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  •   Ask any new homeowner to describe what convinced them that this house was the one, and you’ll hear one word come up over and over again: “love”. Buying a home, after all, is a highly emotional event, so when the right place comes along, would-be buyers get giddier than a teenager heading to the school ball. A recent study by economic think tank Kiplinger surveyed thousands of recent homebuyers to determine the most crucial elements in making them “fall in love” with a house.  And we’ve added a few tips to help would-be sellers create that emotional magic with their own homes. A knockout front door Love at first sight must happen with homes, too, because this was No.1 on the Kiplinger list. We all know that first impressions count, and the front door is a key part of making one. It should stand out from the crowd, and give the potential buyer a sense of what they’ll find on the other side. The easiest fix is to paint the door a bright but complementary colour, or stain a wood door to match the porch railing or hardwood floors just inside. Potted plants will add a punch of colour – and go for fewer, larger pots for the most visual impact. You also might want to consider a door style out of the ordinary. Perhaps a Dutch door, double doors with transom windows, or an antique door. Any style can offer an opportunity for you to try a paint colour that brings a smile to your face as you enter. Sky-high ceilings Once inside the home, high ceilings are high on the list of wow-inducing features. How can you capture the magic if you haven’t got them? The big fix, of course, would be a remodel — by vaulting the ceiling or knocking down a wall. But if that’s out of the question, paint your entry white, ceiling and all. Another tip is to position art slightly lower to give the illusion of high ceilings and a sense of spaciousness. Or, using the same concept, try hanging a mirror so that a window can be reflected in it. Some decorators suggest hanging curtains as close to the ceiling as possible, and letting the fabric hang down to the floor. The strong vertical line will visually expand the height of the room. Standing out in a sea of sameness Drive through the outskirts of your closest major city and you’ll notice residential developments are expanding at an ever-increasing pace. Turn into the streets of those new neighbourhoods, and it’s soon apparent that all the houses look (more or less) the same. And that’s to be expected. But once you move in, or if you’re thinking about selling, you’ll probably want your house to stand out from the crowd. If you find yourself living in a home that looks like every third house on the street, the first plan of action should be to paint the house, the trim, and the front door with three complementary colours. Head to the paint section of any home improvement store, and you’ll find a raft of brochures with colour schemes. Then add features like flower boxes, new light fixtures, and updated house numbers. Good bones – and major potential In today’s economic climate, few buyers can afford to purchase a house that is exactly the way they want it. Fixer-uppers are the norm, and in many cases the opportunity to take on a project is part of the excitement of buying a home. According to the Kiplinger study, most homebuyers wanted a home that was done enough to live in, but with plenty of opportunity to make improvements and make it their own. “Good bones” is a phrase we often hear ascribed to an older home, but what does that mean? Simply put, “good bones” means that with some TLC and cosmetic changes, the house will have the charm and character you want because it has started with all the foundational elements you need. While old homes tend to naturally have this character, newer homes can have it, too – so if you’re on the hunt for your next home, keep your eyes peeled wherever you go.  
  • When I moved from home at the tender age of 17 – wide-eyed, broke and supremely naive – there were several things I never thought about. Among them was: how difficult it is to actually find an apartment when you’re 17 and work part-time, how hard it is to cook for one and how many random household items you never thought you needed – cue cheese graters, tin openers and mops. One thing I really didn’t think about was how I would furnish an entire house, considering I moved here with precisely $747 in my bank account and was studying full-time. When my flatmate and I finally found an apartment after months of searching we were wiped out after paying bonds, moving fees and a month’s worth of rent upfront. Over the next six months we utilised our minimal pool of furniture funds and became masters of “furnishing on a budget”, realising which items we could live without for the longest, developing creative ways to “make” our own furniture and finding the possible cheapest options when it came to purchasing the essentials. Here, seven lived and learned tips to abide by when furnishing on a uni student budget: 1. Learn to prioritise Around the same time we moved into our apartment a friend of mine was moving back to the Gold Coast and needed to sell her 40-inch plasma TV quickly. For some reason we splurged a sizeable amount of our furniture budget on it, which resulted in us literally sitting on the ground to watch TV as we still hadn’t bought a couch/chairs/table. Not a good idea. Write out a list of what items you need and rank them based on importance. Beds, a fridge, tables, chairs and a couch go on top, then you can work your way down. (Tip: A TV should be low on your priorities list, we all just watch Netflix​ on our MacBooks now, anyway, right?) 2. Splurge on the right things Buying couches, tables, chairs and the like second-hand is generally a safe bet, but don’t cut corners with certain items. Fridges and washing machines – basically anything electrical that will need replacing within a couple of years – should be bought new. You’ll appreciate the warranty when something goes unexpectedly wrong and you won’t have to live for four years with a second-hand washing machine that literally bounces off the ground and takes three hours no matter which setting you use. 3. Utilise verge collections Over the years we nabbed two microwaves, a garden table, a vanity, a couch and a chest of drawers from various verges. Most of the things people throw away are in perfect condition. Inspect them first and if you  find something you want, take it straight away. People are masters in the art of verge-side collecting and if you leave something for too long you can guarantee it’ll be nabbed. 4. Get creative Consult Pinterest, Tumblr and the like for chic interiors inspiration that doesn’t cost any money. For example, I used a stack of coffee table books and fashion magazines as a makeshift “bedside table”. If you pop a couple of tea light candles on top it looks intentional and makes you come across as more arty than you actually are. I’d also recommend buying $8 clothing racks from K-Mart instead of investing in a wardrobe or chest of drawers. If you colour co-ordinate your clothes and use matching hangers it gives your room a minimalist “storefront” vibe and saves a ton of money. 5. Gumtree is your friend Anything that wasn’t found on the side of the road in our apartment was courtesy of Gumtree. It’s cheap, reliable, already assembled and most people will deliver for free. 6. Put effort into decorating Buying the furniture you can afford instead of the furniture you want can mean your home turns into a hotchpotch of different and often clashing colours, materials and textures. We had an electric blue couch (Gumtree) next to a black leather couch (verge collection) next to wooden table and chairs (Ikea) next to our unnecessarily giant TV (a mistake). Not a match made in interior design heaven. Make things look purposefully thrown together by adding personal (cheap) touches: tea light candles, vases of flowers, posters from your favourite movies, cheap throws from op-shops. The extra effort will make your house look more “furnished” than it actually is and it will feel a lot more homely.
  • You don’t have to be a fully paid-up neat freak to be interested in natural alternatives to traditional cleaning supplies. Even for the least domestic of goddesses (or gods), it’s helpful to know a couple of tricks using items already on hand in your kitchen pantry. After all, they’re cheap, non-toxic and often save you a schlep to the shops. What’s not to love? With that in mind, here are five tried-and-true, all-natural domestic shortcuts that are such a doddle you’ll find yourself using them all the time. Deter fruit flies with used wine bottle corks Most of us hardly need an excuse to crack open that bottle of pinot, but did you know that wine bottle corks can be used to ward off fruit flies? Just sling them into your fruit bowl and, hey presto! Fruit-flies-begone. Not bad for a house cleaning hack that requires the same amount of effort as chucking your bungs straight into the bin – and given that council waste collections generally don’t accept corks for recycling, you’ll also be helping the environment by giving them a handy new purpose. Repair surface scratches on wood with walnuts More than just a delicious addition to waldorf salads, walnuts can also be used to repair surface scratches on your wooden furniture or floorboards. Rub a fresh walnut over the damaged area, making sure that you apply sufficient pressure for the oils in the nut to be released. Buff the spot with a soft cloth, et voila, the marks will have faded and the wood will be resealed. Clean your wooden cutting boards with salt and lemon ​Wooden cutting boards are a bit of an all-natural house cleaning hack in themselves, as studies have shown that they contain antibacterial properties which help neutralise harmful bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli. To keep them in top condition, you can give them a deep clean once a month or so using lemon and salt. (You’ll be amazed at the amount of grey gunk it lifts). Sprinkle the surface of the board with a generous amount of coarse-grained salt, such as rough sea salt or kosher salt. Scour the surface with one half of a chopped lemon, squeezing a little as you go to release the juice. Leave the mixture to sit for about five minutes, then scrape it off with a metal spatula or similar implement. To finish, give your chopping board one last rinse with a clean wet sponge. Fix squeaky doors with olive oil Next time your doors are squeaking, try dabbing a bit of olive oil on the hinges with a paper towel. You’ll not only avoid a trip to the hardware store for a spray can of lubricant, you’ll also being doing your bit for the planet. Even though aerosol cans in Australia no longer contain ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re good for the environment. They still contain hydrocarbons and/or compressed gases that contribute to global warming. CFC-free aerosol cans also emit volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that contribute to ground-level ozone, a key ingredient in smog. Banish cockroaches with essential oils Most city-dwellers will be familiar with – whisper it – the domestic scourge that is the cockroach. For those of us who have tried to banish this most unwelcome of house guests, it’s all too easy to believe that, in the event of a nuclear winter, it’s the roaches, and not us, who would emerge from the rubble, dusting themselves off. Urban legends aside, cockroaches do appear to have an aversion to some essential oils, such as peppermint, cypress and tea tree. You’ll find a plethora of different methods using these ingredients online, but one popular method is to mix eight drops of cypress oil and 10 drops of peppermint oil in half a glass of water and spray the mixture in areas where cockroaches tend to congregate. This won’t do the trick by itself, though. Your first line of defence is to keep your house scrupulously clean. And, in cases of serious infestation, nothing less than a professional extermination service will deter the little blighters.
  •   This could be due to small issues in the home overlooked by tenants – even after a routine clean and moving out your furniture there are often issues that can eat into your bond, Amy Sanderson general manager for property management at LJ Hooker said. “I would recommend speaking to the property manager and asking for their recommended cleaner to come in and do a bond clean. The cost can vary from [a few hundred] upwards depending on the size of the property and how clean it is,” Ms Sanderson said. Understanding your obligations under the tenancy agreement is critical, but for those who do decide to clean themselves, rental experts said tenants should pay particular attention to several key areas. Forgotten fans and filters At the top of the list were fans, filters and unseen parts of the property that can get particularly dirty during a 12-month tenancy. In particular, “exhaust fans are a common case of out-of-sight and out-of-mind,” Terri Scheer Insurance executive manager Carolyn Parrella said. “From our experience, tenants sometimes overlook the cleanliness of their exhaust fans which are prone to attracting lint and dust in bathrooms and oil and grease in kitchens,” she said. Ms Sanderson agreed a proper clean of the exhaust fans was critical and they can “usually go in the dishwasher” but was commonly overlooked. Oven and dishwasher cleaning It might seem counter-intuitive, but dishwashers frequently need cleaning, Rachael Byrne senior property manager of Queensland-based Jean Brown Properties said. “For the dishwasher running a cleaner through, pulling the filters out and also cleaning the internal trims [is necessary],” Ms Byrne said. Property managers will also look inside the oven when inspecting a property, Ms Parrella said. “A landlord or property manager is within their rights to open and inspect the oven, so they should be clean and free from food splatters, overflow or built up grease and oil,” she said. The range top should also be clean for the next tenant, Just Think Real Estate principal Edwin Almeida said. “A lot of people don’t realise gas stove top burners come apart and disassemble for cleaning.” Pet-related dirt Those with pets in their rental property should also take special care to clean up after them, Ms Parrella said. “Buy a good quality vacuum … while a landlord or property manager might allow pets at the property, it is generally on the basis the property remains free from pet fur and mess,” she said. In particular, dirt can accrue “in door tracks and on skirting boards” that can quickly be cleaned by a tenant, Mr Almeida said. Damage outside from pets should also be attended to. Mould issues Another issue that should be tackled sooner rather than later is any sign of mould in a rental property. Ms Sanderson warned this could be a result of failing to ventilate a home properly during the tenancy, so should be attended to well before moving day. This is particularly a problem in the bathroom, where tenants should “leave the window open a couple of inches,” she said. Ms Parrella also encouraged tenants to thoroughly scrub shower screens, grout in bathrooms and other wet areas to remove bacteria. Incomplete gardening and outdoor maintenance Tenants in houses with the benefit of a yard may have some work ahead of them to get their property in tip-top condition to vacate, Ms Byrne said. “For tenants that have a pool and pool maintenance is not included in their lease have you properly cleaned the filters and the cell?” Ms Parrella also said it was important to maintain the garden as best possible, despite wilted plants being part and parcel of a hot Australian summer. “Some leases make the tenant responsible for maintaining the backyard while others may have a gardener included in the lease. Make sure you know where you stand,” she said. Damage and marks on walls and doors The final issue most tenants will find themselves needing to attend to is any dirt or damage to walls and doors that wouldn’t be considered wear and tear. Spot cleaning around lights switches, on door handles and internal doors would make a big difference at inspection time, Ms Byrne said. Cleaning blinds and skirting boards were also high on the list of issues for departing tenants. “I would also advise all tenants to take a full set of entry photos when completing the entry condition report and keep them in their own files … you should be taking the same amount of care and time completing the exit condition report as you did completing the entry condition report,” she said.
