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8 tips for a winning rental application

Carly Jacobs

Carly Jacobs

Depending on where you live and what your budget is, the rental market in Australia can be an unforgiving place. 

If you show up to a rental inspection with fifty other people, you can’t afford to be cavalier about your application. In such a competitive environment, having your bond, first month’s rent and a list of perfect references isn’t enough.

You need to present yourself as the ideal tenant – a maintainer of appliances, cleaner of skirting boards and arch-nemesis of mould.

share house friends celebrate

Follow our tips and you and your housemates will be celebrating your housewarming in no time. Picture: Simon Maage / Unsplash

Here are eight ways on how to win a rental application.

Make sure you have all the correct documentation

The real estate agent should provide you with a list of documents that you need to bring but it can’t hurt to be over-prepared. In most instances, you’ll need: references; the completed application form; pet references if applicable; pay slips or proof of employment; photo ID and a cover letter.

Make sure you have all of these documents copied and ready to submit to the agent, because they aren’t going to wait around while you duck to the newsagent to make a photocopy of your passport.

Have everything copied, certified if necessary, and organised into a folder that you can hand to the real estate agent on the day.

Photo identification

Photo identification is an important part of the legal requirement to prove your identity. To apply for a property you’ll need to provide 100 points of ID, so have these items ready to provide copies of when asked.

Photo identification documents, also called primary forms of ID, can include:

  • Drivers licence
  • Passport
  • Keypass or other official proof of age card

Secondary forms of ID can include:

  • Birth certificate
  • Medicare card
  • ATM card
  • Student ID card
  • Vehicle registration
  • Health care card
  • Bank statement
  • Utility bill (with current address)
  • Signed lease
  • Payslip
  • Employment letter or reference

Pay slips

Having a reliable income will impress landlords and allay fears over missed payments.

Include some recent pay slips in your application to show you are not only employed, but can comfortably afford the property you are applying for.

These are especially important if you have never rented before, as they demonstrate you are less likely to default on your rent in the future.

Woman filling out paperwork while drinking coffee

Have all your documents sorted before you apply for your rental. Picture: Kate Hunter

Cover letter

First impressions matter and attaching a cover letter to your application could be the added detail that puts you ahead of the competition.

This document should be formal but let some of your personality shine through.

List all the people who will be living at the property, detailing who you are and why you are the best candidates.

Rental history

Knowing you have a good rental history is one of the most important factors for property managers and landlords.

Providing a rental ledger proves you pay your rent on time, while references from previous properties will help agents assess quickly whether you are a suitable tenant.

The stronger picture you can provide of your rental history, the more likely you are to be chosen.

So, find out your history in advance and clear up any nasty surprises or rental discrepancies before applying, to improve your chances.

Reference letters

Any evidence from past landlords or an employer saying you are trustworthy is gold on a rental application.

Character references do not have to be long, but ensure they are positive, relevant and come from credible sources.

Be prepared: How to survive a rental inspection.

2. Save time and apply online

We barely use snail mail for anything anymore, so why should rental applications be any different?

Forget printing, scanning, photocopying, stamping and walking to the postbox – you can fill in an online application using 1form instead.

The best bit? Once you’ve filled in your details, you can use that same form to apply for as many properties as you like – halving the amount of time you spend on each individual application.

The online platform includes a paid feature that allows you to verify your identity and prove to prospective landlords that you’ve never been listed on a tenancy blacklist, too.


Submitting rental applications has never been easier, but the competition is tough. Picture: Getty

3. Get your housemates into gear

Your housemates don’t have to attend the property inspection (although this is preferable), but you need to get their full and completed application and references.

If you have a complete set of documentation for all members of the household, your application has a better chance of being top of the pile, as agents will be unlikely to waste their time chasing people for important information.

Apply online straight after the inspection and you bypass the pile altogether; your information won’t get lost, nor cast aside.

Only submit the necessary documents. It’s fine to have additional documents you think you might need on hand, but only submit what the agent asks for.

Need a roommate? Find your perfect match on Flatmates.com.au

4. Be on time to inspections

Punctuality is common courtesy. Holding an open house is quite stressful and usually agents work alone in circumstances like this, which means they’re very busy on the day.

If you’re ready and waiting when they arrive, they might remember these good manners when the time comes to choose a tenant.

Get ready: Prepare for a rental inspection 


Make sure you organise your housemates when applying for rentals. Picture: Katy Griffin

5. Be presentable at the inspection

You don’t have to wear a suit, but it’s important to look presentable; it shows you’re keen to secure the property and that you’re taking the application process seriously.

Looking like you mean business gives off an impression of responsibility, which is nothing less than stardust in the eyes of cautious landlords.

6. Be reasonable and pleasant on the day of the inspection

Be pleasant – not pushy – to get in the agent’s good books.

If you’re the only people applying to live in the property, this could give you a little extra leeway to ask for property repairs, or a reduction in rent. However, if you’re up against another dozen people, you won’t be in a position to make demands.

Charm them: 7 ways to win over a potential landlord

7. Follow up

If you’ve submitted an application and you haven’t heard anything 48 hours later, send a follow up to the agent.

Let them know you’re very interested in the property and that you’re happy to provide any additional information or references they might need.

They may well be deciding between you and one other candidate, and if they receive a pleasant message from you, that might be enough to swing the contest in your favour.

Be smart: 7 questions to ask before signing a lease

This article was originally published on 3 Aug 2019 at 9:00am but has been regularly updated to keep the information current.

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