This information is a guide and should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice.

Published: May 2021

Applying for a rental property

Before and during the search for your next home there are many matters to consider. There are also many laws the rental provider (landlord) must follow if they want to rent out a property.

Work out renting costs

Set a budget before you start looking for a place to rent. Include all the set-up costs including:

  • Bond
  • First rent payment
  • Moving expenses
  • Putting the bills in your name, such as gas, electricity, phone and internet
  • Furniture and household goods

Also set up a budget for ongoing costs like rent, bills, travel costs from your new home to work, school or university, and ideally home contents or renters’ contents insurance to make sure your belongings are protected. The rental providers’ insurance will not cover your personal belongings if something happens at the property.

If possible, your rent should not be more than 25% of the total income.

Check if you are eligible for financial assistance such as:

  • Rent Assistance, a regular extra payment if you get certain payments from Centrelink and pay rent
  • The Victorian Government’s Housing Establishment Fund, which assists eligible clients of the Transitional Housing Management and Homelessness Support program agencies for overnight or private rental accommodation, and for relocation and establishing housing
  • RentAssist interest-free bond loans from the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing

Properties advertised for rent

Rental auctions banned

It is against the law and an offence for a rental provider (landlord), or their agent, to hold rental auctions and to encourage or invite renters to offer to pay more rent than the amount the property is advertised for [section 30F]. This offence applies to properties for rent from 29 March 2021, when new rental laws were introduced.

If a rental provider or agent is advertising or otherwise offering a property for rent the rent needs to be a fixed amount [section 30F].

Note that on this page sections in brackets, such as [section 30F], refer to sections in Victoria’s Residential Tenancies Act 1997. See the Resources section at the bottom of this page for links to the laws.

False or misleading advertising banned

It is also an offence for a rental provider, or their agent, to make false or misleading representations about the rent [Section 30G].

You can report offences to Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV), which can issue an infringement notice on the rental provider or agent if they failed to follow the law.

Inspections

Arranging an inspection

Most agents or rental providers set times for when a rental property can be inspected. Many will expect you to pre-book a time slot with them. This may even be required for ‘open inspections’, where you may be inspecting the property at the same time as others. We recommend you check to see if you need to pre-book a time slot before attending an inspection, so you do not get turned away.

Be aware that the agent or rental provider will be looking at the people who come through the door so you should try to make a good impression in case you decide to apply for the property.

Inspecting a rental property

Check the property thoroughly, both inside and outside. Make sure that you are happy with the property before you put in an application or pay any money.

If you negotiate anything with the rental provider or agent about the property at the time you inspect it, for example that you would be happy to apply for the property if an air-conditioner is installed, make sure you get this in writing. And make sure this is written into the additional terms of the rental agreement, along with any relevant details, such as when this will be done by, the energy efficiency rating for the air-conditioner, and what room it will be installed in.

Before you sign a rental agreement or pay any money please see our pages Before you sign and Starting a tenancy.

Minimum standards

There are minimum standards that must be met for properties being offered for rent from 29 March 2021, when new rental laws were introduced [section 65A]. See our page on minimum standards for a full list.

You must be told whether or not the property meets these standards before you are asked to sign a rental agreement [Section 30D]. See our page Before you sign.

It is an offence if the minimum standards have not been met on or before the day a renter is due to move in – this is for rental agreements starting from 29 March 2021 [Section 65A]. You can report offences to Consumer Affairs Victoria, which can issue an infringement notice on the rental provider or agent if they failed to follow the law.

Applying for a rental property

After you have inspected the property, you may want to apply to rent it.

Things you cannot be asked

A rental provider, or their agent, are not allowed to ask you about some matters when you apply for a rental property. These are:

  • If you have previously been involved in legal action or dispute with a rental provider, such as going to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT)
  • Questions about your bond history, including whether a claim has ever been made against your bond
  • Credit card or bank statements that contain your daily transactions
  • Any information about you that could be discriminatory, under Section 6 of the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, unless you have been given written reason why the information is required [section 30C]

If you are asked any of these things you can report the rental provider, or agent, to Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) which can issue an infringement notice on the rental provider or agent if they have failed to follow the law.