  • You might not be selling your home right away, but if it’s something you see happening in the next year or so, it’s a good idea to find out where best to spend your time and money. For very little outlay of cash, these five ideas could help you maximise your home’s value. Tip 1: Spend an hour with a pro Invite a real estate agent or interior designer over to check out your home. Many real estate agents will do this as a courtesy, but you will probably have to pay a consultation fee to a designer. Check with several designers in your area and in an hour they can give you lots of ideas for needed improvements. Even small suggested improvements, such as paint colours or furniture placement, can go a long way toward improving the look and feel of your home. Tip 2: Inspect it Not every home improvement is cosmetic. Deteriorating roofs, water damage or outdated electrical systems – you can’t fix it if you don’t know it’s broken. Hire an inspector to check out the areas of your home that you don’t normally see. They may discover hidden problems that could negatively impact your home’s value. Small problems (such as a hidden water leak) can become big, expensive problems quickly; the longer you put off repairs, the more expensive those repairs will be. Tip 3: Paint, paint, paint One of the simplest, most cost-effective improvements of all is paint! Freshly painted rooms look clean and updated – and that spells value. When selecting paint colours, keep in mind that neutrals appeal to the greatest number of people, therefore making your home more desirable. You can buy four litres of interior paint for around $100. Don’t forget the rollers, painter’s tape, drop cloths and brushes. Tip 4: Find inspiration An alternative to hiring a designer is to search for remodelling and decorating inspiration in design-oriented magazines, books, TV shows and websites. Simply tear out or print off the ideas you want to try and start your to-do list. Keep it simple – when you’re on a tight budget, manageable do-it-yourself projects are best.   Tip 5: Cut energy costs The amount of money you spend each month on energy costs may seem like a fixed amount, but many utility companies provide information for their customers on how to save energy in their homes. They can show you how to maximise the energy efficiency of your home. An energy-efficient home will save you money now, which can be applied to other updates, and is a more valuable and marketable asset in the long run
  •   We've been fantasizing about it for months, and finally warmer weather has arrived. We know: You just want to fire up the grill and start working on your tan—we do, too! But before you can kick back in your hammock (or in your pool on your giant patriotic bald eagle float, if that's your thing), there are a few tasks you’ll need to tackle. And you can bet they're all outside. But it goes beyond gardening and yard work. Now's the last chance to take care of all that winter wear and tear and transform your home's outdoor space into something worthy of the host with the most. The good news? We're here to make it as quick and easy on you as possible—with our handy checklist of home maintenance chores, you can knock them out and get back to that pool float ASAP. We’ve provided tips for doing each task faster and easier—or with the help of a pro. 1. Inspect brick and stone patios and walkways Task: Freezing temperatures can wreak havoc on hardscape surfaces made of loose (unmortared) brick, stone, and concrete paving materials. Check to see if frost heave and erosion have caused pavers to shift, rise, or sink. You’ll want to fix any unevenness for safety as well as aesthetic reasons. Shortcuts: Repair hardscape surfaces using a wheelbarrow filled with playground sand and a sturdy trowel. Pry up displaced pavers, smooth and even out the bed with fresh sand, and replace the paver. Call in the pros: This is a good job for a handyman. Expect to pay $30 to $60 an hour, depending on your location. 2. Feed your lawn Task: Your lawn might be looking quite rich and lush. Since Mother Nature did the hard work, you can sit back and relax, right? Not so fast. Grass loves nutrients, so now's the time to add high-nitrogen fertilizer to help suppress weeds and keep your lawn looking great all summer. Shortcuts: A push-powered broadcast spreader makes quick work of fertilizing your lawn. You’ll find spreaders suitable for an average suburban lawn for $35 to $100. If you have a cooking compost pile, you can substitute home-grown compost for commercial fertilizers. Call in the pros: A lawn care company will spray on a chemical fertilizer for about $40 an application. 3. Repair wood fences and gates Task: Cycles of cold and wet weather cause wood to move, twist, and warp. That can make garden gates fall out of alignment, and can cause fence pickets to loosen or fall off. Check for signs of loose fencing, and fix sagging gates. Shortcuts: A cordless battery-powered nail gun ($250) makes quick work of refastening pickets and fence supports. Use only galvanized nails for outdoor work. Use a power drill fitted with a screw tip or a hex driver to remove or tighten loose screws and bolts in gates. Call in the pros: This is a good job for a handyman. You’ll pay $30 to $60 an hour, depending on your location. 4. Mulch flower and vegetable beds Task: Prevent evaporation and help keep weeds in check by insulating planting beds with 2 to 4 inches of mulch. Shortcuts: Set aside a mulching day, and have a landscaping service deliver bulk mulch and dump it where you can get to it easily (like your driveway). Plan on 1 cubic yard of mulch to cover 100 square feet, with mulch 3 inches deep. Call in the pros: A landscaping service will put in the mulch, but it'll cost you—to the tune of $250 to $560 for 500 square feet, depending on your location. 5. Wash windows Task: As your yard takes shape and your gardens come into full bloom, you’ll want to see everything clearly. It's time to wash away winter’s dirt and grime from your windows. Shortcuts: Have a partner clean the outside while you do the inside of the same window. That way, you can identify which side of the glass contains lingering streaks and smudges, and get rid of them on the spot. Plus, who wants to clean alone? Call in the pros: In addition to cleaning the glass, a professional window washer will remove and clean screens and remove accumulated dirt from sliding tracks for $2 to $7 per window. 6. Get your grill in gear Task: Nobody wants a rack of ribs with last year's grill gunk on them. Before you fire up the ol' barbecue, make sure your grill is clean and that any gas hoses and connections are secure. Shortcuts: No matter what kind of grill you have, invest in a grill brush or other coarse cleaning brush, remove the grates and metal plates beneath them, and soak them in hot soapy water for five to 10 minutes. Then scrub hard. To rinse, spray them with the hose. Cover the area where the grates usually go with foil, and use a stiff grill brush to clean grime from the hood and inside walls. Use a cleaner specifically designed for your grill's surface (e.g., stainless steel, porcelain, or cast iron), and reassemble all parts. Call in the pros: There are professional grill cleaners who will take your barbecue from slimy to spotless, but it will cost you the equivalent of a few porterhouse steaks. This Denver cleaning service offers quotes from $185 to $279. 7. Make sure your AC is cool Task: Now's your last chance to double-check your air-conditioning unit and make sure it's in good working order before the mercury starts to rise. Shortcuts: Hook up a garden hose and spray the outside of the condenser to remove any dust that's settled on the unit and connections. (Yes, dust can affect your AC's effectiveness.) Don’t use a brush, and be careful if pressure washing—you could damage or bend the fins. Make sure to change the filter, too. Call in the pros: Having a pro service your AC system costs $100 to $250 and includes cleaning the condenser and lubricating the fan motor.
  •   First Step buyer’s agent and investor Dave Ward said it was crucial to remember who you needed to impress to secure a rental. This is usually not the property owner themselves. “The landlord is often sold the tenant by the rental manager,” Ward said. “The property manager undertakes the reference checks and ultimately provides the landlord with their opinion,” he said. At the open for inspection Dress smartly. Be on time. Introduce yourself to the property manager. Be genuine. Communicate clearly. One of the first contact points for most tenants and landlords is at the open home. This is usually the first time a property manager has seen a tenant in person and often the first time they have spoken. Tenants Union of NSW policy officer Ned Cutcher recommended tenants try to make themselves “memorable” and “known” to the property manager, particularly at a busy open home with lots of people viewing. “Building up a rapport is the best advice I can give to tenants,” he said. LJ Hooker Double Bay senior property manager Nicholas Hayes said being on time is critical as being late suggests you are disorganised and forgetful. “Even if you’re running five to 10 minutes late, a simple phone call or SMS is common courtesy and keeps everyone happy,” he said. Many tenants do not converse with the property manager when they see a rental, particularly if it’s busy. In reality, if it’s busy it means the property is popular and it’s even more critical to introduce yourself to the managing agent, Let’s Rent managing director Lisa Indge said. “A tenant should introduce themselves, even if it’s busy, and follow through if they promise an application,” Indge said. However, controlling how you speak to the agent is also critical – you want to appear “reasonable” but not “demanding”. “When we’re talking to someone, what we don’t want to hear is that the home needs to be re-painted, re-carpeted and with a new kitchen for them to consider it,” she said. “They should instead ask whether the landlord would consider making the change.” She also warned against bringing children to the open for inspection, particularly if they’d struggle to stay behaved. “How the tenants act at an open home is a clear sign of how they’ll treat the property if they rent it,” she said. Your application form Ask how the agent prefers to receive the application. Fill it out completely. Aim for a personal touch. Provide detail to explain anything that may be unclear. Provide the application in a timely fashion. A quick way to alert a property manager that you’re a good person to do business with, is to inquire as to how they would like to be sent their applications. Many agencies preferred online applications for the ease of processing and contacting tenants, Indge said. If you’re applying with other people, ensure you all have your applications completed on time so the agency isn’t waiting for more details to consider you. Although filling out every field on the application is critical, you should also consider giving it a personal touch. “It’s nice to have a bit of a story in your application, not three pages but a paragraph is great, as really all we’re doing is basing it on that application,” Indge said. This could include details on why you’re moving to the area, but also any explanations around discrepancies in your application. Indge said it’s “not an exact science” – however, she would be hesitant to rent a property to someone where the rental cost was 40 per cent or more of their income. If there was other income coming in that wasn’t from your main employment, this information would be best included on the application. Ward said that adding detail could also help remove suspicions that would otherwise be unfounded. “I am wary when it’s a four-bedroom home and it’s a single person applying [to rent it] as you don’t know if they’re going to be subletting it out or what they’re doing,” he said. “It’s always difficult to assess beforehand, especially with younger people who don’t have as much of a rental record.” For a prospective tenant who can explain why they need the extra rooms, or can provide alternative references to explain their character when they have not previously rented, these issues can be quickly ironed out. Supporting information and other considerations After your application, your next chance to impress a property manager is with your references. These will usually be from previous landlords, housemates, property managers and even campus building managers if you have never rented in the private market before. Indge warns that regularly she calls references who are unavailable or had not been told they had been used as someone’s rental referee. Speaking to your references beforehand and knowing what they are likely to say is a good way to make sure you’re not caught off guard. Similarly, if a tenant has pets, it’s recommended to include references that can speak to their behaviour. Indge suggested including references from rentals where the pet has been before, information on whether the dog has a walker or goes to doggy day care and details about the pooch’s behaviour and vet details. Once the references have been called, if it’s still a tough call for a property manager – offering a little extra in weekly rent may be good as it “shows you’re keen,” Indge said. “If the competition is there it demonstrates the strength of your interest in the rental,” she said. Hayes recommends going above and beyond with the details provided to support your application. “A potential tenant who is able to show their income on a payslip is standard, however a potential tenant who is also able explain their spending trends, show bank statements and demonstrate their saving capabilities can show forward thinking and planning,” he said. Despite all these efforts, you may still not be the strongest applicant for the property and will have to keep searching.  
  •   It's the heart of the home and sure, your kitchen may get some attention when it comes to wiping down surfaces on the reg, but how often do you seriously clean out this common space? You'd be surprised (read: mortified) by what you'll find when you go deep. From baking soda tips, 101 ways to use vinegar and how lemons and limes will change your life, there are plenty of ways to see your major kitchen appliances shining back at you, and we've found them. Read on to see how the experts clean right and how often you should be doing it… Cupboards, drawers and bench tops Add microfibre cloths to your shopping list. You're going to need them. To keep bench tops, doors and handles on cupboards fresh, mix a few drops of tea-tree oil with three tablespoons of castle liquid soap, hot water and get wiping. Henry Hoang from Simply Maid housekeeping suggests this is a once-a-week job. "Cleaning the kitchen can be time-consuming and frustrating. Break up the tasks into smaller manageable chunks and create a daily, weekly and monthly cleaning schedule," Hoang says. Inside is a different story and requires a little more elbow grease, just not as regularly. Empty cabinets, vacuum up any crumbs and strays left inside, then wipe out using a vinegar and water combo. For stubborn, bottom-of-the-sauce-bottle, marks – we've all had them – Hoang suggests hitting the problem area with a dose of hot, hot water first, then following with the vinegar water mix to clean. Get cleaning: Weekly on the outside, monthly for interiors Ovens and stovetops Coke. Yes, Coca Cola is a tried and tested soaker to get your oven racks clean. Remove the racks and soak them in your cola (with all it's phosphoric rust, stain and mineral-beating acids) for about 15 minutes. A gentle rub with a scour, rinse off and you're done. Ensure they're dry before returning to the oven. For the interior, it's time to bring out the big guns. Make a paste with baking soda and water and spread it over every surface, walls, door, and base… To get into those tricky back corners, grab an old toothbrush and reach right in there. It'll be worth it. If you can, leave the paste to sit overnight to really get deep into the greasy points, then wipe out with a damp sponge the next day. Voila! Get cleaning: Every other month When it comes to the stovetop, Hoang says vinegar is your friend. "It's good to keep stove tops stain-free. Accumulated food spills and grease will make surfaces smelly. Wiping down with vinegar and water, will help keep stovetops clean." For a super deep clean, another handy tip is dishwashing liquid and warm water to help loosen stuck-on splats and splotches. Try a rubber spatula (no scratching!) to lift stubborn stains then dry the surface completely with a cotton cloth. Keeping the area dry will ensure bacteria won't make itself at home, either. Get cleaning: Daily Don't forget the range hood! That hard-working filtering system needs your deep-cleaning attention too. After all, "it does half the job for you at keeping odours out," says Hoang. To clean, reach for that microfibre cloth again, dampen and wipe down. For filters, after removing, sprinkle ½ cup baking soda over them and soak in boiled water, then lightly scrub, before drying completely. Get cleaning: Monthly Sinks Wiping down the sink is a daily job. There's just no getting out of it. But this deep-clean tip is a weekly effort. For stainless steel finishes visit the fruit and veg aisle at the supermarket and pick up a bag of limes. You'll need 10. Their juice, combined with a cup of baking soda, is the perfect antidote for scrubbing inside the sink. Be sure to always follow the steel's grain for the best results. If your dishwashing station is enamel, wipe down with a microfibre cloth, or take organicauthority.com's lead and mix one part salt with one part lemon juice, gently scrubbing your sink's interior to deeply clean away residue build up, especially around the drain. It's the perfect combo for a smooth, fresh-aroma finish. Handy extra: halve a lemon and instead of juicing, sprinkle the salt then use the lemon half as your scour. A microfibre cloth – wet down with one part vinegar, two parts water – will polish up your chrome tap and hose fittings just right, too. Get cleaning: Daily on the wipe out, weekly on the scrub Fridges Between the fingerprints and the odours your fridge is one needy kitchen item. Clean doors by wiping down with a vinegar, water mix sprayed onto a microfibre cloth. For a really deep clean, try Toni Hammersley's tip. The author of The Complete Book of Home Cleaning says to rub a little baby oil on a separate microfibre cloth, onto the surface then turn your cloth over to polish it off and remove any streaks. This is particularly useful on a stainless steel finish. "Fridges are known to trap odours," says Hoang. "Take some time to remove everything from inside the fridge and clean the interior using a mixture of baking soda and water." And always throw out too-old food. You're just making it harder on yourself. Get cleaning: Doors as needed, inside every few months The bins Hoang believes keeping the bin area spick and span is one of the most important cleaning tasks you can do on the reg. "Bins can harbour germs, which turn into bad smells. Use water and vinegar or a germ-killing disinfectant on the garbage bins regularly to avoid odours," he says. Lemon juice is also a handy cleaning liquid to help keep odours at bay. There's that citrus edge again!
