Some share houses offer living rooms or room share at very cheap prices. Think carefully before you sign up for such an arrangement. If you decide to sleep on a mattress in a living room, you will be disturbed by your housemates’ day-to-day activities such as cooking, watching TV and even going to the bathroom! If you decide to share a room, make sure you meet your roommate before moving in and work out things such as cleaning and sleeping hours to avoid any disagreement. If you have your own room, inspect the room first to see if you have enough privacy. Avoid a loft, attic, or any other “room” without four walls and a door.
Ask the landlord how many people live in the house. In Brisbane, a council raid found 37 people living in a single house! If you live with 10 other people in a two-bedroom house, trying to take a shower in the morning can easily turn into a fight.
Moving into a house without inspection
Make sure you inspect the property before you sign a lease. Photographs may not accurately show the property and some “landlords” advertise rooms when there is no property at all! Be wary of any landlord who asks for a holding deposit, bond or advance rent before you get to inspect the property. It is better to spend two weeks at a backpackers than to sign a one year lease for a room with no window or light.
Paying in cash
Where possible, avoid paying in cash. Using electronic transfer will ensure that you have evidence of your payment if any disagreements arise. If you pay in cash, make sure you get a receipt from the head-tenant, agent or landlord.
If you are a co-tenant or a head-tenant, your rights as a tenant may be protected even if you do not have a written contract with the landlord. However, it is a good idea to sign a written Residential Tenancies Agreement in case any problems arise.
If you move in as a sub-tenant and the head-tenant also lives at the premises, you will not have the same rights as a tenant under the Residential Tenancies Act unless there is a written agreement with the head-tenant.
If you’re a boarder or a lodger, it may be difficult to enforce your rights in a court unless there is a written agreement. Some boarders are covered under the Boarding Houses Act, which requires a proprietor to give a resident a written agreement, but some aren’t.
Get a written agreement from the landlord before you move in to avoid problems in the future (see The Legal Situation).
Sexual assaults and other criminal activities
There have been reports of landlords who offered to reduce rent in return for sex or other criminal activities. You can seek advice from a tenants’ advice service or a community legal centre, or if your safety is threatened, you should go to the police (see Contact Points).