How your information can be used

The rental provider or real estate agent can only use your personal information to assess your suitability as a renter or for a legitimate reason under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997. They cannot use your personal information for any other reason. For example, they cannot sell your contact details or use your contact details to send you promotional material [section 30B].

If the rental provider or agent uses your information for any other reason you can report them to Consumer Affairs Victoria, which can issue an infringement notice on the rental provider or agent if they have failed to follow the law.

Discrimination

It is illegal for a rental provider or real estate agent to discriminate against you on the grounds of certain ‘protected’ personal characteristics when you are applying for, occupying or leaving a property [section 30A].

These personal characteristics, which are listed in the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, include:

  • Age
  • Disability, including physical, sensory or intellectual disability or mental illness
  • Employment activity or industrial activity, including union activity
  • Legal sexual activity or sexual orientation or erased homosexual conviction
  • Gender identity or sex or intersex status
  • Marital status
  • Being a parent or carer or being pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Race
  • Religious beliefs or political beliefs or activity
  • Any relationship or connection with anyone with the above characteristics

From 29 March, 2021, when new rental laws came in, any application form for a rental property must include a statement about unlawful discrimination, including examples of the protected personal characteristics [section 29C]. Follow the link below to the Consumer Affairs Victoria website for a copy of the statement.

Children

It is illegal for a rental provider or agent to discriminate against renters with children.

However, the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 allows a rental provider or agent to refuse to allow children to live in a rental property if:

  • The rental provider lives in the same property
  • The property is unsuitable for children
  • The government has provided the property exclusively for single people or childless couples [section 30]

Getting help

If you think that you have been discriminated against, you can lodge a complaint with the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission online or by calling 1300 292 153.

You may also be able to apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for compensation. See our page Compensation for renters.

For more information contact us, your local Tenancy Assistance and Advocacy Program (TAAP) service, Tenancy Plus provider, community legal centre or Victoria Legal Aid.

Credit reference checks

Real estate agents may want to check your credit history. The law does not allow them to check consumer credit information, but it does allow access to public records. If a real estate agent insists on doing a credit reference check, contact us for advice.

Databases

Renter databases

Many rental providers and agents search renter databases when assessing rental applications.  If this is part of their usual process, they need to give you a written notice that includes the name of the databases that could be used and their contact details [sections 439B and 439C].

If a listing is found, the rental provider or agent has 7 days to give you a written notice that states:

  • The name of the database
  • That the database has personal information about you
  • The name of each person who listed the information (if available)
  • How the listing can be removed or corrected [section 439D]

See our page on renter databases or ‘blacklists’ for more information.

Rental provider databases

Consumer Affairs Victoria keeps a rental provider database, technically referred to as the ‘rental non-compliance register’, that renters can search to see if a rental provider, or agent, has been:

  • Given a compliance or compensation order by VCAT because they have breached a duty under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997
  • Convicted of an offence under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 [section 439P]

See our page on the rental provider database for more information.

Listings stay on the database for 3 years.

If your application is successful

If the rental provider agrees to rent you the property, you may be offered a residential rental agreement (lease) to sign. This is a legal contract – read it carefully and make sure that you are happy with it before you sign.

See our page Rental agreements (leases) for more information about what should and should not be in the agreement and our page Before you sign.

Utility connection services

Some real estate agents offer a utility connection service to have gas, electricity, water, telephone and so on connected in your name. Be careful about signing any agreements about utilities. Check the terms and conditions and any additional fees that may apply. There is no obligation for you to use this service and you may end up with a better deal if you shop around and arrange for the utility connections yourself.

Rental providers cannot put a term in your rental agreement that makes you use a third-party service provider, other than a provider of an embedded network, such as a joint supplier of energy to all the apartments in a development. This means they cannot put a term in the agreement which makes you use a utility connection service or a specific energy company [section 27B].

Resources

Related pages

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