  •   RESIDENTS of a Brisbane suburb fear their suburb is losing its character as Queenslander houses are replaced by units and townhouses on subdivided blocks. Salisbury residents fear their laid-back suburb with large blocks and vegetation is changing before their eyes as new houses are built. Multiple blocks in the suburb have been subdivided for two houses, or attracted developers who want to build townhouses or unit complexes. Residents said that clashed with the suburb’s traditional Queenslander homes. Rowena Gamble, owner of the picturesque Hedge Espresso cafe, said she and husband Saxon made a conscious effort to fit in when they took over in 2014. “The character was one of the things that attracted us to Salisbury,” Mrs Gamble said. One such development that residents were against was the application for 18 three-bedroom townhouses at 113 Lillian Avenue. Brisbane City Councillor Steve Griffiths said he was opposed to similar developments. “I and my staff have spent a lot of time in touch with residents regarding this development, which I do not support,” Cr Griffiths said. “This type of individual objection is increasing within the Salisbury area as infill developments have increased over recent years.” Mark Ward Property principal Mark Ward said he did not feel the suburb had already lost its character, but care needed to be taken to ensure that did not happen. “The good thing is there are not too many bigger blocks left to be subdivided,” Mr Ward said. “I’m not opposed to splitting blocks if the end product is nice though.” Mr Ward said he had noticed developers’ interest in the suburb had “skyrocketed” in the past three years. “It’s close to the city, and there are train, bus, hospital and university services nearby,” he said. THE RESIDENTS: Salisbury resident Gabriel Ochoteco said he was concerned his suburb was losing its soul. He said the family-oriented area was traditionally known for its Queenslanders and trees. But it was now turning into a concrete jungle. “We feel the character of the suburb is at risk,” Mr Ochoteco said. “There are a few townhouse blocks going up and they’re really, really cramped. “It’s certainly a trend (to have the units being built) and the suburb is losing what it is known as. “We’re also worried about precedent. ‘‘We want single, detached houses in the suburb.” Mr Ochoteco said he bought into the suburb about 10 years ago and one of the things that attracted him was the so-called character. “One of the reasons we bought here was the wide roads,” he said. BRISBANE CITY COUNCIL: A Brisbane City Council spokesman has defended council’s approval of ­development applications in Salisbury. “The majority of the suburb is zoned for low residential uses, which means residential houses are most appropriate in this area. There is no intention to change this,” the spokesman said. “Units and townhouses can be considered in residential areas where the site is located close to high-frequency transport and economic hubs. “As with all applications, council will assess whether the proposal is consistent with zoning under City Plan 2014 and State Government planning law.”
  •   If you’re thinking of replacing your toilet, it’s worth spending some time researching your options – you’re stuck with it for 10 years or so, after all, so let’s make it a wise decision! The toilet has come a long way, and today there are a wide range of styles and features available, so digging a little deeper will ensure you get the best model for your needs. Here are some basic things you should consider before you buy. Is it water-efficient? Toilets account for one third of your household water consumption – but that doesn’t mean you should flush only sometimes to cut back on your water bill, no siree! New technologies and innovative product design make it easier than ever to be eco-friendly in the bathroom. Reece Bathroom Business Manager, Daniela Santilli, encourages homeowners to check the WELS (Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards) rating of toilets when shopping around. It’s simple: the higher the star rating, the more water efficient the product. “A four-star WELS rating can save up to 50,808 litres of water per year,” she says. In addition to being kinder to the environment, a water-efficient model will help you save on your water bill, so investing in a high star rating toilet now is a wise move with long-term benefits. The label on which you find these star ratings also contains information such as water consumption per use (in litres) for a full, half and average flush, so take a closer look and compare models. Does it suit the space? When it comes to toilets, size does matter. The type of bathroom you have will dictate the type of toilet you buy, its size, and mounting style. If you have a small bathroom, you can maximise the space with a wall-hung toilet and in-wall cistern. Santilli says these types of models have seen some of the biggest growth in bathrooms because they create a seamless and modern finish while freeing up floor space. “Because most in-wall cisterns and wall flush buttons can be integrated with any choice of toilet pan, this option also grants you much greater flexibility in terms of personalising your bathroom space,” she says. If you prefer a more traditional toilet suite, Santilli says, “There are plenty of slimline options now on the market, too, which are perfect if you’re not looking to go beyond the wall with your plumbing.” Is it durable? While you might have to fork out a bit more money, it’s worth opting for a toilet in a high-quality material, such as vitreous china (porcelain), instead of plastic or even steel, which can be unkind in the winter (cold bottoms, anyone?) We’ve been making toilets from porcelain for centuries and for good reason: it’s easy to clean, sanitary (it stops bacteria at the toilet’s surface, unlike porous materials), and, most importantly, is extremely sturdy. Also check the warranty. Try finding a model with a limited lifetime warranty, should anything go wrong. Is it easy to clean? Less nooks and crannies will make cleaning a lot easier – and let’s face it, the toilet is one place you want to spend as little time as possible with a washcloth. One-piece or wall-mounted toilets are easy to wipe clean and mop under, and will gather less dust. Some toilets also have concealed trapways, which are more visually appealing, as well as easier to clean. Do you need a professional to install the toilet? If you are replacing a toilet, most people install the new model in the same place as the original, to utilise the existing plumbing connections, instead of re-routing the plumbing (an extremely complex task) – but removing the old toilet can go one of two ways. “It will either come out nice and easy or it will be stuck down solid and may break when trying to get it out,” says Nik Kokotovich, a builder and Managing Director of BSG Commercial, “and I can’t tell you how many times I have seen plumbers end up with stitches in their arms or legs as a result.” There are numerous things to contend with when installing a toilet, which Kokotovich says would be challenging for any DIYer. If something goes wrong, your home insurance may not cover you either, because you didn’t use a qualified plumber. Santilli recommends always using a licensed plumber when installing bathroom products, to save yourself the stress. “Doing it on your own will void the product warranties and can cause you a lot of trouble down the track,” she says.
  •   1. It’s a given that you will be living among plaster dust and sawdust for the duration of your renovation but what you likely didn’t know is that this dust takes a long time to finally settle so expect to vacuum frequently and well after tools down. (PS. You can’t use domestic vacuums on plaster dust – the dust is too fine and will damage your machine. Hire or buy a commercial cleaner instead). 2. During a renovation, your home will no longer be your haven but rather the bane of your existence so try to have at least one room at a time that provides small reprieve from the mess – one room of calm and order in which to escape and be reminded of what your home can, and will, be again. 3. If living amongst a renovation, expect to be without water and electricity at multiple intervals and sometimes for long periods of time. Be armed with a small gas cooker and become acquainted with the barbecue. Also stock up on bottled water and portable LED lights (it’s just like camping). A courteous tradesman will give you adequate forewarning that you will be without your much relied on facilities but it is guaranteed that you will experience some unscheduled cuts too. 4. The renovation will take twice as long as planned and at some point you will be wondering why you didn’t just purchase a nice, new three-bedroom brick home that requires no improvements. Soldier on. Though you may not be able to see the light, it is there somewhere, probably through the plaster dust. 5. You will change your mind on your design choices many times along the way despite your best researching and planning efforts. Those who show signs of uncertainty or vulnerability should expect a bombardment of unsolicited advice from over zealous friends and tradesmen. I consider myself a confident design and renovating decision maker, but even I can lose my sureness by too many unwelcome opinions. Hold strong unless you become wildly outnumbered. 6. You will become completely and hopelessly exhausted, yes, from the physical labour but more than anything, by the innumerable decisions you need to make at every turn. You will certainly lose sleep laying awake at night agonising over whether or not the bathroom tiles due for laying the next day truly reflect your vision or are a they bit too blah? Is the shape too much of a fad? Maybe you need a contrasting grout? But will a contrasting grout conflict with the vanity stone colour? 7. Renovating is all consuming and your social life will come to a rude, grinding halt. Of course, the extent of this is subject to how hands on you are with the project, which is subject to your budget, but I can tell you that my leisure time has been heavily compromised for as long as we’ve been renovating. 8. The finished result will be one of the most rewarding achievements of your life. It is the feeling of accomplishment that comes with renovating that keeps us coming back for more. 9. And you will do it again. Renovating is like childbirth, the end result is so thrilling that you forget the pain.
  • What is a Notice to Remedy Breach? The Notice to Remedy Breach is used during a tenancy by the tenant or property manager/owner if they beleive there has been a breach of the agreement. The notice explains the alleged breach and directs the person recieving it to fix the problem within a specific timeframe. If the other person does not agree there has been a breach, they should try and resolve it with the person who issued the notice. If agreement cannot be reached, the RTA's free dispute resolution may be able to help. Timeframes ? Residential tenancy Unpaid rent 7 days (if rent has been unpaid for 7 days)   General breach 7 days Caravan parks Unpaid rent 5 days (if rent has been unpaid for 7 days)   General breach 7 days What can a tenant be breached for ? You can be breaching your tenancy if you are;  behind or late paying your rent (rent arrears). Causing Damage to the property ( by you, other household members or your visitors). operating a buisness from the property without approval. using the property for illegal purposes. interfering with the peace, comfort or privacy of a neighbour. failing to keep the propety clean ( for example, broken glass or rubbish that needs removing, long grass, car wrecks). keeping animals without approval. breaking Local Government Laws ( example. keeping hazardous goods). not telling us if you move out of the property. not telling us if someone new moves in to the property. continued neighbourhood disputes ( tenants, occupants, or visitors causing a nuisance). not keeping up with payments for a prior debt ( deed of repayment) You must ensure your household members do not disturb the peace, comfort and privacy of your neighbours. You are also responsible for the behaviour of your visitors. Rental Agency's will not tolerate domestic violence, disruptive behaviour, deliberate or reckless property damage or illegal activities at your property. Disruptive behaviour that disturbs the peace and safety of a neighbourhood is a breach of the State Tenanct Agreement and will not be tolerated by the department or any rental agency in Queensland.  At what stage can we lodge an application to QCAT for a termination order after the tenant has remedied 2 Notice to Remedy Breaches? Provided that each time the Form 11 Notice to Remedy Breach was issued it was for the exact same reason, AND the tenant remedies the breach before it expires, you can lodge an Application to QCAT under the provision of repeated breaches. How long between breaches can pass by and still be able to lodge straight to QCAT? As mentioned above, provided the breaches were for the same instance, it’s important to understand that the 2 breaches would have had to had been issued within a 12 month period and then you would lodge to QCAT (within the 12 month period also from when you first issued a breach to the tenant). What allows QCAT to hear the matter on these grounds? Section 299 of the Residential Tenancies & Rooming Accommodation Act allows QCAT to hear a matter based on repeated breaches. Its important to understand that the breaches MUST be remedied by the tenant before the expiry for you to be able to lodge an application to QCAT on these grounds.  
