by coronavirus
- have caused serious damage to your own or other residents' property
- are using the property for illegal purposes, or
- have threatened or abused other residents or the landlord
In some situations, your landlord may be able to end a fixed term lease early. This could be because:
- they’re experiencing financial hardship - there's no minimum notice period, but they'll need to apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal, or
- they’re selling the property - in this case, they'll need to give you 30 days’ notice
If you don't move out by the end of the notice period, the landlord can apply to the tribunal to have you evicted.
Ending a lease due to family or domestic violence
Call Emergency Triple Zero on 000 if you or your children are in immediate danger.
Call the Domestic Violence helpline on 1800 656 463 for free telephone crisis counselling and referral services.
You can end a lease immediately if you or your children:
- have experienced a domestic violence offence during the tenancy
- are protected by any type of domestic violence order (DVO)
- are protected by a family law injunction, or
- have been declared by a doctor to have experienced domestic violence
You need to give the landlord or agent a domestic violence termination notice indicating the date you want to end the lease. You can download a template letter at NSW Fair Trading.
The notice must also include one piece of supporting evidence, such as a:
- certificate of conviction for the domestic violence offence
- family law injunction
- provisional, interim or final domestic violence order (DVO), or
- declaration made by a medical practitioner
You can end the lease the same day you give notice or at a later date. You do not have to give the notice to the landlord or agent in person.
Moving out of the property
When moving out, you’re responsible for:
- removing all your belongings
- leaving the property in a similar condition as when you moved in
- repairing, or the cost of repairing, any damage
You’re not responsible for reasonable wear and tear, including:
- furniture indentations on carpet
- scuffed wooden floors
- chipped paint
You and the landlord or agent will need to carry out a final inspection of the property once it's empty.
The condition report you completed when you first moved in can help if you have any disputes with the landlord or agent about the condition of the property.
Your landlord or agent can make a claim against part or all of the bond if the property is not left in a similar condition as when you moved in.
Getting your bond back
You need to pay the rent up to and including the day your lease ends, even if you've moved out before this date.
The bond you paid at the beginning of your tenancy will usually be refunded in full, unless:
- you owe the landlord or agent money, or
- there is damage to the property
The landlord or agent can make a claim against the bond for items like:
- unpaid rent
- repairing damage to the property that is beyond reasonable wear and tear
- unpaid water usage charges
- any fees from breaking the lease early
- the cost of cleaning if the property wasn’t cleaned
- the cost of having the locks changed if keys weren’t returned
To get part or all of your rental bond back, you can submit a claim at NSW Fair Trading's rental bonds online.
If you paid the bond directly to your landlord or agent, they will submit the claim for you.
If there’s a disagreement about the bond
If you and the landlord or agent disagree about the bond, you can still submit a claim with NSW Fair Trading.
You don’t need the landlord or agent’s signature to do this. NSW Fair Trading will let your landlord or agent know in writing that you have made a claim for the bond.
You’ll receive payment 14 days after your claim if the landlord or agent does not dispute it.
If your landlord or agent does dispute your claim, they’ll have to apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal within 14 days. The tribunal will then decide how the bond will be paid.
If the landlord or agent makes a claim without your agreement, they have 7 days to provide you with:
- a copy of the condition report that was completed at the end of your lease
- copies of any estimate quotes, invoices or receipts for the work they’re claiming
You’ll also receive written notice from NSW Fair Trading. If you want to dispute the claim, you’ll need to:
- apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal within 14 days for an order that all or part of the bond will be paid to you, using the rental bond application form
- let NSW Fair Trading know in writing that you’ve submitted an application to the tribunal
The tribunal will then decide how the bond will be paid.
You can apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a full or partial refund even if the claim to the landlord or agent has already been paid. You can do this within 6 months of the bond being paid out.
If you’re evicted
There is a 6-month restriction on evictions for tenants behind in their rent who’ve been affected by coronavirus, which is due to end 15 October 2020.
During this time, a landlord can only apply for eviction if they show:
- they’ve tried to negotiate a rent reduction in good faith
- they went through the dispute resolution process with NSW Fair Trading
- it’s fair and reasonable in that specific case
If you don’t move out of the property by the date your lease ends, your landlord or agent can apply for a termination order at the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal to have you evicted.
