For many students, coming to university for the first time also means living out of home for the first time. We've put together some deets on how to have harmonious relationships in a sharehouse, know your rights in tenancy agreements, as well as stacks of other important points to be aware of to avoid sticky situations and have a good time!
Tips on living harmoniously
Communication is key to establish expectations and mutual understanding between housemates. Make sure you communicate on areas like:
- When to pay rent and utilities by, how to divide utilities
- Cleaning schedule – note people may have very different expectations of what “clean” is
- Food and cooking arrangements
- Public areas and noise
- Having people over
Respect is a general underlying principle to ensure you live harmoniously. This can include closing doors softly early in the morning and late at night; respecting other people’s belongings, trying to keep mess to your own space (e.g. your own room, your own bathroom, etc.). Become friends with your housemates and try to build some house traditions for a livelier home!
Some Legal Basics
There are two types of housing:
- Tenants: who either have written tenancies in the standard form; or informal (unwritten) tenancies
- Not tenants: this includes people who are in private boarding and lodging; boarding houses; homestay
Tenants are a specific legal group of private renters, and all tenancies are covered by the Residential Tenancies Act 2010. Tenants have detailed rights and obligations, including the right to use the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal to resolve disputes or take action against a landlord/agent. If you are not a “tenant”, you will still have legal rights although it is harder to rely on these if a problem occurs.
On Written Leases
It’s very important to protect your rights by insisting that you have a written lease with your landlord. This is because under new changes to the Residential Tenancies Act if you are not listed in a written lease for the property you will not be considered a tenant. This includes sub-tenancies where you live with the head tenant.
If you are signing a new lease, you must receive a copy of:
- the lease
- the New Tenant Checklist
- a signed Condition Report
You should also complete a bond lodgement form
- A bond lodgement confirmation will be sent to you in the mail from Renting Services.
- Never sign a blank form
- To have a copy of the Tenancy Agreement
- To have a condition report signed by the landlord before and after the tenancy
- To be given rent receipts
- Premises must be in a “reasonable” state of cleanliness and be “fit for habitation”
- Reasonable security
- Repairs must be carried out
- Correct notice periods for rent increases, inspections and termination must be given
- Rental bond must be lodged with the NSW Office of Fair Trading Renting Services and the tenant provided with a Rental Bond Number
- To pay rent on time
- To care for the property
- Report any damage or need for repairs
- Not to cause a nuisance or interfere with neighbours
- Not to carry on any illegal act on the property
- Ask landlord’s permission to sub-let, add or remove any fixed items in the property
- Give the landlord or agent the correct notice period when you leave (this will be set out in your tenancy agreement – if not, get advice about what notice is required)
When you leave after your lease ends, ensure you take photos of your house/apartment to prove damages / lack of damages. This will help with getting your bond back if you come across an exploitative landlord.
A landlord cannot put terms into a lease which are inconsistent with the Residential Tenancies Act.
Common examples which are illegal:
- Tenant must steam clean carpets. However, there is an exception: if you are allowed to keep a pet, the landlord can request that you have carpets professionally cleaned
- Tenant can be evicted at short notice
- Tenant is responsible for fixed water charges (unless the property is separately metered)