  •   You lock your doors, change your fire alarm batteries regularly, and maybe you even went so far as to have a security system installed. These are all great steps to keeping your home safe from intruders and hazards, but there are a few contemporary threats that you might not have thought of. To find out the most overlooked dangers to homes we talked to David Laubner. He is Head of Digital Marketing and Sales at Blink, a wireless (and very affordable) security camera company, so he knows a lot about the surprising dangers lurking in homes. Read what he had to say below. Charging your phone on the bed It’s not uncommon to fall asleep with your phone, connected to the charger and still playing a podcast, beside you on the bed. But it is dangerous. “Not only does this disturb your sleep, it can also be hazardous if you have a faulty phone battery which can sometimes even result in a fire,” David says. As tempting as it is to tuck your phone in with you at night, place it safely on the nightstand while charging. Oversharing on social media Revealing too much on social media can be bad for a lot of reasons, including the security of your home. David explains, “If you check in to distant locations, you could be broadcasting to the world that your home will be empty and a prime target for a break in or that you’ll be arriving home late and a good target for an attack.” Setting your home address on your phone With how often you reference Google Maps or request an Uber to take you home after work, it makes sense that you’ve saved your home address in your phone – but in doing so, you’ve also given thieves a direct path to your house if they should ever get hands on the device. “Set the home address on your iPhone to an address near your home, but not your actual address. That way, if someone steals your phone, they won’t be able to find out exactly where you live,” David says. Overloading power outlets and extension cords The red battery icon on your laptop is flashing, your iPhone power is at one per cent, and your Kindle is dying. With so many devices needing a charge it’s easy to find your power outlet and extension cord suddenly filled up. But resist the urge to overload outlets as this can lead to fire. Always plug extension cords directly into the wall, not into other extension cords and be mindful of the voltage limits on your power strips. Putting multiple power strips into a single wall outlet can put you over the voltage limitations. Forgetting to turn off your hair straightener David warns that this basic styling tool is becoming an increasingly common way to start fires. “Is Your Hair Straightener Off?: This is one question you need to ask yourself before going out,” he says. If you find yourself repeatedly having trouble remembering, he suggests you keep a DIY security camera like Blink in the room where you usually do your hair, so you can double check that you turned it off from anywhere. Not sharing security access It may seem safest to keep all your security information private, but it sometimes makes sense to share these details with a close family member or trusted friend who can watch out for you in case of emergency; for example, David says, “if you have a security camera that links directly to an iPhone app, position it towards your front door and allow your parents or a close friend access so that they get a notification as soon as you’ve arrived home safely after a night on the town.” Ignoring your neighbours Walking the dog while checking emails or riding the bus while browsing the web on your phone has become de rigueur, but in self-isolating you’re missing a valuable opportunity to connect with your neighbours. “In case of intruders, your neighbours can be a huge help. They’ll likely be the first to notice or hear if something is wrong, and can call 000 if you’re unable to get to a phone,” says David.  
  •   Buying an apartment is obviously a big decision for any investor and short of working in the design industry, it can be hard to decipher which design trends will be relevant in five to 10 years’ time. Some trends that that look fresh and modern now may look anything but in five years’ time. However, some trends have more longevity and will continue to look great well into the future. As I lead the interiors department at DKO, I’ve seen trends come and go over the years and am in a unique position to give some advice on what to look out for when purchasing to help maximise the return on investment down the track. I will use Golden Age’s Sky One and Park One developments as case studies as they are favourite projects for me and showcases designing for the long-term well. Apartment communal areas: When you walk into a communal area of an apartment building, you will notice immediately the flow of the space. It doesn’t need to be palatial to have good natural light and a sense of flow. Look out for natural features as these won’t age and will grow more established with each year. The green spaces around the Park One development provide restful garden settings and scenic vistas from every window, with a blend of flowering natives and lush greenery. Living area: Apartments that offer open plan living is a key and timeless selling point. Open plan living allows individual occupants the opportunity to furnish the space with their own design. Storage is essential in urban apartment living and potential reselling. You can never have too much of it, and this is a key design feature in utilising available space in Golden Age’s Sky One and Park One developments. Similarly, quality materials and fixtures provide a classic design that will stand the test of time and multiple occupants. Natural light and cross ventilation are fundamental requirements for healthy living and highly sought after in apartment living. These provide an opportunity for future owners to see the apartment as a large, open and adaptable space that they can adapt to their own lifestyle. Bathroom: Bathroom designs are a big selling point in any apartment. Sticking to classic, luxe materials like natural stone with a strong grain will age well compared to tiles and laminates that seem to cycle through trends more frequently. Lighting placement is usually an overlooked design element but is important in ensuring adequate face illumination for each apartment buyer’s daily rituals. In the Sky One project we used generous mirrors and ample lighting for a paired back, stylish and practical design. The merging strong lineal joinery composition with hints of curves in tapware and joinery handles consolidated sips of current trends with recognised timeless designs. Also, look out for ample storage under vanities and behind mirrors along with linen storage which is imperative to providing a sellable space for savvy apartment buyers in the future. Bedroom: A key draw card in any apartment is the feeling each occupant gets when entering the bedroom. The bedroom should embody warmth, comfort and style. Look out for design that appeals to all as a blank canvas – people will fall in love with a space that they can put their own design on. More practical desirable characteristics include ample space and natural light, which is an obvious timeless feature, and ideal for maximising at resale. Kitchen: We all know the kitchen is known as the heart of any home. In order to maximise value in the future, kitchens are a key area that have to be thoughtfully designed. Generously-sized kitchens with plenty of bench workspace and full pantries are a major selling point to accommodate a variety of family units. These are also characteristics that will, of course, continue to be key selling points for years. Kitchen task lighting is a staple of good design, so take the time to check what areas of the kitchen are well lit at night. Pendants, however, are something that can easily be changed to keep in line with personal tastes and current trends. A kitchen design that utilises a strong, solid base of neutral tones and delicately grained timber will provide a timeless backdrop for changing styles and fashions with the furnishings of multiple occupants. Installing tapware with perfectly matched joinery hardware are the pops of subtle metallic that give the palette character and could be updated in the future if desired. And, of course, a kitchen is not complete without correct storage. Look out for a full kitchen pantry as this will conceal everyday items and are a big selling point to future buyers, whether they are families or singles.  
  •   You wash your dishes but what about the underside of your taps? The dish drainer? You’ll eat more safely when these things are clean.   1.Light switches Never spray the switchboard directly. Instead, spray disinfectant or rubbing alcohol on to a paper towel and wipe down the surface. Then use a cotton bud to get into every corner of the actual switch. 2.Around your fridge You’re right to dread what lurks underneath. Get to those hard-to-reach spots using a flexible microfibre duster. 3.Reusable jars How many times do you refill the cookie/cereal/sugar/flour jar before you think to wash it out? They are known to carry salmonella, yeast and mould, so make sure you thoroughly wash with detergent and hot water between each use. Take care to clean the rubber seals and allow to air dry before filling with anything else. 4.Remote controls and game controllers Remove the batteries from the back, then wipe clean with a cotton cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol. Next, use a cotton bud dipped in rubbing alcohol to carefully clean around the buttons. If there’s grime underneath, use a toothpick to get in the crannies. Dry using a microfibre cloth. 5.Dish drying rack Though you only place clean items on your dish rack, the water that drips from your cutlery and plates can cause mould and mildew. Disassemble your rack and scrub each part with a sponge, detergent and hot water. Make sure you reach deep inside the utensil holder, using a toothbrush to get into every corner. Then, soak each part in a sink of hot water and a tablespoon of bleach. Leave for two minutes, rinse, then leave to air dry. 6.Fridge drawers The drawers in your fridge are a hot spot for salmonella, listeria and other nasties. Take out the drawers and wash with a clean sponge and hot water mixed with detergent. Rinse and wipe dry with a clean towel. Also, separate meat from vegetables to avoid cross-contamination. 7.Rubbish bin If your bin ever begins to smell, you know it’s long overdue for a clean. Put on some rubber gloves, completely empty your bin (removing any food particles stuck to the bottom), hose down, then pat dry with paper towel. Liberally spray with a disinfectant, scrub with a toilet brush, then rinse and allow to air dry. 8.Sink Want to get your sink looking sparkly and new again? First, wet the entire surface. Then pour bicarb soda over the area and scrub using a toothbrush. Rinse, then pour white vinegar on to paper towels and line your basin with them. Allow them to sit for 20 minutes, then wipe and throw away. Wash again with soapy water, paying attention to the faucets, knobs and sink stopper, before rinsing once more and allowing to dry. 9.Doorknobs and handles Sickness spreads very easily via doorknobs and handles, touched by everyone but cleaned by no one. To clean, spray with a gentle disinfectant, then wipe down with a clean towel. 10.Couch cushions First, remove the cover and wash separately from the pillow. Pre-treat any stains then machine wash on a delicate wash cycle, along with the pillow itself. Tumble dry or leave to dry in the sun – taking care to fluff back into shape. If the pillow’s foam, rinse clean by hand and gently press out the water before leaving to dry. 11.Sponge and rags Think about it – they’re warm, moist hotbeds for nasty microbes. Give them a quick clean by soaking them in a solution made from nine parts water to one part bleach, to instantly eliminate bacteria. Rinse with water, wring out to dry, and they’re good to use again.  
  •   Unwanted houseguests are a common problem in the warmer months (and we’re not just talking about those of the human variety). But how exactly do you keep the creepy crawlies at bay? From dust mites and silverfish, to bed bugs and moths, we’ve got some simple tips and tricks to deter these home invaders.   Dust mites and silverfish Seal up To prevent them from entering and laying eggs, grab some caulk and seal any cracks in walls, between baseboards and floor or around cabinets. Cover up Cover your mattress, bed base and pillows with anti-allergy covers. If you’re buying a new mattress, consider latex or foam options, as dust mites can’t live on these materials. Keep air dry Buy a humidifier for the room. Dust mites die when humidity falls to below 45 per cent. Use the right vacuum If you’re in the market for a vacuum, buy one that uses a double bag and a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter, which filters out microscopic allergens. Wear a mask when vacuuming (making sure you vacuum your mattress) and if possible, leave the house for a few hours when you’re done. Clean up the clutter By cleaning up the clutter, you’re reducing the number of hiding spaces for creepy crawlies. In particular, toss piles of magazines, newspapers, cardboard boxes and even bags, which tend to attract lurking silverfish. Change your sheets at least once a week This is a simple step for a restful, allergy-free sleep. If your pillows are making you sneeze, throw into the washer and dryer, selecting the “sanitise” mode or the highest heat setting possible. (Note: This only works for synthetic and not down!) Keep clothes off the ground Get a laundry hamper that sits a few inches off the ground, preferably on a metal frame. This will keep carpet-lurking bugs away from your soiled clothing – especially damp towels, which tend to wind up in bundles in the corner.   MOTHS Allow air to circulate Though open windows make you think of bugs flying in, it’s important to keep your house well ventilated. Use natural repellents Mothballs and moth crystals are poisonous, so consider natural alternatives instead. Lavender, rosemary, mint, thyme, peppercorns, eucalyptus, ginseng and dried orange or lemon peel can be placed in sachets and hung in your closet or placed in your drawers. Cedar also repels moths with its natural odour. Look for it in the form of blocks, balls, hangers and boxes and sand it with sandpaper every few months to keep the scent nice and strong. Wipe down your wardrobe Take everything out of your wardrobe, then wipe it down with a detergent-soaked cloth. Before you return cleaned clothing to the wardrobe, wipe boxes, shoes and other surfaces with a damp, clean cloth, then throw it away. Keep your clothes clean If you have any vulnerable fabrics, dry-clean or wash them on the hottest setting the garment will allow. If items can’t be washed – such as fur and leather – bag them and place in the freezer for 48 to 72 hours to eliminate any larvae. Moths love to feast on protein-rich sweat, blood and food particles – so keep your clothes clean and avoid mixing dirty clothes with clean ones. If you have the space, store off-season clothing in airtight containers somewhere dry and always dry-clean vintage clothes before introducing them into your wardrobe. Take extra care with your sweaters Line your drawers with anti-moth paper and consider putting your best cashmere in vacuum bags or zip-loc bags lined with anti-moth paper strips. Always take your clothes out of those plastic dry-cleaning bags. The bags attract dust – and dust attracts moths. Vacuum and steam clean regularly Vacuum at least twice a week and steam clean at least once a year, especially if you have wool carpet. Moths lay eggs in the carpets so destroy them at the source by moving around furniture and vacuuming every corner – taking care around the baseboards. Make sure you change the vacuum bag when you’re done – taking the used one straight to the outside rubbish so that pests aren’t reintroduced into the house.   Remember, the focus is on prevention. If it’s too late for that – and you’ve already found traces of them in your carpets, bed and wardrobe – pest control is just a phone call away.  
  •   Rachel Meyers and husband Heinrich have just listed the sixth property they’ve flipped, and have plans to start a mum and dad building company, If they aren’t buying run-down properties to breathe new life into, they’re helping out friends and family in need. Quietly, Mrs Meyers says, it’s becoming more than she can handle part-time. “I used to have so many people say how does this fit in with this?” she says. “So many people knew what they wanted but didn’t know how to put it together.” Their secret? Don’t be scared to knock down a house to build the perfect home. “The footprint of older homes isn’t conducive to our way of life now,” Mrs Meyers says. The postwar home that used to occupy 70 Stephen Street in Camp Hill had rooms that were too small, and lacked the open-plan style currently in vogue. Mrs Meyers said renovating would cost too much; they had no option but to knock the house down and start from scratch. “We like to do things properly,” she says. “Things were adding up and you never know when those expenses are going to end.” Mrs Meyers looks for good blocks of land, with the potential for city views – then figures the rest out later. If she’s working on a house for her friends or family, Mrs Meyers can’t usually knock the whole thing down. In a recent reno job, she gave a friend’s Camp Hill home a much needed facelift. “We repainted the whole house, inside and out,” she said.  “And we re-styled the lawn.” The major structural work was done on the exterior, while the inside was updated in places. Ray White Bulimba’s Steven Gow was the selling agent for the Meyers’ latest project, 70 Stephen Street. He said Mrs Meyers’ design style is in high demand. “We’ve been swamped with it,” he said. “Over 100 people turned up, just for the first open.” Mr Gow said they were a part of a growing trend of families trying to break into the property flipping market. “One thing I have noticed is there is more couples trying to get in and get themselves established as a business,” he said. “Builders and developers are charging a lot, so mums and dads are trying to build their own homes.” “What I’ve found most families are so busy with work and home life, they don’t have time for that.” “Being able to walk in and make that transition into a house, is a lot better than the headache of doing it yourself.”