If you’re still in the property by the date in the termination order, a sheriff’s officer can legally remove you from the property under a warrant for possession issued by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal or a court.
It’s illegal for a landlord or agent to lock you out of your home without following this process.
If you’re listed on a tenancy database
Tenancy databases keep information relating to problems that landlords or agents had during a tenant’s stay at a property.
Being listed on a tenancy database is commonly known as being blacklisted.
It can affect your ability to find a rental property in the future, as agents use tenancy databases to screen potential tenants.
There are strict rules around when a tenant can and cannot be listed on a tenancy database.
Tenants cannot be listed if they:
- fall behind with the rent
- are given a termination notice to end the lease, or
- ended their tenancy in circumstances of domestic violence
Tenants can be listed on a database for 3 years if:
- they've left the property and owe money for a breach of the lease that is more than the rental bond, or
- the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal has made an order terminating the lease because of something the tenant has done wrong
You’ll be notified in advance if you’re going to be listed on a tenancy database and will have a chance to dispute the listing if you don't agree with it.
Changing your address
You can update your address details for a range of services at Service NSW, including:
- driver’s licence or vehicle registration
- e-toll account
- electoral roll
- concession and support cards
- Opal card
- if you own a dog or cat
Get help with rental disputes
If you have a dispute that you cannot solve directly with the landlord or agent, you can get help from several organisations.
The Tenants Advice and Advocacy Services offers free and independent information, advice and advocacy for tenants in NSW.
The Aboriginal Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service offers information, advice, advocacy and representation services for Aboriginal tenants in NSW.
NSW Fair Trading offers a free tenancy dispute resolution process for those who can’t come to an agreement with their landlord
NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal is an independent organisation that can help resolve tenancy disputes between landlords and tenants in NSW if:
- the NSW Fair Trading tenancy dispute resolution process is unsuccessful
- a termination order to end the lease is being sought, or
- the NSW Fair Trading tenancy dispute resolution process doesn’t cover your type of complaint
Learn more about what to expect when applying and attending a tribunal hearing at Tenants' Advice and Advocacy Services.
Community Legal Centres NSW is an independent, not for profit organisation that offers free legal assistance to people in NSW.
Housing for low income earners
There are several options for those on a low income who are looking to rent. This includes:
- social housing
- affordable housing
- low cost and culturally appropriate housing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people
There can be long waiting lists, so it's important to apply as early as possible.
Social housing is secure and affordable rental housing for people on low incomes with housing needs. It includes:
- public housing
- community housing
- Aboriginal housing
The difference between public and community housing
Public housing is managed by the Department of Communities and Justice, while community housing is managed by non-government organisations. They are known as social housing providers.
Eligibility for social housing
To ensure it helps those most in need, eligibility for social housing focuses on people on a low income that:
- need support to help them live independently, and
- cannot find affordable housing in the private rental market that suits their needs
Applying for social housing
A participating social housing provider will assess the eligibility and priority of applications.
This assessment only needs to be done once, and will be accepted by any participating social housing provider.
You’ll be notified in writing of the outcome when the assessment is complete.
Affordable housing is for people on very low to moderate incomes. Unlike community housing, this type of accommodation is not social housing.
You might need to live in affordable housing because of a change in your life such as losing a job or if your income isn't high enough to pay rent in the area where you live or work.
In most situations, charities, not for profit or community organisations manage affordable housing. The affordable housing managers are responsible for:
- setting the price of rent
- reviewing rental applications
- renting out affordable homes
- collecting rent
- maintaining homes
The rent for affordable housing is priced so you can meet your other living costs such as food, clothing, transport, medical and education.
What you pay in rent can vary, but as a guide, it's generally worked out a few ways including:
- up to 25% below the price of similar homes in the area you're looking to rent, or
- set at no more than 30% of your income before tax
Housing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
The Aboriginal Housing Office ensures Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have access to affordable, quality housing.
It is based in NSW, and provides a wide range of services including:
- support for housing and crisis accommodation
- ensuring that housing is appropriate to the social and cultural requirements, living patterns and preferences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
The Department of Communities and Justice also provides low cost and culturally appropriate housing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in NSW.