Annoying roommates are the absolute worst. They eat your food, never put their bloody dishes in the dishwasher, and send passive-aggressive messages to the house Facebook group. If you’ve never experienced this in your sharehouse, it may be time to look in the mirror… These annoying habits can drive you crazy, but at the end of the day, you know you can hide away in your room and count down the days until your lease ends and you are finally free of it all!
You can eventually get away from annoying habits, but there can be some more devastating consequences of living with unreliable people. A missed rent payment or hole in the wall can follow you around on your rental history, even if it wasn’t your fault.
So, I’ve put together the ABCDs of things you should know if you are living in a rental property in Queensland.
A – Agencies
Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA)
The RTA is a state government authority responsible for providing information, resources, and mediation tools to tenants and owners, and helps make renting work for everyone. They are the organisation who takes your bond payment (normally about 4 weeks rent), provides rental documents, and are who you can turn to to resolving a dispute should one arise.
A bond payment is a security deposit that is lodged with the RTA and is kept until the lease ends. This is a monetary safeguard that can be paid to the owner if the tenants owe any money at the end of the tenancy due to unpaid rent, damages caused, or similar. If you can’t afford the bond payment, you may be able to pay in installments or receive a loan from the Department of Housing.
Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT)
QCAT is an independent tribunal that efficiently resolves disputes on a range of matters including residential tenancy disputes. QCAT is the go-to place for resolving issues between tenants and landlords if it cannot be resolved by the parties or the RTA.
B – Buddies
Living with your buddies is a no-go. Well, maybe not a “no-go”, but choose them wisely and communicate clearly. Almost every online property rental site has an article on living with friends: Coronis, RealEstate.com.au, Rent.com.au. You may love your friends and get along with them when you only see them every other day for a couple hours at a time, but you never really know what they are like to live with until you actually move in.
You should also keep in mind that moving out of home, particularly while studying, is a time of change for you as well. It can be stressful because you are developing your competence, identity, autonomy, purpose, and relationships. These changes can lead to conflict, even with a long-term friend. Understanding differences in both your and your roommate’s personality types may help you cope with the differences in a constructive way.
For example, you may have issues with:
Are you a bit of a hermit or more of a socialite? One roommate may love having people around all the time while the other might prefer to see people less often.
Decision-making within a group can be difficult at the best of times. Everyone’s decision-making styles are different and can be predicted by personality traits. If you and your roommate have significantly different personalities, you may make significantly different decisions based on the same information. This can cause conflict.
Renter and contents insurance is so tricky, especially for students who may not be able to afford it. It’s one of those things that should be decided together because it’s a bit of an “all or nothing” situation.
Joint accounts can be super useful as a record of who has paid what money for which bill. They can also lead to one roommate abusing the joint account for non-house related items. Be careful about creating joint accounts and only do so with people who you trust with your money. If you’re a Hamish & Andy fan, you know that Hamish constantly abuses the joint account for things like 3000 teaspoons.
The same goes if you choose not to use a joint account – make sure the account holder paying the rent and bills is trustworthy or you could lose out big time.
Cooking, cleaning, and sharing costs are other big contentious areas. Do you share the responsibilities? Will one person always cook and the other always clean? What if you are a vegan and your roommate loves their animal products. The key to making sure everyone is happy is communicating with each other. If roommates cannot communicate their grievances, they will avoid discussing the issue, which will build to unmanageable proportions, resulting in increased internal stress or irreparable difficulties in the relationship and living arrangement.
So, if you don’t like the other person’s cooking, respectfully tell them you will cook for yourself in the future. Another great idea is to set out a set of signed housemate rules like this one. If an issue arises with cooking, cleaning, or costs, you can refer back to this agreement.
C – Changes
The cost of housing is limiting the number of home-owners in Australia, resulting in a greater number of renters. Government support for urban consolidation is leading to more apartment developments in Australian capital cities, meaning more of us will likely be living in apartments going forward.
Living in apartment blocks can be tricky. There are dozens, and sometimes hundreds of tenants, and a conflict of personalities, schedules, and values. Intercultural conflict is another big contender with Net Overseas Migration contributing 62% to Australia’s population growth in 2017. I don’t have to tell you that some Aussies struggle with change and other cultures (*cough* Pauline Hanson *cough*), but a little respect can go a long way.
With these conflicting interests and close-quarter living, how can we all get along? The answer: By-laws. By-laws are a set of rules set by a body corporate (the managing body of apartment property) to control or manage the common property, its assets, services, and facilities, and the use of lots. For example, by-laws can outline noise restrictions, policies regarding parking spots, or the use of common facilities such as laundries or gyms. Tenants should follow all reasonable by-laws to contribute to a civil and ordered living community (that is of course unless they are illegal or discriminatory in nature). You also need to be notified of any changes.
D – Documents
A lease agreement is a legal document signed by all parties. It is very important to make sure that everyone living in the house is listed on the lease. This is because a lease is a legal document and only those listed on the document are liable. So, if your name is the only one listed and your roommate stops paying rent, for example, you will be legally responsible to pay the entire rental amount.
Agreements can be either fixed-term (they have an end date) or periodic (no end date). If you sign a fixed-term lease agreement, changes cannot be made unless agreed to and signed (again) by all parties.
For example, an owner cannot increase your rent if you have signed a fixed-term lease agreement unless you agree to it and sign a new agreement, or unless it is stated in the original lease agreement.
An owner can increase the rent if you have signed a periodic lease agreement. Regardless of which type of agreement you have signed, you must receive written notice of a rent increase at least 2 months in advance.
Another important document is the Entry Condition Report. Before you move in you should thoroughly inspect and document any issues with the property. You must document any issues using the Entry Conditions Report which should be provided to you by the property manager. This Report will detail any existing damages so you don’t get hit-up to pay for repairs at the end of your lease. The property owner or manager must ensure the property is clean and fit to live in and not in breach of health or safety issues.
Renting can be difficult and to make your experience as easy and good as possible, make sure you know the agencies, legislation, and documentation that are there to guide and assist you. So, while you may have roommates from hell now, remembering your ABCDs on renting in Queensland may also help you avoid these sticky situations in the future. Try to be open to changes and be understanding of the differences of opinion you will certainly encounter. Good luck! (You’re going to need it.)