  •   A significant part of the property management role is solving problems. But sometimes when you are involved in handling a dispute or complaint with some history, a range of complications, or a multitude of people involved, it’s easy to become tangled up in it all. When this happens, the way forward can seem unclear. How do you know what to do, or what to suggest, or how to proceed? What do you need to take into account? What should you consider? Can the tenant do this? Can the lessor expect that? Should we have done what we did? Who is right and who is wrong? For those times when we need to disentangle a situation, here are ten fact-finding questions we can use to analyse the situation, in order to better identify possible solutions.    What are the property management facts?  It is certainly easy enough to lose sight of the essence of the matter when it starts to become layered with events, and exchanges, and emotional reactions by all concerned.    When we are in the midst of a situation there is a risk that ‘the story’ that goes with the situation can sometimes start to overshadow the actual property management issue that requires your attention. Whilst some details do matter, other details should be recognised as merely distractions; at risk of making everything seem more complicated than it really is. For example, regardless of whether a tenant is moving out after 6 months of eye-poppingly unpleasant exchanges between the tenant’s girlfriend and the neighbour in the house next door over some personal disagreement that has escalated into petty exchanges that they have both shared with us in great (and unwanted) detail - the property management situation we are managing could be summed up as ‘the tenant is vacating at the end of their agreement’. Therefore our focus is to ensure that the usual termination and vacate procedures and requirements apply, rather than letting the clutter and noise of ‘the story’ distract our focus, or consume our energy. What does the legislation say?  The Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act is the primary piece of legislation relating to residential tenancies. It contains information about the rights and obligations of the parties across a range of issues – repairs, water charging, ways to end a tenancy, actions the parties can take when the other party is in breach, and so on. However sometimes other legislation could also have an impact – the Body Corporate and Community Management Act, the Property Occupations Act, the Agents Financial Administration Act, and of course legislation relating to issues like pool fencing, and safety switches.   Although we are not a legal practitioner, a sound knowledge of the relevant legislation and when or how it impacts on industry practice will better equips us to perform our role effectively. Crucial to this is knowing where to source information when we need it – a credible source that can be relied on as accurate, rather than tapping into uninformed opinions or guesses. Depending on the circumstances we might call or check the website of the relevant government agency that administers the particular legislation, or use the REIQ’s Property Management Support Service, or seek legal advice from a qualified legal practitioner.  But what does the agency appointment form say?  Not every question is answered by legislation. Some things will come back to the specific instructions given by the property owner. So sometimes part of untangling a situation means referring to the information contained on the agency appointment form.   When a client is unhappy with our actions that we have taken or have not taken in relation to their property or tenancy, the content of the appointment form will fall into sharp focus. What instructions does it contain to allow us to perform particular actions on the owner’s behalf? What authorities does it contain in relation to how or when those services are to be provided? What restrictions or limitations are identified on the appointment form?   All of this will depend on how the appointment form has been completed, and what schedules and terms & conditions have been included with the appointment. For this reason, great care is taken to ensure this document is completed in such a way that it will contain the necessary instructions and authorities we want in order to manage each particular property to best practice standards. Signing an appointment form without the client or Rental Trends understanding what it allows and requires of each party, is almost certainly a future catalyst for disputes. What relevant written instructions have been received from the client beyond the appointment form?  Instructions from the client beyond the appointment form should always be obtained in writing, such as their instructions to proceed to QCAT about a matter that has arisen, or their instructions on what claims are to be made from a tenant’s bond, or their instructions on whether to terminate a tenancy or offer a further term. We must follow lawful instructions from the client. If a problem or dispute arises and we are unsure of what we should have done – the answer is often found by asking ‘what was the written instruction from the client. What does the tenancy agreement say?   Again, not every question about the lessor’s and tenant’s obligations is specifically answered by legislation – the Act is silent on some issues. This means that various aspects of a tenancy are open to negotiation between the parties, and relevant information will be included on the tenancy agreement. As an example, when considering a commonly asked question like ‘can we charge the tenant for water?’ – the answer to that should be found on the individual tenancy agreement signed by the tenant. The legislation allows the tenant to be required to pay for water in some circumstances; and certainly the property owner should instruct us on their requirements in relation to water charging for their property on the appointment form they sign; but from there the tenancy agreement should tell you whether or not the tenant has to pay for water, and how that will happen. Other than water charging, there are numerous examples of common tenancy questions that should be able to be answered by simply referring to information included on the signed tenancy agreement. Use of comprehensive special terms on a tenancy agreement will make answering these questions so much easier - remembering that these terms cannot contract out of the RTRA Act, nor be authored by us due to the Legal Professions Act. What other written agreements or correspondence are on file?  In some circumstances, other written agreements will have been established with a tenant. A common example might be a written agreement to end a tenancy sooner than the end date. Where this type of negotiated agreement occurs, it would be important to ensure that the written agreement covers all bases in terms of what terms the parties agree will apply to their agreement, particularly aspects that might come under dispute later. In that way, answer to questions like “Can the tenant do xyz?” or “Can the lessor expect xyz?” would be able to be readily answered by referring to the wording of what the parties have signed. In some situations it is also relevant to refer to the content of any related correspondence to identify what has been said by each party.  What does the entry condition report say?  Where questions arise about what can be required in terms of cleaning or tenant damage at the end of the tenancy, the entry condition report is the ultimate ‘go to’ record. The more detail, the better. The tenant must leave the property as it was at the start, fair wear and tear excepted. Questions that start with “Can we expect a tenant to clean xyz?” will hinge on what the entry condition report says about that item. If the report has been completed with only sketchy details, it becomes less likely to support a clear answer. Photos can be extremely useful supporting evidence as well.  What preventative measures were taken?  Where problems or disputes arise, it can be helpful to look at what actions were taken to help avoid this occurring – and this is where property managers can work smarter. For example, consider a scenario where the tenant has accidentally broken a light cover when trying to remove it to change a bulb because they twisted when they should have pulled. Or the air-conditioning now needs a repair because the filter was not cleaned regularly. The lessor is likely to expect the tenant to pay for these repairs - but then the tenant says it’s not their fault because they were not aware of what was required or how to do it, and a dispute arises that we have to manage. If we have records that the tenants were shown or given information on how to remove the tricky light cover, and how to clean the a/c filter, at the start of the tenancy, these types of situations either don’t occur, or become a lot easier to address if they do.   A little bit of extra information provided at the start can end up providing the answer you need during a later dispute.  What do the parties want?  Sometimes communications can become mired in ‘the problem’. The parties repeatedly list their grievances or complaints over an extended timeframe, getting everyone exactly nowhere!   Shifting the focus from the problem to the solution by asking what outcome each party is seeking, can help move the matter forward. Does the lessor want to end the tenancy, or would they prefer to negotiate? Do the...
  •   Living with friends, old or new, can be very rewarding. However, along with perks such as communal dinners and themed movie nights, there are a few things that can dampen your time in a share house. Take a look at these ideas about how to maintain harmony and minimise run-ins – by setting some ground rules at the beginning, you’ll be off to the best start possible.  1. Make a cleaning roster One the fastest ways a flatmate friendship is ruined is when someone doesn’t pull their weight when it comes to cleaning. To ensure a fair distribution of chores – especially if you don’t want to get caught out forgetting your own responsibilities – draw up a weekly roster to help keep the household in check. Everything from vacuuming and unpacking the dishwasher to taking out the bins can be accounted for. Be sure to assign tasks on a rotating basis so that no one repeatedly gets stuck with the worst jobs. 2. Take it in turns to buy household staples While grocery shopping is best left to do individually as needed, there are some shared essentials that have to be restocked on a regular basis – items such as milk, bread, eggs and condiments. Implement a system whereby housemates alternate who buys these each week to avoid someone feeling as though they’re paying for more than their share. Alternatively, keep a communal money jar in the kitchen in which each flatmate contributes $10 per week. This can be used for last minute store visits so that no one’s ever out of pocket­ (or toilet paper). 3. Be mindful of noise and guests Discussing upfront when (and which) visitors can stay over – especially if they’ll be sleeping in the living area – will minimise awkward situations and set the ground rules for the house. Whether it’s a partner, friend or family member, everyone has different ideas about what’s acceptable The same goes for noise – while your old flattie didn’t mind a bit of Sunday morning radio, your new housemates might prefer a sleep in. Being respectful, particularly if there are residents that study or do shift work, will go a long way towards maintaining a happy household. 4. Designate shelves and label food Storage space permitting, allocating a shelf for each housemate will help to avoid getting food mixed up and ending up eating things that are not yours (and vice versa). For all the fridge items that aren’t shared – think that fancy cheese and dip you’re saving for the weekend – use post-its to label who owns what. Keep it friendly by adding a smiley face 🙂      5. Split utilities evenly The fairest way to pay for water, electricity and gas bills is to split them equally between all housemates. Problems can arise when one person has the air con pumping all day, or if another works from home and chews through wi-fi data, so keep an eye on the bills and communicate any concerns early on. Tip: If your household is eco-conscious, why not get together and talk about some sustainability tips that can be implemented? Car sharing, recycling and reducing energy use are a few simple ways you can lower your environmental footprint as a household. 6. Discuss the care of pets Research shows that animals can make a household a happier place, and every housemate will appreciate being lovingly greeted after a long day at work. However, the owner should claim total responsibility when it comes to feeding, cleaning up after, and caring for, their pet, unless other arrangements have been discussed and agreed upon.
  •   Nothing ruins the relaxing vibe of your holiday like sudden panic about the house being robbed. Security expert and founder of the security monitoring centre Calamity, Daniel Lewkovitz, says he sees a mad rush of people wanting to install security systems around Christmas time each year. “It’s really important that people think about their security when it’s quiet and nothing’s happening, rather than calling us after they’ve suffered loss,” Lewkovitz says.   Take precautions, because you'd rather watch Home Alone at Christmas time, than re-enact it. “The thing is, criminals work the rest of the year as well. Paying attention early makes it more tempting for criminals to rob someone else instead.” Since you’d rather watch Home Alone at Christmas time than re-enact it, here are some tips on improving your home’s security and giving yourself peace of mind. Get your neighbours to help you out If you’ve got a good relationship with the next-doors, see if they can feed your dogs, water your plants and generally keep your house safe. Just having them keep an eye on suspicious characters makes the place safer, and that way they can call you if there’s anything wrong – but they can’t do that if they don’t know you. Ask the neighbours to park in your driveway. It will look like someone’s home and they will benefit from the extra space. Win-win. Upgrade your technology Daniel Lewkovitz recommends moving away from a traditional telephone-based alarm service, and instead choosing security systems that connect to a monitoring station via the internet and mobile networks. The new systems can’t be tampered with and motion sensor lights are an inexpensive deterrent. Lewkovitz also suggests having more precautions on levels above the ground floor that can be reached by climbing. Recent ABS research found 60 per cent of victims’ security had been compromised due to a faulty deadlock or loose window frame that was easily jimmied open, so it’s essential to check your locks and install new ones. Monitor everything remotely Newer IP security systems let you monitor things from your smartphone. It’s one thing having your security system/alarm set up, but it’s much more effective if you can arm and disarm it remotely if something does happen. Another advantage of being able to open your doors with your phone is that you can let deliveries in. Choose newer IP security systems that let you monitor things from your smart phone. Make it look like you’re still there There’s a reason people do this cliched, old-school technique; because it works. Burglars don’t break into inhabited homes, so turning on the lights and the radio may deter them. Similarly, you could place signs from security companies on the walls as a deterrent. This is where your neighbours can help you (see Step 1). Use a safe Simple, but effective. Keep your valuables safe by making them impossible to access, then you can take things out and put them back on display when you return home. Don’t advertise your valuables or empty house This includes social media – while we might all want to share that Christmas haul and the perfect lighting at our holiday destinations, it could make you an easier target for thieves. Tagging locations can make your house easier to find too, so unfortunately, there is such a thing as oversharing.  
