8 Things you Need to Know Before Renting in Melbourne

We got reasonably lucky with our first rental property, especially as we had arranged it all from 17,000 kilometres away! 

After many hours of internet searching via realestate.com and domain.com (how we decided on our search area needs another blogpost), we homed in – pardon the pun – on our ideal house. 

This internet journey took us very quickly from our ‘ideal’ property (something big and flashy by the beach) to our ‘realistic’ property in a great suburb northeast of the Melbourne CBD. 

Rows of weatherboard huts
8 Things you Need to Know Before Renting in Melbourne

Lots of hand-wringing and sleepless nights occurred along the way, as we realised that we would have to disregard many properties on the rental market as, from the photographs alone, they simply did not appear fit to live in.  

When we finally found ‘the one’, we were extremely lucky to have available to us the services of a relocation consultant, who attended the open house viewing, took photographs for us and gave us her honest opinion of the suitability of the house for our family. 

She then liaised with the agent to lodge our application, and the whole process went incredibly smoothly.  Such that, by the time we got off the plane all bleary-eyed and emotional, we already had the keys in our hand and just needed to jump in a taxi. 

A tenancy agreement and a set of keys
8 Things you Need to Know Before Renting in Melbourne

Not everyone is that lucky, however, so I thought it would be useful to point out 8 things you need to know before renting in Melbourne.  I’m sure there are many more than 8 things you need to know, but this little checklist comes from our experiences along the way.

1.  Don’t trust that the agent has checked that the property meets minimum safety requirements.

There are many real estate agents operating in Melbourne and I think it’s fair to say that most are fairly reputable.  However, in our experience, it is interesting to note that what one agent will list as ‘fit for purpose and in good working order’ can be absolutely diabolical when you see it for yourself.  

For example, one agent we dealt with wrote on the condition report that the washing line in the garden was ‘fit for purpose’ next to a photograph of one end of the washing line that looked perfectly reasonable.  When we saw it for ourselves, the other end of the line was a complete spaghetti tangle of wires wrapped around a rotting wooden post that had rusty nails sticking out of it and was leaning at such an angle that you’d be taking your life into your own hands every time you pegged out your pyjamas!

washing hanging on a makeshift line against a dirty wall
8 Things you Need to Know Before Renting in Melbourne

Fortunately for tenants, the state of Victoria has legislated new minimum standards, so do make yourselves aware of your rights.  The landlord is obliged to comply with these standards and if you are not happy, even before you move in (even if you’ve signed the lease), you do have rights.  

In our experience though, not all agents are scrupulous in checking that these standards have been met and will advertise a property for rental, using all sorts of flowery language and poetic license.  In some countries like the UK, there are laws against real estate agents using misleading language but here it seems everyone is a budding Shakespeare.

2.  Location, Location, Location

The more you pay in rent does not necessarily mean a better property – it completely depends on the area that you are looking to live in.  Properties in suburbs closer to the CBD, with train and tram links and thriving high street communities will be in big demand. 

a pinned map of Melbourne
8 Things you Need to Know Before Renting in Melbourne

You may get a beautiful character house by dint of the fact that a suburb that was established in Victorian times (and closer to the city) will have some of the traditional architecture, but chances are it may be in pretty shabby order, unless your budget allows you to pay absolute top dollar.  

3.  Don’t judge the book by its cover

Look past the decor if you can, at all things structural, safety and security. 

Check windows for faulty catches, cracked glass and whether they will actually open and close.  Check that there are locking mechanisms on windows and external doors. 

Do that little stompy thing with your feet to check for loose or rotting floorboards, especially around the edges, where the floor meets the skirting board. 

3 black old fashioned electric light switches
8 Things you Need to Know Before Renting in Melbourne

Look at the electrical switches and sockets – do they look like they came out of the ark?  Are there multiple extension leads coming out of one dodgy-looking plug socket?  Is there a fuse board with a circuit breaker? 

Don’t forget to look up.  Any weird stains on the ceilings?  At best there may be a leaky roof, we won’t think about what else might have occurred.

4.  Pay attention to the dead possum at the front gate

Yes, I know possums are a protected species and it is not uncommon to be living alongside them in our suburbs.  However, the dead possum at the front gate (we did actually witness this poor creature’s unfortunate resting place) is surely a sign that the landlord is not particularly paying much attention to what is happening at their property. 

The shrubs from the front garden growing over onto the pavement and the overflowing rubbish and garden waste bins provided another clue.  Before we had even stepped inside the front door we figured that this landlord would not be a very caring landlord. 

a row of wheelie bins, green, red and white
8 Things you Need to Know Before Renting in Melbourne

This particular house looked like somebody had died in it, and all they’d done was to remove the body (forgetting the poor possum).

5.  Look under carpets and rugs.

Sounds obvious, but if you are able, just lift up a corner of a strategically placed rug.  They can hide all sorts of things – cigarette ends, dirt, broken floor tiles, more questionable stains – eeuw.

6.  Look behind the doors

Especially any doors that have been propped open. 

We found a mousetrap in one house.  Quite a big clue there that there may have been vermin.  Perhaps the little creatures were still sub-letting?  After all, there was a lovely entranceway especially for them where the floorboards dipped away from the skirting board in the front room. 

a mouse trap with a lump of cheese, next to a mouse hole in a skirting board
8 Things you Need to Know Before Renting in Melbourne

And I don’t think the old towel stuffed in there would stop our little furry friends from chewing their way through – not to mention the howling gales and creeping damp in the winter.

7.  Take the lease term with a pinch of salt

Our real estate agent told us ours was an investment property and therefore a potential long-term lease. 

What they failed to tell us (and why would they?) was that the landlord had invested in this property in order to get an address in a popular high school catchment area.  It seems they had always intended to move into the house themselves as soon as the child reached high school age.  Which turned out to be 18 months into our lease. 

man carrying a packing box towards a removals van
8 Things you Need to Know Before Renting in Melbourne

Of course, the agent can only tell you what the landlord has told them, so it is very useful to have a crystal ball when trying to ascertain how settled you can allow yourselves to be.  If anybody finds that crystal ball, please let me know.

8.  Take a second pair of eyes

It is perfectly acceptable to ask for a second viewing on a property – after all, it is very hard to take everything in during the 10-15 minute viewing usually allocated at an open house.  Not to mention the difficulties of trying to observe all the detail when there are hordes of other people and their children looking around too. 

Take someone with you who will be a fresh pair of eyes.  A notebook, phone camera, and tape measure are very handy tools to have in your kit.  Try as you might, you will not remember everything you see.  The pictures on the internet listing can often be very minimal, usually misleading, and frequently don’t even include a floorplan.  A quick sketch of the layout will help you in your decision-making process.

It goes without saying that you need to be pretty speedy in your actions.  Rental properties get snapped up very quickly in Melbourne – even the bad ones.  Good luck out there!

A wooden 'To Let' sign against a white background and a little black house in outline clipped to it
8 Things you Need to Know Before Renting in Melbourne

The Melbourne Mum

Thinking of emigrating to Australia? Already moved to Melbourne? Find out what it's really like to make the big move Down Under.

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4 Responses

  1. Rusty says:

    You made me laugh when you mentioned the dead possum! Please assure your readers that Australians don’t have the possum equivalent of the famous Monty Python “Dead Parrot Sketch” 😀

  2. Andy Davies says:

    A dead possum !!!!!
    Another great article Melbourne mum

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