Talent accommodation: What should you do if rental history isn’t good?


The Australian rental market has never been more competitive, with the national vacancy rate recently reaching a record low. As a result, most inspections are now attracting dozens of attendees and most properties are receiving multiple applications. This is making the already difficult task of finding a rental property to call home, much harder.

In fact, even perfect applicants with ample savings and flawless rental histories, aren’t guaranteed to be accepted. If a property receives several strong applications, the Property Manager and landlord have to split hairs to choose the best one. This means that securing a property could come down to as little as getting your application in first – or even just pure luck.

So… what do you do if your rental history has a few black spots? Usually, this would be enough to put off a Property Manager and take you out of the running. However, most issues can be overcome and there are a few easy ways to make sure your application is considered.

What’s wrong with your rental history?

When reviewing rental applications, the main red flags Property Managers look for are:

No rental history: Many landlords consider first time renters a risk, particularly if they have just moved out of their parent’s house. They worry that they will be unreliable and won’t understand their obligations under the lease agreement. Some also feel that first-time renters may not know how to, or will be unwilling to, properly maintain a property.
A history of arrears: Your ability to pay your rent in full and on time will be a key concern for both property managers and landlords. If you have failed to do this previously, this will be recorded on your rental ledger. If you’ve occasionally been a day or two late, that should be OK, but having consistently been more than a week in arrears could cause issues.
A history of causing damage to properties: A rental property is a major investment for a landlord, and they want to know it will be looked after. As such, your previous Property Managers will be asked how well you looked after your previous rentals. If they report needing to do major repairs, or serious issues with cleanliness, your application will likely be knocked back.
A history of objectionable behaviour: While the exact details vary from location to location, each jurisdiction has rules governing appropriate renter behaviour. For example, in most places, abusing your Property Manager or neighbours, conducting illegal activities, and subletting, are all grounds for eviction. These activities may also lead to blacklisting, which severely limits your ability to secure a rental property in the future.

How do you overcome rental history issues?

If any of the above applies to you, any new rental applications you submit are likely to end unsuccessfully. But don’t despair – there are a few things you can do to compensate for weaknesses in your rental history. This includes:

Include a co-signer or guarantor: Getting someone else to sign the lease with you could give the Property Manager and landlord extra peace of mind. This person will be treated like a tenant and held responsible for the lease terms (including rent payments) being fulfilled. As such, this approach is particularly effective for younger, first-time renters and those on lower incomes.
Include a cover letter: A cover letter gives you the chance to outline the circumstances that led to your previous rental issues. For example, if damage or arrears were caused by a previous partner, you can explain this in a cover letter. Most Property Managers will then take this into consideration when assessing applications and presenting them to the landlord.
Provide evidence of your savings: If you have significant savings, showing the Property Manager and landlord this balance will help confirm your ability to pay the rent. This is particularly useful if you’ve previously had issues with paying on time and were consistently in arrears. It’s also worth doing if you’re not receiving an income at the time of submitting your application.
Offer to pay several months upfront: Building on the previous point, offering to pre-pay 3 – 6 months’ rent can also help offset concerns about your finances. It may also make your application more attractive to your landlord, as it means more money in their pocket, sooner.


As Principal of Your Home Hunter – Australia’s premier renters advocacy service – Wendy Eva-Scott works with time poor professionals to find the right rental property. As the first point of call for property managers looking for quality tenants, she takes the stress out of securing a rental by managing the entire process – from working through the wish list to securing the lease and following up after the move in date.

So, if you or someone you know needs help with your rental search, give Wendy a call.

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