  •   The search is over – you’ve settled on your new address. The movers are booked, the boxes are packed, now what? It’s time to make that place feel like home. It’s easy to get carried away with all the big changes and costly renovations you’d like to make, but they are not always possible, at least not right away. In the meantime, here’s your six-step go-to guide to turning any space into a place you’ll love calling home. 1. Clean and scrub Okay it might seem obvious, and an easy one to palm off to a professional, but even if you do spring for an expert to help with the heavy lifting, there’s much to be said for getting down and dirty yourself. It helps you bond with your home and get to know its structure and its unique quirks. You can’t beat a sense of intimacy with your space for making it feel like a home. 2. Respect those who came before you Whether it’s the architect who designed your apartment or the decades of homeowners before you, take a moment to put yourself in their shoes. Can’t bear those old slate floors at first sight? Hang in there. Embrace your home’s idiosyncrasies, including the questionable style choices of past owners, and try not to be arrogant. Maybe the house has a point. Wait to see what it might be before diving into an expensive new fitout. 3. Make a floor plan for the way you actually live This includes choosing furniture that will service the way you use your home. For instance, there’s no point taking up precious space with a large formal living room if you only ever eat at the kitchen bench. Maybe a few new barstools are all that’s required for an eat-in kitchen, leaving you a whole spare room to turn into a much-needed study. Alternatively, replacing your pair of bulky, two-seater sofas with a single sectional sofa might help de-formalise and open the layout of your new living area. 4. Run for covers The easiest, most affordable reno-free makeover you can give any space is paint and textiles – in that order. If paint is a priority to freshen up a tired or grubby place, then you can’t go wrong with basic white (and it’s easy to go over later). Textile-wise, start with rugs and curtains, choosing designs that reflect your style and complement the period of your home. Finally, finish with cushion covers – you’d be amazed at the way they will transform any tired sofa or uninspired corner. 5. Allocate a place for everything you own and everything you use A little planning at the start will help curb the clutter and keep your home tidy and more manageable over time. For example, if a vast book collection is your pride and joy, then a wall dedicated to open shelving may be a better use of space than a pretty sideboard and mirror. Or if you’re keen cyclists in a tiny apartment, a wall-mounted bike rack might be just the wall decor for you.  Tell your story. Displaying photos, personal collections and travel mementos are well worn ways of reflecting and celebrating the people who live in a home, but there are other subtle solutions, too. Introduce a favourite, memory-inducing fragrance via a vase of fresh flowers or a scented candle. Or add a glass cloche or display box with a favourite childhood object or holiday souvenir to instantly bring that personal touch home.  
  •   Can tenants just go and get work done at the property and expect the lessor to pay for the work?   In short the answer is YES - provided that the work is considered an emergency repair under Section 214 of the Residential Tenancies & Rooming Accommodation Act.    If the works required appear to be due to tenants not looking after the property or damaging it, who pays the bill?   Ultimately the best practice approach would be that the lessor pays the contractor as quickly as they can (to avoid your contractor getting upset) and then seeking compensation from the tenants, provided they have sufficient evidence that the works required were to due damage.   The REIQ special terms (of a tenancy agreement) outline some items that the tenants acknowledge that you could use in these types of situations (e.g. the tenant acknowledges they cannot block any plumbing or drainage at the property).   What if the contractor demands payment from the tenant when the work is complete?  If the tenant chooses to pay the contractor direct they have the ability to seek reimbursement from the lessor, to the value of 2 weeks rent (for that tenancy).   If the owner doesn’t pay this amount the tenant could pursue this matter through the Tribunal.  Can the owner choose to not getting something fixed whilst the property is tenanted?   Unfortunately, as a property manager, we have to follow the clients instructions and if they decide to not getting something fixed (e.g replace a dishwasher) then we cant go ahead and get it done for them. In saying that, its important to educate the owner of section 185 of the Residential Tenancies & Rooming Accommodation Act and their obligation to maintain the property AND its inclusions throughout a tenancy.   The longer the owner leaves an issue unresolved, the more chance the tenant has of seeking compensation for loss of an inclusion, along with the need to address the actual issue on top of that.  
  • In the private spaces of our homes, we can revel in the sides of ourselves that we don’t always put on display. While the kitchen is often spoken of as “the hub of the house”, the expression could be applied just as aptly to the bathroom. The bathroom is where we can let go of our public persona and get back to basics. It’s where we literally let it all hang out and come face to face with our most intimate selves. The place where we choose to spend time preparing to meet the world is revealing in more ways than one. Peruse these distinctive bathrooms and choose the one you’d most like to spend time in. See what it suggests about your personality and some tips to get the look. World of White - White is an enduring candidate for bathroom palettes. Surrounding ourselves in white surfaces makes us feel clean and fresh, and an all-white space can be calming to the senses. Love this bathroom? - You’re fastidious almost to a fault, self-disciplined and well-organised. Not prone to impulsive behaviour, you prefer a cautious and sensible approach. You value efficiency highly in those around you and may be a little demanding of others. Get the look: Successfully combining white elements isn’t as easy as it looks. Read some tips on getting the right white for your intended space. Steer clear of a clinical look by texturising the space – a snowy white sheepskin draped on a velvet chair, a white marble vanity top, accessories in glass and crystal. Add the sensory element of aroma to enrich the ambience of an all-white bathroom, with lusciously-scented bath products. Colour Chameleon -Our moods are intricately related to colours. A morning session in a bathroom that is drab and functional or safely bland can leave us so uninspired as to affect how we approach the day. On the other hand, a dose of vibrant colour is a wonderful wake-up call. Love this bathroom? Purple lovers are imaginative, intuitive and intense. Above all, they like to be noticed for their individuality. They are compassionate free spirits who can appear introverted, but they’re really only thinking deeply. Get the look: Introducing a strong colour doesn’t mean you are locked into it forever. Before you commit to expanses of permanent boldly coloured surfaces and fixtures, try painting a wall and adding accessories. A new coat of paint and an accessory swap means the whole look can be changed inexpensively. Industrial Revolution - Market demand for concrete in domestic spaces – partly a response to the rise of industrial style as a major trend – means lots of options. Choose from a spectrum of tints, smooth, grainy or pebbled textures, with a rustic patina, high-gloss finish or a waxed satiny gleam, even inlaid with brass or timber strips. On-site pouring is no longer necessary and staining is minimised by factory sealants. Fake it with no-fuss concrete-look tiles. Love this bathroom? You’re a no-nonsense, hands-on type who gets down and dirty in physical jobs such as heavy gardening and building stone walls. Then you like to clean up in a rugged rustic bathroom like this. Chances are you’re into extreme sports and survival competitions. You think scented bath oils are just plain wrong and love the smell of concrete in the morning. Green Scene - Our enthusiasm for greening up our homes has never been keener. Pantone came to the party this year by selecting Greenery as its 2017 winning colour. It seems we can’t bring enough of the green stuff inside. Create a lush personal rainforest or woodland in the bathroom and reap the benefits of having nature close at hand every day. Love this bathroom? - Anyone with the heart of a gardener, even if the “garden” is a handful of houseplants. You’re patient, kind and well-balanced. If you chose this bathroom, love flows through your veins, and your love of plants extends to pets, children, family and friends. You have energy and enthusiasm to spare. Get the look: As well as bringing the outside in, taking the inside out is gaining converts. In a small closed internal bathroom, a skylight instead of a roof will bathe the space in light and keep a collection of potted plants thriving. A courtyard too small for outdoor sitting could become an extension of your bathroom, walled off and planted with flourishing greenery and connected by a large glass wall or bi-fold doors. Resort Report - Holidays in fabulous resorts and memories of mind-blowing bathrooms often linger long after we return to reality. Replicating elements of the bliss we experienced is a way of reliving those good times. Keep the things you loved in mind for a bathroom makeover when you get home – you can get the resort look and feel, if not the staff to keep it clean. Love this bathroom? -If you are attracted to this bathroom for its cool grey elegance, you are probably an undemonstrative, composed and practical type who craves stability and shies away from attention. A committed and loyal hard worker, you may appear detached and can be indecisive. Get the look: Nothing says “peel me a pomegranate and ring room service” more than a sunken bath. These last words in hedonism visually enlarge space, open up a window view and make you feel like Cleopatra. They’re not a quick-fit or cheap choice and must be planned and installed in a new build, not a renovation, with adherence to safety standard regulations. They don’t suit an upstairs bathroom or one used by children or those with mobility issues.
  •   Property prices in the country’s biggest capital cities have soared over the past five years, but a new survey shows Australians don’t all agree on what caused the boom. Foreign investment was seen as the biggest culprit for high house prices by more than half of those asked by Galaxy Market Research on behalf of State Custodians in April.  And the older the survey respondent, the more likely they were to say this was a factor. In Gen Y, 49 per cent thought foreign buyers were to blame for high house prices, while 72 per cent of those aged 65 plus said the same.  The other factors all respondents believed were contributing to house price growth were overpopulation, property investment and negative gearing incentives, high transaction costs, low interest rates and low supply.  While all these factors likely had an impact, it was the “perfect storm of all of them together leading to the market we are experiencing today”, State Custodians general manager Joanna Pretty said. Foreign investment was targeted in the government’s 2017 budget, restricting the number of homes able to be sold in a new development to just half the properties and an introduction of a tax for those who don’t put their investments up for rent. “The budget changes go some way to help regarding the foreign investment levels, but the other factors still exist and there is still a lot of work to be done regarding affordability generally,” Ms Pretty said. Low interest rates were likely having a bigger impact than overseas investors, The Successful Investor founder Michael Sloan said. “It’s easy to blame foreign buyers for increasing house prices but that is not the reason property prices are increasing,” he said. “Anyone who can buy at these low rates is buying and this puts more buyers in the market and that pushes up prices.” Mr Sloan said property investors were an “easy target’ and population growth was good for the economy. “Of course, home buyers don’t like to see prices rising but property prices have stayed ahead of inflation for decades. So that means it is a normal part of the cycle.” Compass Economics chief economist Hans Kunnen was also adamant that foreign investors didn’t affect house values, but they could be causing apartment prices to rise. “Foreign investors buy apartments more than houses and when you’re looking at house prices it’s not foreign investors pushing prices up,” he said. He did think they had an impact on apartment prices, but noted house prices had risen far more quickly than apartment values had. Predominantly, the problem was a low supply of properties being built – something he was surprised wasn’t ranked higher. But Property Finance Made Simple author Andrew Crossley said the list of reasons was “little surprise” to him. Given the restrictions on foreign buyers he “did not agree that foreigners should take the full blame”, instead saying they were a contributing factor. He agreed population growth and investment properties had made an impact, but said it was low interest rates that were the biggest contributing factor as they allowed people to afford bigger mortgages. “The reality is that the housing affordability crisis is mostly centred around Melbourne and Sydney, this has not been a normal cycle of growth in these cities, it has been extreme,” he said.​  
  •   From moody dyed resins to painstakingly stitched fabrics, our Aussie artisans are creating some beautifully unconventional homewares using the very best local materials and traditions of craftsmanship.  It’s these special little somthin’ somthin’s that are responsible for beautifying our living spaces, adding interest and creating cohesion in what could be a bland, cinematic-style space. Go on, give people something to look at that’s NOT the TV… 1. Dinosaur Designs resin rock jug - The kids have spoken, but what do you think? Personally, we’re getting lost in the swirly blues of Dinosaur Designs resin rock jug. It’s handmade in Australia, and as such, no single piece is the same. 2. Karen Morton stardust plate & cup - Melbourne ceramicist Karen Morton creates the most beautiful tableware and decorative ceramic pieces. So pretty are they that it’s hard to pick a favourite. We’re going with the Lyra and Lynx vases, glazed on the inside but left as raw coloured porcelain on the outside. Their brush strokes, in a complementary palette of blue, pink and navy, make them great for a neutral-themed space wanting a literal splash of colour. 3. Sage and Clare quilt - Every lounge room needs a good throw or blanket… or 10. The handcrafted detailing in this Barnaby grid blanket, by Aussie designers Sage and Clare, is show-stopping: Check the impressive embellishments with hand-printed grid patten and colourful tufting, and the gingham insert. 4. Artistudio black & white ceramics - Prefer your interior look unconsciously off-beat? The perfectly imperfect ceramics by Sydney-based artist, weaver and designer Arti Shah are challenging conventional ideas of beauty in the best possible way. 5. Tangier ceramic cactus set - Indoor succulents and cacti are all the rage, and with a few foolproof tips and tricks theoretically should be able to keep them alive through winter. However, we’re aware there are some black thumbs out there that can barely keep a flower going in a vase of water, so here we present: The ceramic cactus. With all the hallmarks of a real cactus – green, spiky, raised ‘arms’ – they’ve got the cute and quirky look of the artisan-made, without the hefty price tag. 6. Matt Pearson wedge coat stand Keep things looking organic with this coat stand made from Aussie timbers by Matt Pearson, avaiFit it neatly into an empty corner or make a statement of it in the hallway, storing all those heavy coats and scarves you don’t have room for in your wardrobe. It’s completely flat-packable, making assembly a cinch, and even has adjustable pegs so you can make it work for different garments. 7. What She Said Co neon sign - Neon… that’s one way to brighten up your living room! Here’s one for the wild at heart, doubling beautifully and unconventionally as a desk or reading lamp. 8. Katrina Johnson Himmeli sculpture - Got an empty white (or pink!) wall dragging down your spirits? Well lift them with himmeli (meaning the sky or heavens); it’s a Germanic word that’s now become a spiritual symbol of good fortune. The Finnish make himmeli sculptures as Christmas decorations, but we think these look pretty damn beautiful year-round. 9. Luke Neil Mr Potato Head chest of drawers - Just try not to fall in love with this pint-sized chest of drawers. Handcrafted from reclaimed timber and metal, with the cutest little coat-button handles, it’s conjuring up plenty of 60s vibes for such a teeny tiny unit.  
