Accommodation & Homestay

It is important that you find a comfortable place for you to live which is close to NSW International English and to your place of work if you have a part-time job.

Accommodation can be quite expensive in the Sydney area. The good news is the further you go out of the city, the cost of accommodation decreases. This will be an important consideration for you when calculating your budget for your stay in Australia.

Many students, especially if they are travelling together, prefer to organise their own accommodation. Sharing accommodation is of course less expensive that renting accommodation such as an apartment on your own.

Most students want to live within walking distance of the campus but this is not always possible and is usually determined by availability and cost. Often it is more convenient and more cost-effective to live further from the campus but closer to shops and public transport.

Where should you look for accommodation?

The following is a list of places where you can go to find advertisements for accommodation:

  • Student noticeboards around campus
  • Newspaper classifieds and community newspapers
  • Real Estate Agent windows & website (Professional, LJ Hooker, Raine & Horne Parramatta, McGrath, Ray White)
  • Local Shopping Centre noticeboards

TYPES OF ACCOMMODATION

Homestay:

Homestay is a cultural exchange between a local individual or family (called a “Homestay Host”) and a visiting International Student who comes to live as a guest in their home while they are studying in Australia. The Homestay experience helps the student understand the culture and customs of the region in which they are studying.

During a Homestay, the Host provides the Student with all their basic needs, including their own room, food and space to study. In return, the Student pays a weekly fee, called a “Homestay fee”. Over the period of their time together the Host assists the Student to become familiar with the local area and customs in a relaxed and friendly household setting. The Student is also encouraged to share with the Host information about their home country and culture. This interaction is what makes Homestay ideal for someone looking for a unique cultural experience.

Homestay is very popular in Australia because of the large number of International Students who come to study at Australian schools, universities and language institutes. NSW English seeks homestay service for our students through the Australian Homestay Network which provides national standards for Homestay, designed to improve the process for everyone involved while ensuring both Students and their Homestay Hosts get the most out of their time together.

If you are interested in Homestay accommodation NSW International English can organise it on your behalf before your arrival in Australia. Simply complete the ‘Homestay & Special requirements’ section of the ELICOS Student Enrolment Form and we will request homestay accommodation on your behalf from our Homestay provider partner.

Student Housing

There are is a variety of student housing services in Sydney. Visit:

www.studyconnect.com

www.urbanest.com.au/locations/sydney

http://www.iglu.com.au/

You can view a wide range of accommodation and properties which are available for temporary accommodation, short term, or long term rental.

Rentals

Renting a house or flat is usually done through real estate agents that act on behalf of landlords or you can rent directly from a private landlord. Rental properties are advertised in newspapers especially on Wednesdays and Saturdays in the “To let”and “Accommodation vacant” sections. You can also go to real estate agent offices and ask to see their list of vacant rental properties.

In Australia, it is preferable to have a written agreement between a tenant and a landlord so any terms and conditions can be more easily identified. A ‘lease’ or a ‘residential tenancy agreement’ is a written contract made between a tenant and a landlord and will usually be for a fixed period of 6 or 12 months, however, you are entitled to negotiate the time period of the lease with a landlord or their agent before you sign. You may be able to renew a lease at the end of a fixed term period.

There can be costs involved if you break a lease before the end of the agreed period, so do not commit yourself to a lease that is longer than you are able to stay. Do not sign a lease unless you have inspected the property and fully understand the terms and conditions in the document, as it becomes legally binding after you sign it.

Some things to keep in mind when renting

Security Deposits/Bond

The owner or agent of an owner who has the right to rent you a property is called the landlord.  A landlord will ask you for money before you move into an apartment. This is called a security deposit or bond, and may amount to more than AUD$1,000 dollars. The bond is usually set at four weeks’ rent.  A bond/security deposit is an amount of money that is supposed to guarantee that the tenant will care for the dwelling. If the tenant does not care for the property or clean it before leaving, the landlord has a legal right to keep the security deposit. Otherwise, the landlord must return the security deposit within a month after the tenant leaves.

Bond Amount

Charging a rental bond is not mandatory, however the maximum rental bond that can be asked for is:

  • four weeks rent, for unfurnished premises
  • six weeks rent, for fully furnished premises with a rent of $250 or less per week
  • unlimited, if the rent for fully furnished premises is more than $250 per week.

