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Getting started as a first-time landlord

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If you’re the brand-new owner of a rental property, or you’re looking to become a landlord for the very first time, you’re in the right place! 

Being a landlord isn’t just a case of placing a tenant in your investment home and enjoying the benefits of “someone else paying off your mortgage”. For a great rental return and stress-free tenancy in the long term, you will need to:

  • Educate yourself on the laws associated with owning a rental property
  • Cover yourself with the right kind of insurance
  • Market your rental effectively to attract the right tenants, and
  • Organise your paperwork to avoid an administration disaster at tax time. 

The following four important areas of real estate are a fabulous foundation for your journey towards becoming a landlord for the first time, so let’s dive right in! 


Understanding tenancy laws in your state 

Firstly, let’s get our heads around your rights and responsibilities as a landlord. 

I urge all new landlords to read cover-to-cover the Residential Tenancy Act in the state or territory their property is based. The state-specific residential tenancy acts are designed to protect both the landlord and the tenant under residential tenancy agreements, so be sure to keep these clauses in mind as you enter into any tenancy agreement here on in. 

Each state or territory has it’s own government body responsible for the administration of its Residential Tenancy Act. Here in NSW, we refer to the NSW Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal, but below is a more comprehensive list for our growing community of clients around Australia:

  • ACT Residential Tenancies Tribunal
  • Northern Territory Consumer and Business Affairs and Northern Territory Department of Justice
  • Queensland Residential Tenancies Authority
  • South Australia Residential Tenancies Tribunal
  • Tasmania Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading and the Residential Tenancies Commissioner
  • Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal
  • Western Australia Department of Consumer and Employment Protection and a Magistrates Court

In many Australian states and territories, the acts specify a standard form of the rental agreement, including the landlord and tenant’s minimum rights and responsibilities with regards to rent payment, rent arrears, and rent increases. 

The acts will also cover rental agreement terms and the correct procedures, a landlord’s access to the premises, security bond, additions to the premises and privacy and security guidelines.

Many landlords choose to engage the help of a property manager such as a real estate agency as they will often have a deeper understanding of the tenancy laws in their state, and ensure the landlord and tenant are in accordance with the regulations. 


Cover yourself with landlord insurance

Let’s get one thing straight. Building insurance will not cover the damage or loss of rent during a tenancy, should things go pear-shaped with your existing tenant. 

A landlord insurance policy on the other hand will cover events such as malicious and accidental damage, rent default, loss of rental income and the property being left uninhabitable due to natural events including floods and bushfires.

It is important to shop around when it comes to landlord insurance, as policies and coverage terms differ between providers. Always check the product disclosure statement along with the terms and conditions so that you know exactly what is covered in each policy.

The team at Kitty & Miles have vetted the best of the best by way of landlord insurance providers. Contact us if you need a recommendation as we’re here to assist you.


Market your property with gusto

Reduce long and costly vacancy periods with a good marketing plan that puts your rental property in front of not just all prospective tenants, but the right type of tenants.

You want to make your property highly visible to tenants with an excellent rental history, and those who are happy to pay a little more for quality. That’s why I strongly encourage landlords to invest in a professional real estate photographer who will be able to bring the property to life with high-resolution photos that highlight the rental in its best light. 

When it comes time to actually sharing your property online, you may also consider investing in a good advertising package on the most popular real estate portals to give yourself the best chance of renting out your property pronto. 

While you might be thinking “but marketing costs a lot of money, Kitty”, you should keep in mind that the cost of marketing your rental property is a tax deduction. And that’s one tax break you don’t want to miss out on! 


Keep an organised paper trail 

Now, managing a rental property is, for the most part fairly cruisy if you maintain your integrity as a landlord and adhere to the Residential Tenancy Act. However, legal issues can arise, so it is imperative you hold onto receipts and communication records to back yourself up if or when this occurs. 

And then there’s tax time. Keeping your receipts and paperwork in logical order means your accountant (and I encourage you to use one) will have all the documentation they need to verify which tax breaks you’re eligible for, and ensure you aren’t overpaying tax as an individual and landlord. 

If you’re unsure what paperwork to keep, don’t risk throwing out or misplacing anything related to your property. Keep it all in a folder and solicit assistance a bookkeeper to manage your documents; this may include, deposit receipts, rent or maintenance receipts, and a record of all landlord-tenant communication. 

Digitise any handwritten paperwork as many accountants and bookkeepers work ‘in the cloud’ these days, so you’re not only helping them, you’ll also have easy access to these notes later on should you need them. 


Well guys, we’ve scraped the surface on what you need to keep in mind as a first-time landlord. Stay tuned for more in-depth tips on how to manage your rental property without the stress, and tips on how to ensure a great return! 

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