  • It’s the perfect time to revamp your home’s interior. If you’re going to be looking at your walls a lot more over the coming months, why not make them attention-worthy? We spoke to Dulux colour expert Andrea Lucena-Orr about this season’s colour forecast, and how to adapt it to create your perfect winter sanctuary (that, handily, can also work well into summer). Here are five reasons to pick up a paintbrush, stat.   1. This season’s colours are super versatile Dulux is forecasting that a moody yet neutral palette featuring greys, blues and highlighted by warm metallics and textural elements will be top of homeowners’ wish lists in coming months. While “normally with winter we’d have lots of warm colours,” says Andrea, “we thought we’d just change it up a little bit.” The Construct colour theme is heavy on neutrals across the spectrum, from light (such as Winter Terrace, “a soft greige”, says Andrea) through to dark (Ahoy, which she describes as “an alluring deep blue”), which means it’s beautifully easy to adapt and incorporate into your home all year round.   2. You can embrace a softer take on the industrial trend Dulux’s winter palette is inspired by current trends ranging from industrial to minimalist – even the raw, concrete-heavy Brutalist architectural movement gets a nod. But while high-end design trends are one thing, not everyone wants to live in an industrial-chic loft or a concrete-laden home. “Most people would not feel comfortable living in a really harsh, cold environment, so you need that balance,” explains Andrea. “And that’s what we’ve tried to do with this winter palette… [to] give them a broad balance between going for those beautiful cooler neutrals but then adding in that little bit of warmth.” Thus the inclusion of Concrete Effect – which gives the appearance of polished concrete – allowing you to tap into the industrial trend without having to go overboard. Similarly, Copper Effect can be used on furniture and features such as fireplaces as well as walls to add a warm, luxe touch. Add some soft texture in the form of chunky knitted throws and warm-coloured textiles, and you’ve got a beautiful balance of coolness and warmth.   3. Painting = instant upgrade for your furnishings Here’s a handy bonus – painting your walls can also breathe new life into old furniture and furnishings. Andrea says darker hues such as the Ahoy blue or the deep grey Panda Pod not only work with many other colours (as well as whites); they can also refocus attention on previously neglected pieces, like art and accessories; and also work beautifully with both light and dark timber furniture. “Adding one change in a wall colour can make a dramatic difference to the feel of the space,” says Andrea. “All of a sudden you’ve got a new focus, and it just brings other things to life [in that space] as well”. You can also use different shades of colour to ‘contour’ a room, adding depth or regulating an oddly-shaped space, adds Andrea.   4. You don’t have to over-commit Feeling a little gun-shy? You don’t have to re-paint every wall in the house – especially if you want to test out a colour scheme you’re not 100% sure of. “I always say to people the best room to experiment in is their personal space – so their bedroom, or maybe their office area – because that’s an area that not a lot of people go into,” explains Andrea. This means you can test out that colour you’ve had your eye on before deciding whether to expand or incorporate it into the rest of the house.   5. Neutrals translate nicely into warmer months, too The beauty of such a neutral-based palette – even the darker hues – is that simply by changing up your accessories, you can transition into different seasons without too much fuss, says Andrea. Simply swap out your heavier textiles and bedding for lighter linens, and add some brightly coloured hues – such as oranges or yellows – or bright whites in the form of rugs or accessories, and you’re all set for summer.          
  • When you’re in the rental property business, correct pricing is critical especially because you are in an industry where the competition is very high. As the property owner, you have a say as to how much rent should be paid for your investment property. However you need to be strategic when determining the price your property should be advertised for. One of the most common mistakes landlords tend to make is turning down tenants to hold out for an even higher rent. Little do they know, they’re actually doing more harm to their income than good by choosing to keep it vacant for longer than it should as opposed to accepting a willing tenant for a lower rent. How, you ask? Let us say the market rent for your property is $410. You overpriced your rent at $420 per week. So in a year, you’ll get $520 extra income. Fair enough. However, the question is “how long will the property stay vacant?” If your property stays empty for a month because you can’t find a tenant willing to pay the extra $10, how much are you going to lose? $410 x 4 weeks = $1,640 rental loss. It’s your property manager’s job to do the research and familiarise the current market trends. Your property manager will compare the current market rent to yours and see if you belong to the range of what’s considered reasonable. Better yet, try to think like a tenant and ask yourself, “Will I choose this property over other similar properties in the area?” If your answer is no, then you might need to reevaluate your rental rate.
  • While working in the mortgage department of an international bank here in 2007, Mr Eugene Huang was privy to the workings of the property market in Singapore which was getting hotter by the day. Investors were snapping up new properties by the floor, sub-selling them or buying resale properties and flipping the options, he recalls. Inspired, the then 26-year-old took the plunge, hoping to make a quick buck, but nearly got burned. The three-bedroom, 1,119 sq ft apartment he bought in Tanjong Rhu for $1.23 million found zero interest from buyers during the two-week option period. Around the same time, news of the failure of Lehman Brothers did not ring any alarm bells for him, and he went ahead to exercise his option to buy the property with a hefty mortgage payment. Soon after, global markets crashed, and within two years, the condominium's value tanked to almost half the purchase price. A similar-sized unit in the same development was sold for $740,000. He said he made a paper loss of $500,000 within two years. This early experience was an eye-opener for Mr Huang, who vowed never to repeat the mistake of making impulsive investments. Property markets, he realised, may seem like a conservative, long-term investment, but the calm on the surface does not always reflect the volatility inside, he said. Mr Huang is happy living with his wife in his two-bedroom unit in Chuan Park condominium (above), even though he owns five other properties. "It's not just about location, it's also about timing and keeping an eye on the macro economy," he said about property investments. Mr Huang, 36, worked doubly hard at his job to pay his mortgage. Later, he left his job, together with his then colleague and now wife Landy Lan, 36, with the idea of a start-up which would power price comparisons for property investors. Co-owned by the couple, Redbrick Mortgage Advisory seeks to be for property investments, what Trivago is for hotel bookings - finding customers the most competitive mortgage interest rates for their property investments. I believe that the value of a brand-new building starts depreciating steeply once it is completed, compared with a more gradual depreciation curve an older building experiences. Land prices do not depreciate and I would rather have a larger proportion of my investment dollars going into the land than in a building.'' MR EUGENE HUANG, on his property investment strategy. Mr Huang now gives advice to property investors on what package to opt for while buying residential or commercial property, and how to mortgage their properties. The firm now structures more than $1.5 billion in loans a year and counts nearly 1,500 recurring and new customers annually. Even then, I tend to favour older properties to new ones. I believe that the value of a brand-new building starts depreciating steeply once it is completed, compared with a more gradual.
  • These are just some of the out-of-the-box incentives agents are offering renters in south-east Queensland to get them to sign a lease.  The rental vacancy rate within five kilometres of Brisbane's CBD has reached a record 4.4 per cent, driven by a glut of apartments.  It is pushing rents down, some slashed by an estimated 10 to 15 per cent. Up to 60 new apartment blocks were built in inner Brisbane in 2015, but the wave is waning this year, which means the downward pressure on rents is estimated to ease within two years. Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) chief Antonia Mercorella expected the current rental slow down, given the higher-than-normal apartment builds.  "But our view is this will be short term, with the oversupply being absorbed and stable rents returning," Ms Mercorella said.  For the time being, renters are in the driving seat, particularly within 5km of the city centre, where there is a plethora of choice.  "We've seen free laptops; rent reductions, and even in some cases landlords are assisting with removal costs," Ms Mercorella said.  "What renters really need to do is ask the question, look around, do your research to see what is available.  "Feel free to negotiate, as hard as you can.  "It won't be forever, so they should grab the opportunity while it is there." A three-bedroom Queenslander at Paddington that has been empty for three months at $600 a week.  It had been going for $650.  Tenants only swooped after it was advertised that the landlord dropped the rent to $580. Owners are competing with flashy units, where the rent is the same, but they get pools, spas and saunas.  A lot of tenants are actually offering a considerable amount less ... up to $50.  That is a real shock to some owners  Freebies are a common scene while trawling the internet for a new rental. High-rise units at Hamilton, in Brisbane's inner-north, are going with one to two weeks' free rent.  $500 gift vouchers are being offered to entice renters in some instances.   It was a hard hit, but dropping the rent from $580 a week to $495 a week also stung. Vacancy rates outside the 5km CBD radius sit at 3.7 per cent, which is considered healthy by the REIQ.  Nevertheless, outer suburbs are not immune to the price drops. Another property, in Inala has gone from $350 to $320, after a tenant broke their lease. It is tough time at the moment but I don't think it is dire straits, it is just the new norm.  I don't think we are going to crash and burn from here Property analyst Urbis said in 2015 there were up to 60 apartment blocks built.  But, over the next six months only about 10 are due to open their doors.  Banks tighten credit, developers are suspending or withdrawing projects. Investors are driving the sales in some apartment blocks, making up to 80 per cent of the purchases in some cases.  National Property Research Company's Matthew Gross has crunched the numbers and said some rents have dropped 10 to 15 per cent across the south-east in general.  He said the older apartments are struggling to compete against the newer ones, within the 5-to-10 kilometre city zone.  "But at the end of the day properties are still filling up," he said. In the meantime some prospective tenants continue to name their own price.
  • REAL estate investment has made millions of Australians richer, but many are today wondering whether it’s still worth the effort. This week’s Budget crackdown on two key residential property tax deductions is the latest in a series of attacks to cause alarm among the nation’s three million real estate investors. Sharp rises in interest rates, tougher regulations, and warnings of looming price falls have made property investing more expensive and murkier. Finance specialists say there are many variables but property still stacks up as a long-term investment. Some argue that if you don’t buy real estate, there are few good alternatives. Do you invest in volatile shares, or ultra-low bank interest rates that effectively lose money? While interest rates on investment loans were identical to owner occupier loans two years ago, recent rises are costing investors thousands more each year, just as forecasters predict property prices to flatten or fall. This week’s budget delivered a double-whammy to investors, banning tax deductions for travel expenses and limiting depreciation deductions to new items and new properties only. Yellow Brick Road executive chairman Mark Bouris said real estate investment was less attractive than it was three years ago but remained attractive compared with other investments. “Just on pure mathematics, logic and common sense it should be part of your portfolio,” he said. The ability to borrow money using equity in real estate, claim tax deductions on investment loans and other expenses, earn income from tenants and build a larger asset base using other people’s money remain big positives for property. Mr Bouris said investors today might earn less than 2 per cent from money in the bank and “you pay tax on that, then take away inflation and you are losing money”. BMT Tax Depreciation CEO Bradley Beer said Budget changes made buying second-hand properties less attractive. “If you buy a house from someone and it’s three months old, you won’t get to claim on your three-month-old stove or carpet, and that’s not right,” he said. “This discourages people from buying a second-hand property. It hinders the concept of capital growth if you have property investors leave the market. There may be a lack of supply of affordable rental housing and rents may increase. This has the potential to do that. With tinkering, you never know what will happen to the market afterwards.” The Budget change still allows investors to make a building write-off, typically 2.5 per cent of the building cost each year. Mr Beer said BMT’s investor clients averaged a $10,000 annual deduction each year for depreciation and building write-offs combined. Canstar group executive of financial services Steve Mickenbecker said the Budget changes would cost investors money but were “at the smaller end of the equation in terms of whether property investment works or not”. “The big deal is that negative gearing is still in place,” he said. Experts say taking a long-term view of property investing is vital. “The issue with property investing is that there will be flat periods in most markets at some point, and it can go backwards, which of course is disturbing,” Mr Mickenbecker said. “Providing you are not overstretched, you can afford to wait out the bad times.   Long term you wouldn’t expect to have a flat market with no price appreciation.”
  • Owning a rental property can be a nerve racking venture especially for first-time landlords. The concept of the rental property might be simple, however, it is riddled with threats that can topple down your business before it even begins to flourish. Your hard work begins right from when you first purchased your property. So before you take a leap, you should make sure that you are ready for any possible hurdles ahead. Most of all, you must ensure you choose a new property and property manager wisely. Let us guide you on the things that you need to consider when choosing the right investment property. How’s the neighbourhood? If you are looking to target a particular demographic of tenants, you must also be particular with the kind of neighbourhood you want your property to be in. Remember, a good neighbourhood attracts good quality tenants. Of course, this includes looking into the local crime rate. Go to the police to acquire accurate data that would give you a perfect view of the kind of neighbourhood the property is in. No one wants to live in constant fear of being robbed, right? You also have to look at the amenities that are in and around the area, such as schools and universities, transport, shopping centres and restaurants, as these would significantly affect the number of prospective tenants that you might have. Are there schools nearby? Choosing a property that is conveniently close to schools boosts up its chances of getting rented fairly quickly. Not only will you be attracting students, you’ll also be drawing lots of young families in, as well as couples planning to have children. On the other hand, you still might need to do an assessment on the school’s reputation as it can considerably affect the rental rate and the price of the property should you decide on selling it. How is the employment trend? People are constantly drawn towards places where there is a great opportunity for career establishment and advancement. Be on the lookout for large companies opening or moving to the area. What is the estimated weekly rent? Obtaining a rental appraisal will give you a good insight on how your investment property will fare in the market. A rental appraisal will also be important to ensure you are aware of how much will be required to cover taxes, mortgage, as well as other costs such as maintenance. Also do some research on your chosen suburb. How much progress will there be in the next 5 years? Will the cost of living grow drastically or will it stay relatively close to the current trend? Such factors would greatly affect the profitability of your property in the long run. What is the vacancy rate? The vacancy rate signals whether it is good to invest in a property in a particular area or not. The rise and fall of the vacancy rate might be subjective to a particular time of the year. A hike in the number of listings could mean one of two things. It could either be just a seasonal trend or it could simply mean that the area is just not marketable. It’s important that you know how to distinguish one from the other in order for you to make the right call.
