24 July 2023

Braving the rental market as a tenant or landlord? Watch out for privateers looking to take advantage

| Morgan Kenyon
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zango agent

Tenants and landlords alike are better off navigating the rental market with the help of an experienced agent. Photo: Zango.

It should come as no surprise that Canberra’s property market is more competitive than ever.

With one-third of Canberrans renting their homes, many tenants are left to consider private rental agreements rather than those attached to an agency.

But what can happen if you go it alone and things go wrong? First-time renter Isabelle Smith* shares her horror experience in the hope that others might avoid one of their own.

Isabelle moved to Canberra in early 2023 for work. It was her first time living away from her childhood home in regional NSW.

“I quickly realised finding a place to rent in Canberra was going to be expensive and that competition was tough,” she says.

“I eventually found a privately leased sharehouse and even though it was a long commute to work, I took it.

“I had no experience, so it was tricky to know what to watch out for or where I could get help when things started to go wrong.”

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Things quickly devolved from unprofessional nuisance to serious safety issue for the young housemates. Isabelle’s new landlords had no consideration for her or her housemates’ comfort or privacy.

“Our landlords would say different things to different housemates and had really poor communication. I think a lot of messages were lost in translation,” Isabelle says.

“I received texts late in the evening from multiple numbers, we had tradesmen coming unannounced for non-urgent repairs and potential tenants inspecting the house without any notice.

“I never knew who was going to come through the front door.”

Isabelle decided to leave the sharehouse before her lease was up. She now lives in her own apartment, which is managed by an existing agency with good reviews.

“Renting through an agency has definitely been more structured and professional,” she says.

“I was kept in the loop and advised about the renting process the whole time, rather than being expected to know everything.

“I don’t think I’ll get my bond back or any sort of reference from my previous landlords, but I’m glad to feel more secure now.”

It’s a sticky situation, and not just for renters.

This privately leased South Coast home was left riddled with damage, rubbish and animal faeces following neglect by nightmare tenants who, according to landlords, inspired a street party to celebrate their exit:

McIntyre Property’s head of property management, Amanda Gordon, says a tight market with aggressive competitors can lead to issues on both sides of the door key.

“There are some serious pitfalls when it comes to navigating the rental market without the help of a reliable agent,” Amanda says.

“When there are dozens of tenants competing for one property, the process becomes overwhelming for landlords as well.

“People who have been turned away by agents for previous bad behaviour target private landlords almost exclusively. These tenants promise the world but can cause all sorts of trouble once they’re in.”

READ ALSO Ouch! ACT homeowners feel the stress of another rate rise

If they want to evict a painful tenant, private landlords will need to jump through a number of legislative hoops.

“ACT legislation says you have to issue a certain number of warnings before evicting a tenant for failure to pay rent,” Amanda says.

“Many private landlords don’t realise this. By the time they come to us for help, they’re already weeks or even months out of pocket.

“An agent can verify references and rental capacity to turn undesirable tenants away before they ever step foot on the property.”

Amanda Gordon

Amanda Gordon is the head of property management at McIntyre Property. Photo: McIntyre Property.

McIntyre Property specialises in residential property. Trained in the Residential Tenancies Act specifically for the ACT, the team of agents is across legislation for both tenants and landlords in Canberra.

“The bottom line is this: it is worth your time to engage an agency if you’re looking to place yourself in the rental market in any capacity,” Amanda says.

“A reputable agency saves you time and money, minimises risk, and most importantly, takes a significant amount of stress off your shoulders.”

*Name has been changed for privacy reasons.

If you have an interest in the rental market as a tenant or landlord, consider navigating its challenges with the help of McIntyre Property.


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Incidental Tourist8:32 pm 25 Jul 23

Most agents can be compared to fast food. Many are young and overworked managing a lot of properties. Their top goal is to avoid errors (hence punishment form management). They usually go through motions “following process”. I recently saw a run down property also on a South coast which was “professionally managed” by one of the big agency names. That property was run down and flooded apparently by a disgruntled tenant. As a result the owner lost $$$ and the agent would not take responsibility for this loss. If the agent says they “followed process” – good luck proving they contributed to the loss! So representing that mismanaging only occurs by private landlords is plain wrong and misleading. There are other selling points for agents. Many landlords simply do not want to be involved in managing their properties and they are happy to pay to avoid tenants. This is similar to fast food – many turn to “professionally cooked” fast food knowing it is bad to their health but they say they do not have time for cooking. There is only a small number of landlords who are grossly incompetent to do what has been described above – like turn up unannounced, being completely unaware of the rental market or unable to read the tenant’s applications. Managing properties can be challenging at times but it not a rocket science. 99% of the time it is really win-win. Managing rules are simple enough and a lot of them are common sense, due diligence, and good communication skills – Google “The Renting book” which is a good start.

Ha! Having rented in Sydney and Canberra I can say I have come across one agent only who has been personable and fair and who has t tried to pull a swifty with the bond. Agents are invariably young, inexperienced, under paid and therefore turn over fast, making it a disorganised experience for tenants and owners.

We have a rental property next door to us, currently empty as they have over priced it, and likely something to do with the tax office rule of ‘being available for rent’ but oh no look, not rented…agent has been absent in the almost 20 years we have lived here and we ended up having to take previous tenants and the owner to court due to the nuisance they caused. Did the trick, but cost us thousands.

Nothing will convince me that rental agents are any better than private lessors. All must abide by the same rules, whether private or commercial – and being commercial in my experience makes not one iota of difference.

devils_advocate11:03 am 25 Jul 23

How is a private boarding agreement in any way comparable to a residential tenancies lease?

Anyway, private lessors who lease properties under the residential tenancies act are subject to those rules whether they like it or not, so the level of legal protection is the same whether you go through an agent or privately.

Also by renting privately, you can reduce the risk that your personal information will be breached by reason of having to submit it to a third party tenant application site.

In many ways I would say that dealing directly with the lessor carries less risk than with a real estate agent and is likely to be cheaper as they’re not paying the overhead of the agent’s commission.

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