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How to secure a rental while receiving welfare payments

By George Hadgelias

Securing a rental property while receiving government welfare payments can be tricky, but it’s not impossible.

Tenants Victoria spokesperson Devon LaSalle says the biggest issue is finding an affordable rental property to apply for in the first place.

Not only are affordable properties increasingly rare but many welfare payments don’t provide enough for recipients to live on.

“The average single person on Newstart receives about $270 per week, yet the median weekly rent in Victoria is $325. How is this amount meant to cover housing, food, clothing and other essentials?” LaSalle asks.

“Not surprisingly, the majority of people in the private rental market who receive government benefits are experiencing housing stress; that is, paying in excess of 30% of their household income toward rent.”

Despite this, LaSalle says it’s “definitely possible” to secure a rental while receiving welfare payments, but it can be difficult. She shares her tips on how to do it.

Shop around

“If you’re looking for more affordable accommodation, you might have to look in other suburbs or areas,” LaSalle says.

Generally speaking, housing becomes cheaper the further away from the CBD it is, she adds.

“Going through multiple listing websites will give you the broadest picture of what is available. It may also be easier to deal directly with landlords, as agents are often under pressure to only present the tenant who offers the least amount of risk, whereas individual landlords may be more accommodating.”

Put your best foot forward

“It’s always a great idea to approach house hunting as you would a job interview,” LaSalle says.

“Ultimately, landlords and agents are trying to identify the tenant who poses the smallest possible risk. Just like you would for a job interview, it definitely helps to look your best during home inspections,” she says.

For tenants receiving welfare payments, submitting a letter to the landlord or agent, outlining why they would be a good tenant and submitting positive written references from previous landlords, along with the rental application, can be a good idea.

“It’s easy to think that income is the only thing that matters, but a person’s income is not necessarily the deciding factor. It’s not uncommon for a tenant receiving government benefits, who can prove a glowing rental history, to be selected over a tenant on a higher income with a sketchy history,” LaSalle says.

Be honest

If something went wrong in a previous rental property, LaSalle recommends being upfront about it.

“Would you rather be the one to tell a prospective landlord or agent about an issue and why it won’t be an issue for them in the future, or have it come from the person you had the issue with?” she says.

“People ultimately appreciate honesty and understand when things happen, particularly when it was beyond the tenants’ control.”

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