Looking for Somewhere to Live

Looking for a private rental

Private rental accommodation can be found listed under ‘To Let’ in the Classified sections of newspapers. Check out “The West Australian” on Wednesday and Saturday, “The Sunday Times”, “Quokka” (comes out every Thursday) and local or regional community newspapers.

To understand the many abbreviations used in newspaper ‘To Let’ ads, refer to Abbreviations Used in ‘To Let’ Ads.

Real estate companies are also increasingly using the internet to advertise their rental properties. Search ‘available rental properties in WA’ to locate the websites.

You may also like to let some of the real estate agencies know you are looking for a rental place as they sometimes have properties for rent which are not advertised in the newspaper.

Looking for share accommodation

Community noticeboards at libraries, café’s, bookshops, youth centres, TAFE and University campuses are a good place to find share accommodation (a room in a share house).

Ads for share accommodation can also be found in the newspapers mentioned above. Some universities also maintain share accommodation registers (a list of students seeking to share) – contact your campus’ housing officer.

There is also a specific accommodation registry for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and HIV positive people: Ph: 9420 7201 (Accommodation Referral Service); 9486 9855 (Shared Accommodation Registry).

NOTE: Tenants who rent a room in a shared house and do not have their name on the tenancy agreement, may not be protected by the Residential Tenancies Act (1987). See Boarders and Lodgers and Shared Tenancies for more information.

Department of Housing Rentals

The Department of Housing (DH) is the WA state government department that provides housing for people on low incomes. Contact DH to see if you are eligible.

Rent is usually calculated as a proportion of your income. There is usually a long waiting time before you are allocated DH housing, so it is a good idea to put your name down on the waiting list as soon as you can.

If you have an urgent need for housing, you may be able to get housed sooner on a “priority” basis. Get assistance with making this application from one of the agencies listed in chapter Community Contacts.

Caravan Parks

If you stay in a caravan park for more than three months, make sure you get a tenancy agreement as required by the Residential Parks (Long Stay Tenants) Act (2006).

According to the Residential Parks Act, if your stay is for less than three months it can be classified as holiday accommodation rather than as a tenancy. This means that you do not have any rights as a tenant.

For more information, see Boarders and Lodgers. This chapter also covers your legal status if you choose to live in a hostel, homestay or boarding house situation.

What to look for – Tenant Beware !

There are a number of things to look out for so as to avoid running into problems later. Things to check before applying for the tenancy include:

  • Is the property close to amenities such as shops, schools and public transport?
  • Is the property clean?
  • Does everything provided work, especially things like fridges, washing machines and stoves?
  • Is the property free of mice, cockroaches and fleas? (Check in drawers and cupboards for any signs.)
  • Are there power points in all the rooms?
  • Are there any gaps around doors or windows which would let in the cold, dirt or rain?
  • Is any mould appearing on walls or doors?
  • Can the doors and windows be closed and locked?
  • Do the taps (inside and outside) leak?
  • Does the hot water in the shower work if you have any other tap turned on?
  • What sort of heating/cooling is provided? Does it work?
  • Is the guttering free from leaves?
  • Is the property fenced?
  • Is there parking space for you and your visitors?
  • Who is responsible for maintaining the garden? Who pays for fertiliser, hoses, the lawn mowing? Who does the pruning and clears the guttering?
  • If there is a pool, who is responsible for cleaning, chemicals, repairs, etc?
  • If you are in a unit or a strata titled property are you liable for any communal and additional fixed charges, for example, common area lighting and power?
  • Ask if the previous tenants had pets, and if so was the property fumigated? Ask for evidence, eg: receipts.
  • Do you have to pay for a phone line, even if you do not necessarily want one?

Do not let an owner/agent pressure you into renting a place that you are not sure about.

Look out for hidden costs

Owners/agents sometimes arrange the electricity and gas accounts on behalf of the tenant. This is sometimes referred to as a utilities service charge.

This charge can also include other utilities such as the telephone, water, lawn mowing costs and common area maintenance.

A utilities service charge can sometimes result in the owner/agent charging more for the utilities than when accounts are paid directly by the tenant.

Inspecting the property

If you want to look inside the house or flat, usually you can arrange to turn up at the place at the same time the owner/agent is there.

For other times, you will probably need to pick up a key from the agent’s office. You may be asked to pay a key deposit– MAKE SURE YOU GET A RECEIPT. You must get the money back when you return the key.

Applying for a tenancy

When you are starting a tenancy you will usually have to apply for the property by filling out a Tenancy Application form. The owner/agent will decide if they accept your application.

If you are accepted you will need to decide whether or not you want to take up the tenancy. However, depending on the clauses in the application form you filled in, you may have already committed yourself to the tenancy!

A tenancy agreement may be either a written or verbal agreement. See The Application for Tenancy and The Tenancy Agreement for more information.

If you can’t find what you want, try to arrange housing on a short term agreement until you find something better. Be careful though of entering into more than one tenancy agreement at a time, as you may end up having to pay two lots of rent!

Get it fixed before moving in

If there are problem areas, ask the owner/agent if they intend getting any work done to fix it. Make sure you write the things you want fixed on the Application for Tenancy.

If they still haven’t been fixed by the time you fill out the tenancy agreement, you can make it a requirement of your agreement that the owner/agent fix certain things.

It is also a good idea to specify a deadline for completing work. See Maintenance and Repairs for more information.

How much rent can you afford?

On average, expect to pay no more than 25% – 30% of your income on rent. Otherwise, you could find yourself under financial stress.

The cost of housing can vary depending on type and area. Be sure you are not paying too much by comparing the rent of the place you are looking at with others in the area.

If you are not sure whether the advertised rent is reasonable, you can check out the average rent by suburb on the REIWA (Real Estate Institute of WA) website: www.reiwa.com.au.

It may also be worth trying to negotiate down the rental price ‐ owner/agents may be anxious to find tenants if the place has been empty for a while.

DISCLAIMER: While making every attempt to present general legal information accurately in this publication, Tenants Advice Service claims no liability for any loss or damage arising from its use. This publication should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other professional advice.