News: Renting househunters forced to jump through extra hoops in Sydney’s tight rental market

Published in SMH Domain, 23 October 2016

When Ankita Mohan decided to move from Wollongong and closer to her work in Sydney, she thought it would be a simple process to get a rental property. It wasn’t.

She applied for several apartments, with a friend, in Lane Cove and Ryde – each rented out at $400 to $500 a week, which she said was manageable on their joint $3300 a fortnight income. They were both under 20 and looking for their first rental home.

But instead of just filling out the usual application form to prove she had a secure job and a steady stream of income, she claims several property managers demanded proof of extra finances. 

Although it is common to ask for a bank statement, Ankita and her friend were asked to prove they had at least $10,000 in savings each – the equivalent of a year’s worth of rent. She claims the property managers said this was because their combined incomes were not high enough.

“We finally gave up as no one was [accepting] our application,” Ms Mohan said.​ She has continued to rent in Wollongong, while attempting to save up to prove to the property managers she can afford to rent.

While tenants are given certain rights once they’ve signed a rental agreement, a lack of regulation around what landlords can demand of househunters during the application process is leaving them vulnerable, especially in a competitive Sydney market.

Tenants Union of NSW policy officer Ned Cutcher said there was an imbalance of bargaining power between tenants and landlords, and examples of onerous requirements for renters “crop up all the time”.

“The recurring themes are just the sheer magnitude of information that is required when applying for a tenancy and the often invasive nature of it,” Mr Cutcher said.

The only time a prospective tenant’s savings might become relevant is if their income is not sufficient to cover the rent, he said.

“In such cases, it would be up to the tenant to demonstrate how they propose to meet their commitments. Anyone who is asked by a landlord or real estate agent to disclose such information should be very wary.”

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