The risks of off-campus living can be considerably (and financially) high. Every year thousands of students flood into Australia hoping to find cheap accommodation. But a study conducted by The Australian Research Council (ARC) has revealed that international students may be putting their safety at risk to get the best deal.
Dr Helen Forbes-Mewett from Monash University is working on the study, ‘International Student Safety from Crime’, and has investigated student accommodation in Australia, the United States and United Kingdom for four years. She said students are overlooking the safety benefits of university accommodation because it is expensive.
“These forms of accommodation tend to come with residential support… cheap meals, and an ideal setting to become part of the new learning environment…[but]this is not being factored into the cost,” she claims.
“International students commonly… seek low-cost shared housing, often in low socio-economic areas – this is not a particularly safe option.”
Though the exact number of crimes against international students is unknown, Dr Forbes-Mewett noted international students are mostly vulnerable* to petty theft. “My observations suggest that international students should try to live either on or near campus,” she said. “Areas to avoid would be those with high unemployment or crime rates. This information is easily obtainable… from various sources including the Australian Bureau of Statistics website.”
Students in private accommodation are also at risk of mistreatment by landlords, and many increase health and safety risks by overcrowding properties through sub-letting.
Xiaoxuan Su, a 25-year-old graduate from Sydney University, said she never felt unsafe in her off-campus accommodation, but finding accommodation was difficult.
“The sources for us [international students]are not enough,” she said. “The only free source is Gumtree.
“There was no cheap and good accommodations…cheap ones were always in worse conditions…[also]landlords will try to take advantage of international students…deducting their bonds with some ridiculous reasons and increasing rent.”
Thomson Ch’ng, the National President of the Council for International Students Australia (CISA) said international students face difficulty because they lack knowledge of legal frameworks and local areas.
The main problem, he said, was that “international students are not accessing accommodation options through the right assistance and sufficient* support available”.
Check your University’s website. Today many have a section detailing the accommodation options students have, including advice for living off-campus, housing databases and homestay options.
If your university does not offer this, you may want to investigate off-campus accommodation.
Firstly, study a map looking at nearby suburbs. Find out about the crime rate of the suburb by searching on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website.
Compare accommodation listings on various websites. It will take time to find the right place, so be patient! Here are a few websites to try out:
If the accommodation you like is some distance from your university, make sure you are close to public transport.
IMPORTANT: DO NOT send money or sign any rental contract before physically looking at a property. It is better to arrange temporary accommodation for your first week or so in Australia so you can check the condition of the place you want to rent.
Get to know your landlord by interviewing them about the apartment and neighbourhood before you sign an agreement.
Take pictures of any damage in an apartment when you move in so you won’t be charged when you leave.
1. How much rent per week? How much is the bond?
2. Does rent include utilities bills such as water, electricity and internet? Is the apartment furnished?
3. Who lives in the apartment? (Are they students or not? Male or female? How old?) Who are your neighbours?
4. Will there be a contract outlining the terms and conditions of your rental agreement?
5. How long must you rent the place for? (One, six or 12 months?)
6. Are there any costs of moving out earlier than the end of your rental agreement?