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4 questions to ask before you sign the lease

By Rikki Cook

For a while now, the Australian real estate market has been growing towards being more renter friendly as home ownership becomes more unobtainable. The most recent Australian Census found that renting over owning was beginning to become more popular.

The data found that Australian home owners went from 32.1 per cent in 2011 to 31 per cent this last year. Renting on the other hand increased from 29.6 per cent to 30.9 per cent in the same time frame.

With the housing market being so hard to get into, many are opting for less permanent housing options. However, renting can be expensive in its own right – the median household weekly rent for the whole country increased from $285 to $335. That in mind, you don’t want to lock into a lease before you ensure it’s going to be the perfect place for you. This is especially true when you’re trying to find the perfect rental property.

1. What does the lease include?

Always make sure you get the detailed list of what the lease includes. Most of the time landlords are up front about extra utility costs like water, energy and cable/internet. Some places will include it, but others don’t, and these additional costs could put you over budget. For reference, utilities for one month can cost anywhere from $164 to $189 in the Gold Coast, but ask your landlord for a more specific estimation in the place you’re looking at.

2. What are the restrictions? 

Restrictions are dependent on the landlord, and if you sign the lease then you have to abide whether you like them or not. These could range from everything from ‘no candles allowed’ to ‘no pets on premise’ to ‘make sure every room has an area rug to protect floors.’ Of course, if you have a pet cat that you don’t want to have to get rid of, this is going to be an issue for you. Make sure you understand and agree with all the terms before you sign.

3. Can you personalise your property?

When you ask this, you’re simply asking if you can make small cosmetic changes like repaint rooms or hang extra shelving units in the kitchen. If you don’t inquire, and your landlord gets upset about the lime green paint in the bathroom, that means you won’t be getting your full security deposit back if you move out. Your landlord will be taking that back to fix any of the damages, whether you think they improved the value of the place or not.

4. Will you be selling soon?

Finally, make sure your landlord isn’t planning on selling the property soon. If they are, you will likely be stuck trying to find another place to rent pretty soon. They are obligated to tell you if they intend to sell, so it’s always worth asking.

These are four of the most important questions you should ask before you sign the lease. Be sure to also think about what you want in a property– what will make you most comfortable in your home? Whether that be good water pressure or plenty of storage space, you want to create a checklist of requirements before you pay the money and it’s too late.

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