If you decide to set up a share house with friends, it’s important to sit down together and decide what sort of place you’re looking for. This is also your chance to ensure that you really want to move into a house with these people. Your best friend from school may turn out to be a flatmate-from-hell; if you become irritated with your friend now, chances are it will get worse when you live together. A friendship break-up can tear a house apart and can be a traumatic and expensive lesson for newcomers to share housing.
Looking for a house to rent can be an exhausting experience. If you rush it, chances are you’ll end up with a place you hate, so take your time. You may want to use the rental checklist to assess each place. Ignore the patter of the real estate agent. Whilst there are general rules which should stop the agent from making misleading or deceiving statements, disciplinary action is more likely for provable conduct, such as trust account mistakes. Misleading and deceptive conduct by oral statements is difficult to prove if the landlord or the agent denies it. Instead, if you have a friend who is an experienced renter, it is safer to ask them to help you check the place out.
If you like the place, do your own research on the area. Don’t trust the real estate agent when they say that the crime rates are low, or that parking is easy to find. Talk to the neighbours/people who live in or know the area and ring the local council for further information.
The holding fee
If you decide that the place is right for you and your friends, you may be asked to sign a tenancy application form and pay a holding fee. The landlord can ask for a holding fee only if your application has been approved. The holding fee should not be more than one week’s rent and the landlord must give you a receipt.
If you sign the tenancy agreement, the holding fee must go towards the rent. If, for whatever reason, you decide not to rent the place, the landlord may keep the holding fee.
If you have paid a holding fee, the landlord must not enter into a tenancy agreement with any other person within 7 days of payment of the fee. If after 7 days the landlord decides to rent the place out to someone else, the landlord should return the holding fee to you. If you have trouble getting the fee back, you may be able to apply to the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT). Contact your local tenants’ service for further advice (see Contact Points).
The condition report
When you sign the tenancy agreement, you must also be given two copies of the condition report to complete as part of the agreement – one to return to your landlord and one for you to keep. It is very important to fill this out in as much detail as possible so you have proof of the condition of the place if the landlord tries to keep the bond at the end of the tenancy or claims compensation for damage to the premises.
The landlord/agent will already have made an assessment of the premises, which will be noted on the report. You can state whether or not you agree and add more detail if you need to. If repairs are needed you should write to the landlord/agent asking for the repairs to be done. There is a section at the back of your condition report where you should list the repairs that you have been promised.
If the landlord doesn’t give you a condition report, complete one yourself, and get a witness to sign it. It’s a good idea to get all the tenants together and do a thorough inspection of the place.
The more detailed you make your condition report, the easier it will be to make sure you leave the place in the same condition when you move out. If you can, it’s also a good idea to take photos of any damage already there when you moved in, particularly stains on the carpet, broken windows etc. This will be helpful if the landlord tries to claim the bond on the grounds that the carpet needs to be cleaned or repairs done.
The more evidence you have in this situation, the better. You have seven days to complete the condition report and return it to the landlord. Keep it in a safe place with your copy of the residential tenancy agreement.
Get a copy of a Condition Report Checklist here.