The amount of bond that is to be paid (if any) must be written on the agreement.

Demanding or receiving a written guarantee from a tenant, or somebody on their behalf, is not permitted. A rental bond must be in the form of money and not as a guarantee.

Lodging a rental bond

The landlord or agent must send any bond paid to NSW Fair Trading, within 7 days. A lodgement form is needed to do this and can be obtained from any Fair Trading Centre or by calling 13 32 20. Lodgement forms cannot be downloaded from this website as they have a unique barcode.

Bonds can be lodged by posting the Lodgement Form along with a cheque/money order for the bond amount to Renting Services, Locked Bag 19 Darlinghurst, 1300. Bonds can also be lodged in person at any Fair Trading Centre during office hours, 8:30am – 5:00pm Monday to Friday.

After the bond is lodged, all parties should receive an advice of lodgement that includes the unique rental bond number. If the advice is not received, the tenant should contact Fair Trading to confirm that the bond had been lodged. It is an offence for a landlord/agent to request a rental bond from their tenant and then not lodge it with Fair Trading.

During the tenancy, the bond is held by the Rental Bond Board and accumulates interest. The Rental Bond Board is the independent custodian of rental bonds paid by tenants to landlords for residential tenancies. NSW Fair Trading administers the day to day functions of the Board, providing rental bond lodgement, custody, refund and information services.

Claiming the bond back

At the end of the tenancy, after the final inspection, a Claim for Refund of Bond Money form must be submitted to Fair Trading before the bond money can be refunded. You should not sign the form if it is blank or incomplete. The landlord or agent may want to claim some or all of the bond for themselves if they believe you have damaged the premises, breached your agreement or owe rent.

Any disagreement over how the bond is to be refunded should first be discussed between the parties.  If agreement cannot be reached, either party may send a Claim for refund of bond money  form to NSW Fair Trading without the signature of the other party. The bond will not be paid out straight away. A letter will be sent to the other party advising them of the claim and giving them 14 days to apply to the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal to dispute the claim. If no reply is received within 14 days the bond will then be paid out. Tell Fair Trading your new address so we can advise you if the landlord claims your bond.

No matter who applies to the Tribunal, it is always up to the landlord to prove any claim on the bond.

If you have any questions about rental bonds, or the progress of your bond refund, call Fair Trading on 13 32 20.

Signing a Lease

In most cases, the landlord will require the tenant to sign a lease. A lease is a written agreement between a tenant and a landlord that describes the responsibilities of each party. This is a binding legal document that commits the student to a specific period of residency in the unit.

Inspection of Property

Most landlords will inspect the property with you on commencement of your tenancy.  This is done with a list of furniture and fittings in each room of the property so that the two of you can agree on the condition of the property at the commencement of the tenancy.  You should note on this document anything you notice during the inspection that is not already listed, and keep a copy that has been signed by both of you.  Once you are the tenant, the condition of these things will be your responsibility.  This will be done again at the end of your tenancy and the final condition of the property may determine the return of your full security deposit.

If this inspection is not suggested, you might suggest it yourself as a means of ensuring fair treatment for all parties involved.  Below is a sample of Property Inspection Checklist:

Student Property Inspection Checklist

Agent: 
Agent Phone Number: 
Property Address: 
Rent:$
Property Location
Is the property close to transport, shops and campus?
Is the area noisy? Is the property on a busy road?
Property Features
Do the oven and stove operate correctly?
Do the toilet and shower operate correctly?
Are there laundry facilities?
Do the light fittings work?
Are there enough electrical power points to plug in your electrical appliances without overloading electrical power boards.
Is there a telephone line already connected?
Is the place furnished? What kind of furniture?
Is there good security?
Where locks are fitted on doors, can they be opened from the inside without a key?
Do front and back doors open easily from the inside to allow escape in case of fire?
Is a Smoke alarm fitted outside your bedroom?(by law smoke alarms must be fitted and maintained)
If you are living in campus accommodation or a rooming house, are there smoke alarms in your room?
Test the smoke alarm by pressing the test button. Did the smoke alarm operate correctly?
Is there damp or mould on the walls?
Is there painting required?
Is there an insect / pest problem?
Will the landlord carry out any repairs before you move in?
Comments

Utilities

Unless someone is already living in the dwelling, the new tenant must start utility services, such as telephone, electricity, and gas.  This requires contacting each individual company and arranging for the services to be connected from a specified date.  The companies providing these utilities also require a small security deposit.  In some cities instead of making numerous calls to different companies, there may be a utility provider company.  If someone has vacated the property before you, contacting these utility companies for connection of services will ensure all previous accounts have been finalised and paid for by the previous tenant.

