Moving Out Of Home and General Advice on Renting
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Leaving home for the first time can be one of the most liberating experiences of your life, but it is a complicated and expensive matter. There is surprisingly little detailed information on the subject. This Wiki guide is an extensive amalgamation of knowledge to help you consider everything you may face when moving out. All figures are based on city living within Australia, so you may have to make adjustments if you live elsewhere. It is split into 3 main sections.
Finding a Property
Many people are now finding property to rent or buy on the Internet. There are many real-estate websites, which allow you to cull properties based on your needs. You may find the popular properties go very quickly, sometimes even a day or so after they are listed. If you see a place you really like, make sure you call the agent straight away, and organise a time to inspect the property. Agents should generally not be trusted, and obviously do not have your interests in mind. They are trying to get the best tenants, to pay the highest price, in the shortest amount of time.
Applying for a property
It is usually a lot harder for a single guy to apply for a property than a couple. So if you are moving out on your own, try and bring someone that can act as your partner. They don't necessarily have to sign the lease, but it will increase your odds at getting a place. You will probably be one of many people inspecting a property to rent. You need to distinguish yourself over the other applicants - or, more correctly, you need to avoid distinguishing yourself as an unattractive applicant. From the point of view of a landlord, here are a few tips to make yourself a more attractive tenant candidate:
- First impressions count. If you are inspecting a property, wear clean clothes, be polite, ask permission to look around and take your shoes off at the door. The agent will be assessing you and will see how you behave during the inspection as an indicator of how you will behave as a tenant.
- Landlords want two things in a tenant: Prompt rent payment and care for the property. Anything you can do to reassure the agent/landlord that you will be exemplary in those two qualities will help you.
- Don't mess around with the application if you like the place. Fill it out on the spot and hand it to the agent or landlord personally if possible, or hand it in as soon as possible (e.g. at 9am Monday morning if you inspect on the weekend). Have all your paperwork ready to go. Fill it out neatly.
- It's sexist, but it's true: landlords expect females to care for a property better than males. If you plan to share, consider the fact that an application from four blokes will not be competitive compared to one with some girls in it, all other things being equal.
- The following criteria are seen as positive by landlords: established couples, established jobs/careers, long term rent history, desire for a long (6mth +) lease.
- The following criteria are negatives: large groups of singles (particularly males), students, unemployed, no rental history or a history of short tenancies, applications for short leases.
Inspecting a property
Properties are generally inspected in one of three ways:
- Keys in office is exactly as it sounds: the keys to the property can be picked up from the agent that has them. You will need to show some ID, and normally leave a $50 deposit. The keys will often go out quite regularly on the weekend, so it always pays to ring the agent first, especially if the agent is some distance from the property.
- Open for inspection is also exactly as it sounds. These normally occurs on the weekend (occasionally on a weeknight), and it will only be open for about 15 minutes, unlike for sale inspections. The times which properties are open for inspection are normally listed on the real estate websites, but may not be added until a day or two before the inspection. In my experience there are normally a few other people at these kinds of inspections.
- Inspect by appointment means you need to call the agent to arrange a time to inspect. The agent will meet you at the property and show you around. If you are late you appear as unreliable and will not be considered. If you are earlier than about 5 minutes you risk appearing too keen.
- Additional things to look out for When surveying the property to decide if it is going to be your new home, there are often things that you can overlook. Make sure to always look for the little things. You can get a visual interpretation in your mind about where your possessions may fit, like your TV and bed, as well as refrigerator and microwave but try to dig deeper than that. Don't overlook linen cupboards, and where the power-points are situated for example. Always check to see things like whether there has been a prior connection for cable if you intend on using the cable services. If you intend on using ADSL2 or any particular service unique like this, do your research first. If you get a chance, as you walk through the rooms try the light switches and ask questions about any air conditioning units. Just because it's there doesn't mean it works.
Depending on the type of person you are, try to survey the neighborhood and see if it suits your personality. You don't want to move into a neighborhood of retirees if you plan to be a party-basher. Also if your means of transport is by foot or public transport you will want to know the locations of local amenities and how that may affect you in times of need.
Moving in with one or more other people can cut costs significantly. By splitting costs, you can save on many ongoing costs such as electricity and food. You can also split furnishing and appliance costs if you wish, but keep tabs on who owns what, especially things like DVDs.
Screen your potential flat mates carefully. Avoid moving in with close friends as you will often end up hating them. If possible secure the lease by yourself and move in, then you have the power to control who your flat-mates are and how they live in the apartment.
Respect their space. Clean up after yourself. Get agreements such as lent money, spotting the rent for someone else, even a cleaning roster written on paper. Where lending of money is concerned it is probably best to not even get involved - lending money to friends can be like gambling so only lend money if you are prepared to lose it. Unfortunately gentleman's agreements can fall through and bite you later on. This is especially true if you're moving in with strangers. Try to agree on a list of basic rules to follow, like rules on parties and entertaining for example.
