How to live in a share house during a rental crisis
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- Some people join up with friends to move out of home, and others join an existing share house.
- It’s important to get added to the lease and keep track of paperwork.
- Talking through issues early is a good way to avoid conflict later.
Finding a share house is challenging enough during a rental crisis, and then a range of issues can crop up once living there.
From managing shared expenses to dealing with conflict in the household, navigating legal processes and dealing with the landlord or property manager, these are some key things to keep in mind.
Finding a share house is challenging enough in a rental crisis. Then you have to live there.Credit: Monique Westermann
Finding a share house
There are a few ways to find a share house. Team up with some friends and move in with them, or you could join an existing house or find a group of strangers to live with.
Anyone moving into a new share house with friends or strangers will have to brave the private rental market, which has become increasingly difficult to navigate.
Rents are at record highs in several capital cities, including Sydney ($720 for the median house, $680 for a unit), Melbourne ($550 for the median house, $520 for a unit), Brisbane ($590 for houses, $550 for units) and Perth ($600 for houses, $500 for units), on Domain figures. Tenants can put themselves in the best position if they are fast and efficient during the application process.
Flatmate Finder’s Guy Mitchell recommends using a website like his to find strangers to live with. Facebook groups such as Melbourne’s Fairyfloss Real Estate and local Sydney pages such as Sydney Inner West Housemates can be a good place to find an existing share house or new housemates.
Mitchell said living with strangers can be fraught at the best of times, so expect an “interview” process to find out if potential housemates are compatible.
“The more people in the household the more has to be discussed,” Mitchell said.
“I don’t think they’re natural conversations to have. Generally when making new friends you don’t get straight into what time do you wake up … people may just skip over them, but it can cause conflict down the track.
Some renters join up with friends to move in, others form a new share house with strangers.Credit: Chris Hopkins
“Young people moving out of home might think that they’re looking for someone fun … and think I should exaggerate my personality.
“That’s wrong, they’re looking for someone with normal behaviour and values and someone they can trust, someone with a sense of maturity.”
Doing the paperwork
Once you’ve found a home, you will usually need to sign a lease. It’s typically better to do so – it gives you some legal protection if things go wrong with your housemates or landlord.
Being added to the lease – which in some states can attract a fee from the agency – will also mean your share of the existing bond will be transferred into your name with the state’s residential tenancies authority. When this is done, ensure you get a copy of the receipt.
If you haven’t signed onto the lease and have paid a bond to a previous tenant, ensure you get a copy of the transaction receipt, just in case.
“Legally your bond is meant to be deposited,” Mitchell said. “There needs to be a paper trail of your rent that you can fall back on if anything goes wrong.
“If you’re paying bond and rent as cash, you should get a receipt from that.”
Some landlords may add their own terms, but Tenants Victoria lead community education lawyer Ben Cording said it was worth checking if they were legally enforceable.
He has seen tenants forced into signing agreements to use third-party payment services, or to keep paying rent after breaking a lease until a new tenant is found.
“If the terms are inconsistent with the law, [a landlord] won’t be able to enforce it,” he said.
Paying the bills
Bills such as electricity, internet or water are typically split equally. If the shares of the bills – even rent – need to be adjusted at any point, it could be time to call a house meeting. Some may ask to only pay the share of the bill they’re responsible for, for example, if they were overseas for a few months.
Apps such as SplitWise and Beem offer a bill-splitting functionality that can make it easier to keep track of who owes what to whom.
You can get some help when it comes to splitting rent through online calculators, which allow you to put in all the details of the rooms and home to reach a reasonably objective split. SplitWise also has this functionality.
Living with others
A shared house means shared chores. It’s common to create a roster to divide up tasks, but it’s not unheard of for there to be other arrangements.
Sharing fridge and pantry space is another thing to consider. Some houses like to allocate one shelf per person, others share the space, and some even share pantry staples or meals.
Tenants will usually need to sign a lease.Credit: Peter Rae
It’s always best to have a conversation about what the arrangements for both food and chores will be to avoid conflict. However, it is common for conflict to come up in a sharehouse, Mitchell said.
“Inconsiderate behaviour is an issue that often comes up,” he said. “People leaving the kitchen messy … being noisy at inappropriate times, hogging the bathroom, bringing friends or strangers home unannounced … inappropriate behaviour, maybe not being clothed sufficiently … ”
Mitchell recommended talking through issues early, to avoid allowing ill feelings to fester.
Landlords and property managers
It is likely that share house tenants will have contact with the landlord or property manager at some stage.
Whether it’s to fix a leaky tap or renew a lease, there are times when getting in touch with a landlord or property manager can be stressful.
Cording said it was important to make sure everyone in the house was on the same page and to keep a record of conversations with the property manager and landlord.
“You need to make decisions as a household. Work out what you want to do,” he said. “Do it in writing is the biggest thing, and tell everyone what’s going on.”
Property managers tend to look after hundreds of rental properties so in some cases can be slow to respond.
Some repairs can be considered urgent depending on the state you live in. These tend to include gas and water leaks, a broken oven or stove and dangerous electrical faults.
Full lists are available on state government websites (for example, NSW Fair Trading and Consumer Affairs Victoria). If these repairs are not acted on within a prescribed timeframe, you can organise the repairs yourself and invoice the landlord up to a certain amount.
If a landlord fails to follow the obligations listed in the lease, tenants can breach the landlord, which is often the first step to resolving issues. Government websites have templates of the legal documents available.
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