Utility One’ will help you by arranging your Phone, Electricity, Gas, Internet and Pay TV – at no cost.  For more information visit:  www.utilityone.com.au or phone 13 18 19. You can get the process started straight away by clicking the ‘Connect me NOW’ icon on their homepage.

Restrictions

The lease may contain restrictions, such as not permitting animals or children in the dwelling. Ask the landlord about his/her particular requirements. Make sure that you know and understand these restrictions before signing the lease.  If you do not obey the restrictions on the lease, the landlord can ask you to leave.

Choosing a Roommate

The task of choosing a roommate needs to be taken very seriously. The person or persons with whom you decide to live can affect the quality and productiveness of your international student experience in Australia. When the moment comes for you to make your decision concerning roommates, remember these tips: don’t panic, take your time, and don’t compromise on important principles.

Bills & Expenses:

Do you and your roommates expect to share the costs of buying toilet paper, washing powder for clothes and dishes, cleaning supplies etc. which is used by everyone?

If you are answering an advertisement for a roommate; what does the rental price cover? Does it include utilities, or are they split equally when the accounts are due?  Who will pay them and how will you all know they have been paid?

A small notebook which is signed by everyone who hands over their share of the costs and signed by the person the money is given to, is a good idea.

Food:

Do you and your roommates expect to share the costs of buying food and share in the preparation?

Do you have specific food needs (allergies, preparation needs)?

If your needs are for halal and your roommates are not, can you agree on respecting and upholding each other’s needs?

Cleaning:

Who will clean what? How often?

Decide exactly what “clean and tidy” means to you.

Will you hire a cleaning company to keep things under control?

Personal Habits & Individual Needs:

How much privacy do you need?

What hours do you usually sleep? Study? Relax? Socialise? Shower? Wash clothing?

Smoking & Drugs:

Do you prefer to have a smoker or non-smoker as a roommate?

Is a smoker alright as long as they smoke outside the residence?

(Many rental agreements will forbid smoking inside the premises)

Clarify your stance on the use of alcohol and/or illicit substances.

Music & Television:

What are your musical likes and dislikes?

Do you watch TV everyday or just once in a while?

Do you like to study with or without music/TV?

Personality Traits & Communication:

How do you perceive yourself?

How do others perceive you?

Do you enjoy being around a lot of people – or just a few friends?

Are you more comfortable by yourself?

What about overnight visitors?

When conflicts arise, how do you go about resolving them?

How do you behave when you’re happy – angry? What are the things that bother you most?

Please keep in mind that not everyone can be trusted! Follow your instincts and do not room with someone you do not trust.

Housekeeping

Some international students who come to Australia have never had the need to do their own shopping, cooking, and housecleaning. If these activities are new to you, you will need to understand that in Australia unless you choose to hire someone from a home services company to do some of these things for you; these are the responsibility of each individual and are a sign of personal independence and becoming an adult.

Most Australians, especially landlords and rental agencies, believe it is very important for one’s living environment to be kept clean. Our concern for cleanliness is evident when you visit the supermarket, where many varieties of cleaning products are sold.

Kitchen Stoves & Ovens

Kitchen stoves may be either electric or gas. It is important to keep the burners and oven of an electric range clean so that they may operate safely and efficiently. Tenants should clean electric stove burners after each use to prevent food from hardening on them. The electric oven should also be cleaned periodically with an oven-cleaning product unless it is a “self-cleaning” oven, for which you should follow directions carefully.