Depending on your move and how this has come about, you might want to redirect your mail to your new address. It isn't overly expensive at about $23 for three months for a domestic redirection.
Try and organise your internet, phone, gas and electricity to be connected the day before you plan to move in, as the connection could occur any time during the day, which may be a major pain.
This brief section should not be taken as legal advice. Laws may vary from state to state, and are listed for your state here.
"A tenancy agreement can be written, verbal or even implied, it does not need to be in writing to be binding."
links given are to SA Legislation - refer to the above list for your state
As the tenant of someone else's property, you are obliged by law to:
- Pay the rent on time; 
- Keep the premises clean; 
- Notify the Landlord or Estate Agent of any damage caused by a tenant or guest (It is likely that you will need to cover the cost of repairing any damage); 
- Notify the Landlord or Estate Agent when repairs are needed; 
- Abide by the requirements of the Residential Tenancies Act 1995; 
- Not make any alterations or add fittings to the premises (including picture hooks, shelves, fences & gates) without the Landlord's permission; 
- Not interfere with the peace and privacy of neighbors; 
- Pay for water charges as per your agreement or in the absence of an agreement, pay for the amount of water used in excess of 136 kilolitres per year; and 
- Not use the premises for any illegal purposes. 
Landlords, property owners and real estate agents must comply with the Residential Tenancies Act. The Landlord is responsible for:
- Notifying the tenant of their name and address; 
- Providing the premises in a clean and reasonable state; 
- Maintaining and repairing the premises; 
- Respecting the tenant's right to privacy, peace and quiet afforded to any homeowner; 
- Lodging the security bond within seven days (or 28 days if through a registered Estate Agent); 
- Completing and providing two signed inspection sheets and an information brochure at the commencement of the tenancy;
- Providing and maintaining locks; 
- Paying council rates and land taxes; 
- Paying for water charges as per your agreement or in the absence of an agreement, as set out in the Residential Tenancies Act 1995; and 
- Keeping records of the rent received and providing proper receipts for any money received from the tenant.
Breaking a fixed term lease
If you sign on for a 6, 12 or 24 month contract and wish to move out prior to the contract expiring you will be liable for a number of charges. The following is a basic summary of what charges you could be charged under the Act. Note that the following can change depending on the State you live in and the agreement with the Landlord and the Real-estate agent.
The owner of the property has a right to recover compensation from you as set out in sections 210 and 211 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997.
If you do vacate the property prior to the expiration of the fixed term tenancy agreement, you will be responsible for the following compensation costs: -
1. Rent up until the date that there is another tenancy agreement entered into for the property; the existing tenancy agreement is assigned to another party; or at the expiry of the tenancy agreement into which you entered – whichever comes first.
2. Advertising costs in proportion to the unexpired period of your tenancy agreement. * This includes local newspaper listings and internet listings. Costs can range from $50 to over $100.
3. A letting fee proportion to the unexpired period of your tenancy agreement. * The letting fee is usually 5% plus GST of the average annual rent (as an example for a property at $250 per week: $250 X 52 X 5.5% = $715) * If it is a 12 month tenancy agreement and 8 months has expired, the responsibility would be 4/12ths of the letting fee
4. Tenancy application checks on all prospective tenants through the National Tenant Database of Australia. * The amount charged for this service is $12.00 for each tenant application.
5. The erection and removal of a For Lease board.
All fees will be finalised and advised to you once a suitable tenant has been secured.
As stated in the above, you need to continue paying your rent calendar monthly in advance as it is an offence under section 428 of the Act attracting 10 penalty units for a tenant to use the bond, or any part of the bond as rent.
If another tenancy agreement is entered into or the existing agreement is assigned and your rent is paid beyond the commencement date of the new tenancy, any overpaid rent will be fully refunded to you.
It is recommended that you speak with your Real-estate agent prior to putting in your notice to leave to understand what costs you may be liable for.
- Refrigerator:Usually a decent fridge and freezer combo is sufficient for 1 to 3 flat-mates. eBay is a great place to pick up second hand white-goods but always organise and inspection before buying. Otherwise, keep and eye out for garage sales, markets and warehouse clearance sales. Refrigerators often have long warranties, so try to get one with some remaining warranty. Plan on spending between $100 and $500.
- Microwave:An absolute essential. Again, try eBay or ask department stores about discounts on ex-display and ex-repair units. You can get a nice one for $50 to $75. Make sure it will fit in the microwave cavity of your kitchen.
