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Rental application system ‘broken, convoluted’

By Orana Durney-Benson
09 April 2024 | 9 minute read
wendy eva scott your home hunter reb iluh53

The race to “streamline” rental applications has left the vast majority of Australian renters in the dust.

Wendy Eva-Scott, owner of renter’s advocacy service Your Home Hunter, recently excoriated Australia’s rental application process as a maze that is “almost impossible to navigate”.

In an article posted to LinkedIn, Eva-Scott noted that the online application process is made “unnecessarily difficult” by the lack of a single centralised online portal. Instead, most property managers use one of four systems: Ignite, 2Apply, Sorted and Snug.

“When they were first introduced, one of the big selling points of online applications was that they were supposed to be quicker and easier to use. However, because of the different systems and volume of data required, preparing and submitting a single application can take easily upwards of 2 hours,” said Eva-Scott.

In an era of record low affordability and undersupply – coupled with a severe cost-of-living crisis – securing a rental property is already a tall order. According to Eva-Scott, the proliferation of competing online systems has only further exacerbated this problem.

“In the push to ‘streamline’ application processing, the applicant experience has been forgotten somewhat,” Eva-Scott said.

She noted that the four online platforms are “primarily designed to make it easier for agencies to review applications – not for tenants to submit them”.

A survey conducted by Choice last year found that two in three renters are uncomfortable with the amount of information they need to provide when applying for a property, and according to Eva-Scott, “it’s easy to see why”.

She stated that most systems require applicants to submit multiple forms of ID; detailed evidence of income and financial history, including bank statements for the past 12 months; proof of employment history for up to five years; and up to five years of rental history.

“If a tenant is unable to provide all of this information, some systems will not allow them to proceed with submitting their application,” said Eva-Scott.

For those that include a box marked “I am unable to provide the required information”, Eva-Scott noted that ticking this box “creates a (quite literal) red flag for the person reviewing the application”.

Invasive data collection aside, many renters are also disadvantaged by a lack of transparency around unspoken requirements that property managers look for when scouring applications.

“I would say 90 per cent of applicants are unaware of the simple rule of thumb used when assessing their ability to afford a property [which] states that the rent should be no more than one-third of their net income,” said Eva-Scott.

Most property managers “will not even look at” applications that do not meet this threshold, but renters are unaware of this, leading many to waste time on “applications that are unlikely to be approved”.

“All of this means that the application process can be almost impossible to navigate if you do not neatly ‘fit the box’ of the ideal renter. And, because the requirements are so tightly defined, the majority of renters fall outside the ideal profile,” Eva-Scott concluded.

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