Refrigerators

Refrigerators should be defrosted periodically, when ice or frost in or around the freezing unit becomes evident. To defrost a refrigerator, one should turn it off, empty it, and allow the water from the melting frost to drip into a pan or the tray beneath the freezer. This may take overnight, but can be done more rapidly if one puts a pan of hot water in the freezer. When the ice has melted, one should empty the tray of water into the sink. It is not a good idea to use sharp instruments to chip off the ice as they may damage the freezer and your eyes. A solution of baking soda and water can be used to clean the inside of the refrigerator. Some refrigerators automatically defrost themselves. The cooling grills on the back of a refrigerator should be vacuumed periodically to remove dust build-up, to enable the unit to refrigerate more efficiently. A refrigerator that does not work efficiently will cost you more on your electric utility bill.

Disposal of Rubbish

Because insects such as ants and flies can be a problem, it is important for tenants to empty their rubbish every one to two days into the wheelie bins provided outside your accommodation. You will then put the wheelie bin/s out on the footpath once a week to be collected by council rubbish trucks. The landlord will inform the tenant about the way to dispose of garbage particularly with regards to recycling and the days your rubbish is collected.

Cleaning Kitchens

Grease and oil from cooking collects on cabinet and refrigerator tops and walls, especially if occupants fry foods often. These areas should be cleaned often in order to avoid unpleasant odours and fire hazards.

Cleaning the Bathroom

Sinks, showers, and tubs may be cleaned with bathroom cleaning products from the supermarket. If a sink does not drain properly, ask the landlord or manager to look at it. Toilet bowls should be cleaned with a special toilet cleaning solution. A plunger may also be used for toilets that do not flush properly. Do not put any items or paper other than toilet paper in the toilet as this may block the pipes. If it is obvious that misuse of the unit has caused the need for repair, the landlord will charge you for the cost of repair or cleaning.

Cleaning Floors

Different types of floors will require different kinds of care. A landlord can recommend the way he/she prefers to have the floors cleaned. In apartments, the managers often maintain vacuum cleaners for tenant use. You can also buy vacuum cleaners at department stores. Upon leaving a dwelling, the occupant is usually expected to have the carpet professionally cleaned. The landlord can inform the tenant about proper cleaning procedures.

Cleaning Products

Grocery stores and supermarkets stock many different products for cleaning. It is important to read labels carefully in order to understand proper uses and dangers of the products. (Warning: Keep all cleaning products out of reach of children and do not mix products!)

Maintenance & Fixtures & Fittings

You will be expected to replace light globes and keep fittings in your accommodation clean.   If repairs or maintenance are required for example; a blocked toilet, the landlord should be consulted at the time.  Generally, repairs will be the responsibility of the owner/landlord, unless caused by misuse of the item by the tenant or their visitors.

Smoke Alarms

Smoke alarms are devices that detect smoke and sound an alarm. Smoke alarms alert and wake people allowing valuable time to get out of a house during a fire. When you go to sleep, your sense of smell also goes to sleep. If there is a fire, toxic fumes may overcome you before you wake up. For your protection, a smoke alarm must be installed in your home.

ONLY WORKING SMOKE ALARMS SAVE LIVES!

‘Once a month you should check the battery by pressing the test button on the smoke alarm. If you cannot reach the button easily, use a broom handle to press the test button

  • Keep them clean. Dust and debris can interfere with their operation, so vacuum over and around your smoke alarm regularly
  • Replace the batteries yearly. Pick a public holiday or your birthday and replace the batteries each year on that day.
  • When the battery is low the smoke alarm will sound a short ‘BEEP’ every minute or so. This is to alert you the battery is low and needs replacing.
  • Smoke alarms must never be painted
  • If cooking and smoke sets off the alarm, do not disable it. Turn on the range fan, open a window or wave a towel near the alarm
  • Do not remove the batteries from your smoke alarm or cover your smoke alarm to prevent it from operating.

(Source: Metropolitan Fire Brigade, Melbourne)

Pest Control

You will only be responsible for pest control if you have caused an infestation, for example by keeping pets on the premises. If you do your own pest control or have professional pest control carried out it is important to keep receipts and a record of what you have done. If there is a dispute about pest control, this evidence can show that you have taken reasonable steps to reduce any pest control problem.  An important factor in this type of situation might be evidence as to why the vermin are there in the first place. Getting a pest-control person around for an obligation-free inspection might be helpful here. A leasor is much more likely to accept the cost of fumigation if he or she is convinced that the presence of the vermin is not a result of the tenant’s conduct.

Where Can I Get Help?

NSW

The Tenants Union of NSW

http://www.tenants.org.au/