- Washing machine and Dryer:Try to pick up second hand machines with warranties left on them. Expect to pay about $250 each. Also, ask about the energy and water ratings because they'll affect your power and water bills. Depending on the property that you rent, you may be able to do without a dryer. For instance, many apartments will have a clothes dryer pre-installed in the laundry when there is no other suitable location to dry your clothes (in general, you're forbidden from hanging washing up in locations visible from the street including balconies).
- Iron, Kettle, Toaster and Phone:Ask family members about their old ones as they are something that everyone tends to have a few of. Alternatively, you can buy them on eBay for about $30 each. Remember that stainless steel appliances will usually last longer.
- Television:Most people have 2 or more TV's in their house these days. Ask if you can take one with you. If not, electrical retailers who still sell the older style CRT TV's tend to sell 51-cm units for around $100. Otherwise, you should be able to grab a decent LCD for around $600.
- Dining set and Sofa:Check out ex-government and factory outlets for basic furniture requirements. A nice dining table and chairs will cost about $300 and about $200 for a decent 3 seater sofa.
- Bed Frame:Bed frames can be bought from any furniture store. A no-name bed frame will set you back about $150 to $250 and can actually look quite nice with good covers. Make sure it will fit in your new bedroom.
- Mattress:Second hand mattresses are practically taboo. It is best to hand over the cash and buy a decent mattress. Plan on $200 to $600 depending on the size and quality. High quality brands and pillow top mattresses are very comfortable if you can afford upwards of $1500.
- Bond:A bond is a collateral payment you give to the landlord when you move in. It is usually 2 to 6 weeks worth of rent. You get it back when you move out providing you caused no damage to the property.
- Initial Food Shopping:This is where you fill your pantry with spices, condiments and staple ingredients to get you started. Try to get as much of the basic stuff as you can from home. Plan on spending about 3 to 4 times your ongoing food budget.
- Cleaning products:Now that you're on your own, you'll have to learn to clean up after yourself. Things like washing powder, dish soap, spray and wipe, bleach and toilet cleaner are the basics. Count this in to your initial food shopping if you can't get it from home. It should be about $75.
- Crockery, Cutlery, Utensils and Cookware:Try to get a basic set from home. Count this into your initial shopping if you can't. It would come to about $250 if you bought it all new.
- Rent is going to take the biggest slice of your income. It is usually quoted as a weekly figure and charged monthly.
- Electricity: Moderate users can expect to pay approximately AU$100 per month. If you would like a more accurate estimate, ask other people who live out of home. Remember that after the first person, each additional occupant will not consume double the power, but rather around 50% extra. Electricity is charged by the kilowatt and bills are usually paid every three months.
- Water: If you are renting, a certain amount of water is usually included in the rent price. However, if you go over that you will be charged an excess. If you live in an apartment, you often pay an equal share of the excess water that the entire building uses.
- Phone and Internet:Shop around for the best deal. Many service providers will offer a discounted rate if you sign up for a phone and internet bundle. Some plans also come with a free modem. It may also help to get a capped plan on both services as the excess rates can be very high. This also makes the weekly budget easier to estimate. See Whirlpool to find a good bundle plan.
- Alarm Monitoring:It's worth it to get a back to base alarm installed. It lowers your insurance premium and deters thieves. You can expect to pay approximately $30 per month. Check out the yellow pages for a LOCAL agent. Local monitoring is best as some companies monitor from overseas which can make them less reliable.
- Health Insurance:Basic health insurance is a must. It will protect you from being completely stuffed if something big comes along. Basic insurance will cost around $10 per week. Shop around for a good deal.
- Home contents insurance:Don't be foolish and not buy a home contents insurance policy. They are fairly cheap and will protect you from burglary etc. If you install locks on windows and doors and get a back to base alarm installed, you can expect to pay around $40 per month. See nrma.com.au to get an online premium estimate.
- Fuel You will probably have a fair idea about your weekly fuel cost already. If you need to work it out more accurately, go to redbook.com.au and look up the fuel consumption for your car. For example, say your car gets 100KM to 10L, and you travel 500KM each week. If the fuel cost in your area is usually about $1.30, then 50L will cost $65. There is your weekly fuel cost.
- Vehicle maintenance: So that you don't suddenly get hit with a whopping car servicing fee, you should allow for this in your monthly budget. Try to put away $50 per Month into a car servicing account. This adds up to $600 per year. If you are lucky enough to own a car with remaining manufacturer warranty, your servicing may be free of charge.
Other and Variable
- Food:Food costs are never consistent. Depending on how much you eat and where you buy your food, it can vary from $100 to $150 per person per week. If you want to try a mock shopping, check out homeshop.com.au. Don't forget pet food if you have pets.
- Medical Bills:If you're fairly normal and don't get sick often, factor in $25 per month for medical bills.
- Gifts:Try to budget gifting into your monthly budget. You may have to consider Easter, Christmas, Birthdays or whatever it is you and your family/friends celebrate.