A first time renters' guide to applying for a property

couple sitting on couch surrounded by packing boxes


Posted March 04, 2024

From understanding the costs involved, to rental agreements and condition reports, here are some important things to consider before you rent a property for the first time. 

Moving out of home and renting for the first time is an exciting prospect: your own place, your own styling, your own responsibilities. But there are a few things you need to know before signing your first lease agreement to ensure it’s all smooth sailing.

As well as working out rental costs, such as bond, first rent payment and moving expenses, it’s advisable to set up a budget for ongoing costs. This may include rent, bills, travel costs to work or university, and ideally renters insurance to protect your contents and belongings.

Here’s a guide on what to consider before applying for your first rental property. 

Essential information for first-time renters

Inspect the property first

If you find a rental property online that you’re interested in, it’s important to view it either by appointment, or when it’s open for inspection. This way, you’ll be able to see how well the property has been maintained, whether all the appliances are working, and if the size of the rooms, especially the bedrooms, meet your expectations.

Inspecting a property in person means you can meet the agent and ask them questions about the property, and gather any tips for making an impressive rental application.

Check the heating and cooling situation 

When you’re inspecting properties to rent, make sure you take note of whether the property has adequate heating and cooling. 

As of 29 March 2021, the main living room of the property must have a fixed heater that is in good working order. Portable heaters don’t fit this criteria. 

For rental agreements made after 29 March 2023, the heater must be energy efficient, and if it isn’t, it must be upgraded unless there are extenuating circumstances.  

If you’re looking at a double-storey townhouse or an apartment in a high-rise building, be aware that the heat from the lower floor can rise and make the top floors hotter. This means that the property may get extremely hot in summer, so check what cooling options are available.

Consider your specific circumstances

While you may fall in love with the aesthetic or location of a rental property, you’ll also need to think pragmatically about your situation. 

For example, consider any mobility or accessibility needs. If you have a pet that needs a lot of exercise, is an apartment without a balcony suitable? If you have a car, is there a designated parking spot? 

Also check appliances and features throughout the inspection. Where are the power points located? Is there air conditioning? How is the shower pressure? Is the stovetop adequate for your needs? Will your furniture fit in the zones provided?

Get a second opinion from someone you trust, such as a friend or family member, if you’re unsure if the property is right for you.


smiling woman sitting at kitchen table looking at a laptop

Make sure you understand all the associated costs of renting a property. Image: Getty


Get your documents ready for your application

When you apply to rent a property, there are documents you need to prove your identity, and to show that you can afford to pay the rent and can look after the premises.

The documents can include photo identification such as a driver's licence, passport, or healthcare card. For income details, you can provide payslips from your employer, or copies of your bank statements.

If you’re a first-time renter without a rental history, your references will be particularly important. Choose referees such as a boss or colleague, who are credible and can attest to your good character. Inform those referees that the rental agent or landlord may contact them before you submit your application.

Understand the costs associated with renting

Up front there will be the bond. This is a security deposit in case you or your co-renters damage the property. It is held by the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority, and is returned to you at the end of your lease, unless the rental provider makes a legitimate claim for damages or unpaid rent.

If you need assistance with the bond, you may be able to apply for a RentAssist bond loan through Housing Victoria.

Aside from your bond and weekly rent, ensure you understand the costs associated with a rental property. Consumer Affairs Victoria has in-depth information on rental agreements and renters’ rights.

Other costs may include bills for gas, electricity, water, and the internet. If there is a yard, you may need to investigate maintenance costs.

Professional cleaning may also be required if the property has not been cleaned prior to moving in, or if it doesn't meet your standards. 

Consider your insurance needs

Renters Insurance can cover a tenant’s contents and belongings against loss or damage from an insured even such as fire, storm, or theft. 

Content and belongings include items such as a home computers, appliances, clothing and furniture.

You can also customise your policy to cover optional extras, such as portable items cover for your mobile phone or jewellery.


Knowing some house-cleaning hacks will help you maintain your rental property.

You will need to sign an agreement

Once your application has been approved, you will need to sign a residential rental agreement, or lease, which is the legal contract between you and the rental provider. It’s designed to protect both of you. 

The agreement should include information about how much rent you need to pay each week or month, the length of the tenancy period, the amount of bond you need to pay, and details on what will happen if you break the lease or if you’re asked to leave before the rental agreement ends. 

There will be a condition report 

You will be provided with a property condition report when moving into the property. 

It notes the state of the property and its contents when you first move in, which acts as a benchmark when the lease starts.

It is a good idea to take photos of the property at the start of the rental agreement, particularly of any pre-existing damage, such as a scratch on a dishwasher or chipped paint in the bathroom. This report can be used as evidence if there is a dispute about bond claims, or who should pay for cleaning or fixing damages.

Take the time to read it closely before signing it.

Your rental will not come with a cleaner 

If you’ve been living under your parents’ roof, you may not be completely aware of how much cleaning is involved in keeping a home well maintained, and there may be things you forget to clean. 

Ongoing cleaning will be important, because your rental provider or their agent is entitled to inspect the property to make sure it’s kept in good condition. You will be expected to do more than just vacuuming and cleaning the bathroom, therefore knowing the best house-cleaning hacks may come in handy.  A solid spring clean is also worth doing to help maintain the property.  

If the property has a nature strip and/or gardens, it will also be your responsibility as the renter to maintain them.


dog on the carpet next to person at home

You will need to seek permission to house a pet in your rental property. Image: Getty


Regular house inspections are normal

As stated, regardless of whether the property is managed by an agent or directly by the landlord, they can conduct regular home inspections to check the condition of the property.

These are usually conducted every six months, and at least seven days’ notice must be provided to the renter before the inspection. 

You must get permission to have a pet

Renters must get permission to have a pet at a rental property. Renters should complete a Pet Request Form, give a copy to their rental provider, and keep a copy for their own records. The rental provider has 14 days to make a decision, and they must have a good reason to refuse a renter’s request.

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) deals with any issues that may arise.

Consumer Affairs Victoria has clear guidelines about pets in rental properties. 



The information provided is general advice only. Before making any decisions please consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations. For copies, visit racv.com.au. As distributor, RACV Insurance Services Pty Ltd AFS Licence No. 230039 receives commission for each policy sold or renewed. Product(s) issued by Insurance Manufacturers of Australia Pty Ltd ABN 93 004 208 084 AFS Licence No. 227678.