  • Unforseen mishaps and missed opportunities are two things first-time and veteran landlords can do without, particularly when financial loss is involved.  To help you navigate the world of investment property, we look at some of the common questions you may want to consider before and after your tenants move in. Am I going to manage the property or pay someone to do it? If you’re time poor or located a long distance from your investment property, appointing a property manager is an option, although it’ll come at a cost. Some of the things a property manager will take care of include ; The screening of potential tenants Before and after property condition reports Routine inspections How and when tenants pay the rent Maintenance and repair issues Responding to complaints/evictions. Websites like Local Agent Finder can help you locate property managers in the area and compare fees, services and experience. What rent should I charge? Understandably, an investment property is about return on investment, but it’s important to set the rental price at a level where you’ll be able to attract and retain tenants. Factors that come into play when setting rental fees include location, demand, property size, number of rooms, facilities, parking, and access to shops and transport. Research your competition and see what information your agent or property manager can provide. Am I fussy about who the tenants are? The area your property is in, the suburb demographics and the rent you plan to charge can all impact the type of people—including those with pets—who may apply for the property. Screening is a key step to finding the right tenants and it typically involves reference checks from previous property managers and employers. How important is landlord insurance? The type of coverage and the premiums you will pay can vary greatly depending on the provider and the policy you take out. You can compare landlord insurances at comparethemarket.com.au.  You also need to think about how comprehensive you want your policy to be. Acts of nature, building repairs, contents and loss of rental income are all things to think about. What other costs are there to consider? The costs you incur can differ depending on whether you’re leasing out a house or apartment. They may include: Body corporate fees (if your investment property is an apartment) Council rates Water rates Land tax Repairs, maintenance, other miscellaneous costs Interest and other bank fees on the home loan Renovations. Am I eligible for tax deductions? Don’t be too daunted by the costs associated with an investment property. They are commonly tax deductible and there are also a range of other expenses you can claim, such as: Advertising for tenants Borrowing expenses Cleaning Decline in value of depreciating assets Gardening and lawn mowing Pest control Travel undertaken to inspect or maintain the property, or to collect the rent. See other things you can claim on the ATO website and don’t forget to keep relevant paperwork and declare all your rental-related income when you do your tax return. Should I renovate? Renovating your investment property has the potential to increase its value, but if you don’t have the money to do a complete refurbishment, you may want to consider some DIY jobs. Painting, rubbish removal and new curtains can all be cost-effective ways to spruce up your rental property. It’s also worth exploring how and where tax deductions can apply to renovations. What are my legal obligations? There are various responsibilities that apply to landlords before, during and when ending a tenancy. These can differ depending on which state in Australia the investment property is located.  For further details, check out the appropriate state government or Fair Trading website where your investment property is based.  Like most big investments, planning can play a big part in the returns you generate. We hope some of the information in this article helps you on your way.
  • “Investment is its most intelligent when it is business-like", Benjamin Graham.   These are some of the most important words ever uttered about investing.      This is the very reason people need to conduct their property investment like a business and therefore make decisions at arm's length. We all know shelter is a basic human need and therefore we enjoy the certainty that it brings to property investing.  However, it involves people and people can be emotional, unpredictable and sometimes even destructive. This is why professional property management is critical.  Property Managers are trained in conflict resolution.  They screen tenants more thoroughly and problem solve more effectively because chances are, they or someone in the agency have already encountered a similar situation. Don’t allow your good nature to be used against you when it comes to rent arrears, excessive maintenance and rent rises.  Remember the core reason of why you became an investor in the first place - for financial freedom! So make decisions based on sound business advice not emotional reactions.   Conduct yourself at arm's length and your investment portfolio will benefit.  
  • First and foremost we cannot be property investors without tenants.  For me the quality of a tenant is my first priority.  As the presentation of a property declines over time so too does the qualifications of a tenant and from there we have a vicious cycle downwards.  For me a good tenant: Pays on time. Stays long term. Keeps to conditions on lease. Reports maintenance in a timely manner. Is respectful of the owners property and agencies rights to manage. The signs of a prospective tenant that could lead to a bad tenancy occur right from the start.  The references may be below average, payments are late or inconsistent, or they may be unable to a pay a full bond.  Sometimes they are looking for accommodation in a desperate state like now or need to find something today! These signs will be further backed up by their personal presentation,  use of language, car and general gut feeling.    For me it’s never any benefit of solving one problem with another i.e. vacancy- with a problem tenant.   Tenants don’t change their spots if they have been difficult before they will be difficult again. It will be your mental health, cash flow and property that suffers.  
  • Residential rental owners who are struggling to get good returns from their asset should take an objective look at the dwelling and see it from the point of view of a prospective tenant. Is the property clean, tidy and in good repair? Are the gardens maintained and the fencing in good condition? If the answer to these questions is a “no”, then perhaps the issue is that good tenants simply see the property as sub-standard. We advise our investors that regular, on-going maintenance of their real estate is essential for several reasons. If they are looking to future sales, the capital gain will be much greater if the asset is in excellent condition. If they want a regular income and a good rental return, a well presented and maintained dwelling will attract good quality tenants and a higher rent. Regular Maintenance Key to Keeping Good Tenants Of course we have also encountered the owners who think that once they have purchased the dwelling they can sit back and collect the rent without spending anything in general or break-down maintenance. The first point we make to owners who are reluctant to maintain their housing asset is that tenants are legally entitled to a safe and habitable living environment. If this is not enough, we also tell them to check their landlord insurance policy conditions as many insurers will not pay out on claims if the dwelling is not of the standard required by legislation. Often forgotten are key structural issues like the condition of retaining walls, free-standing brick walls, roof tiles and sheeting, guttering and others. These are as much a safety issue as a maintenance one, and tragedies have occurred when poorly maintained structures have collapsed on the occupants. Don’t Let Repairs and Maintenance Slip We have found through experience that tenants will look after their rental if the owners have shown that they care about their tenants. Owners can demonstrate this through quickly attending to major issues like a hot water system or stove that has stopped working. By having a regular maintenance schedule and by listening to and acting on tenant issues at inspections also sends the right message about the dwelling. Our approach works because our beautifully maintained rentals are rarely without a tenant. This makes our owners happy because they have very few periods of time when their residential real estate is not earning them a pleasing income.  
  • In Townsville  (early September 2015), several pythons have been encountered inside properties – seeking water because it’s so dry. This link is not for the faint-hearted, but takes you to a recent news report and a photo of a carpet python found cooling off inside someone’s toilet! Something like this would definitely have your tenant straight on the phone! (It’s also quite a compelling argument for keeping the lid down!)Many people have an aversion to snakes, and there are lots of popular urban myths that serve to increase people’s fear. However snake experts unanimously say that snakes will only attack humans if hurt or provoked, and that most people who have been bitten by a snake were trying to catch or kill it at the time. No matter how people may personally feel about snakes, snakes are an important part of the Australian ecosystem and, as a native animal, they are protected under the Nature Conservation Act 1992. It is an offence to kill or injure a snake. Snake Identification Queensland has about 120 species of snakes, some of which are venomous, and others that are not. Information to assist Queenslanders to identify types of snakes is readily available online, for example: this site. Alternatively, you or the tenant could upload a photo of the snake on this webpage and request an identification. Given that snakes are a reality of life in Queensland, and given that spring is when they are all on the move again, it makes good sense to arm yourself with some basic knowledge about common snake varieties in your geographical area.One of Australia’s claims to fame is having the top two deadliest snakes in the world, – lucky us - being the Eastern Brown and the Taipan. But not all of our snakes are deadly. Tree snakes are quite common. They tend to be small and slender, quick to retreat, and their venom is not harmful to humans. They might be seen in gardens, trees, or around the outside of windows, and are hunting things like birds (including pet caged birds), geckos and frogs. Pythons are also common throughout Queensland. These are thick-bodied, diamond-headed, relatively slow-moving snakes. Pythons are not venomous either, but kill their prey by constriction. Carpet pythons grow to about 2 to 3 metres and can be found in a wide range of environments, including trees in suburban gardens, sheds, and in roof spaces. They hunt at night and are looking for slightly bigger prey such as rats, possums, and possibly someone’s backyard chickens! Previous generations of Queenslanders commonly tolerated carpet pythons in their shed as a natural form of vermin control.In normal circumstances, a slow-moving 1 to 2 metre python seen in a shed in a Brisbane suburb is extremely unlikely to pose any danger to humans, or to medium to large pets. If provoked, they may bite and an infection of the bite may result. However a larger and more aggressive species of python, such as the Scrub Python (4 to 7 metres), found in areas of far north Queensland could pose a more genuine danger to domestic pets (cats and small to medium dogs) and very young children. In Cairns, where residential areas expand to the edge of rainforest areas, caution is definitely warranted.Snake activity patterns are seasonal. Throughout the cool months, snakes are not very active. They may be occasionally seen stretched out in the sun, or laying on rocks or roads, seeking warmth. If they do come inside during the colder months, it will be seeking warmth. Around spring snakes become active and are more frequently encountered by people. Right now, it is their breeding and feeding season. Relocating Snakes - who is responsible?Licensed and insured snake catchers can relocate a snake to a safer area. In terms of who pays for snake relocation, the RTRA Act is silent on this issue. Interestingly, NSW Fair Trading state on their website that lessors are responsible for snake removal if the snake is present at the start of the tenancy, or results from a lessor breach, but the tenant is responsible during the tenancy. However Queensland Fair Trading website offers no such determination, and the RTA website provides no specific advice about snakes either, although there is general information about ‘pests and vermin’. As a general guide, if professional services are required because of purely environmental or weather-related circumstances, it is more likely to be deemed to be the lessor’s responsibility. However the person with responsibility may vary depending on the individual situation, the history of the property, and what has been recorded on the condition report.If either the lessor tenant offers to pay the cost of the snake catcher, or if both agree to share the cost, then there is no dispute. However if neither party wants to pay then the Property Manager may need to assist the parties to remain reasonable and negotiate in order to reach a mutual agreement. Individual situations will of course vary, so those variables need to be considered when deciding on an appropriate response.  Has the snake actually been sighted, or is there other evidence that is being relied upon to indicate the assumed presence of a snake? (eg. noise) Is the snake outside and therefore likely to move on before the catcher arrives? Experts advise that sometimes the best response is to do nothing apart from move safely away and let the snake go about its business. Does the snake pose an immediate danger as a result of it being venomous or particularly large? Can it be reasonably avoided? Does its ongoing presence pose a risk to the tenant, their children, or their approved pets? Does the snake prevent the tenant from using the premises, a part of the premises, or the inclusions? Is the snake in an area beyond the property? It would clearly not be realistic for tenants to expect the lessor/agent to remove snakes from an adjacent nature reserve. Is the snake inside the premises, or stuck? This type of situation is far more likely to require intervention. What food source is likely to have attracted the snake? Can either the lessor or tenant be said to be reasonably responsible for that food source being present? (eg. Tenant not storing birdseed appropriately and attracting vermin, which subsequently attracts a couple of hungry pythons.) Of course it could be purely environmental. What has allowed the snake to gain access to inside the house or shed? Can either the lessor or tenant be said to be reasonably responsible for that? Any contributing factors that may have encouraged the snake to stay around, such as the lessor or tenant leaving piles of things in the yard/shed that offer plenty of hiding place for snakes. Factors that might have allowed the snake to gain entry to the premises, such as a lessor not snake-proofing the roof space, or a tenant not keeping the lawns and gardens tidy during a tenancy. What is involved in its removal? (In one of the cases in Townsville recently, the toilet had to be unbolted from the floor to remove the snake.) Chances of the snake becoming trapped and dying, which will lead to a terrible smell. If it has been decided to call a snake catcher then the tenant should try to keep an eye on where the snake is until the catcher arrives, but remain at a safe distance and not disturb the snake further. If the snake cannot be found, the snake catcher may leave empty-handed but will still expect their call-out fee to be paid, potentially causing further dispute about who is responsible. Snake catchers cannot guarantee that the relocated snake won’t return, or that another snake won’t take its place. These are native animals and they move at will. Property Managers cannot guarantee anyone a snake-free tenancy. Advice to lessors may include: Don’t have piles of timber or corrugated iron around the property, where snakes can hide. Bear in mind the lessor’s duty of care to provide a property that is safe. Preferably position/prune trees away from the residence rather than potentially allowing snakes easy access to open windows. Consider screening the property and adding weather guard strips to the bottoms of exterior doors to help keep snakes outside. Ensure entry points into the roof cavity are blocked. Let the agent know if there is a resident friendly python at the property, or if snakes have been seen regularly at the property, so tenants can be forewarned.  Advice to tenants may include: The experts say that the vast majority of snake-bites occur when people are trying to catch or kill snakes: so don’t. If you see a snake in the garden, walk quietly away and leave it well alone. It will leave of its own accord.  Killing or injuring snakes is an offence. Keep the grass mowed and the gardens tidy to deprive snakes of hiding places. When gardening, wear gloves, long pants, and covered shoes. Stack firewood neatly, away from the house. Ensure snakes cannot get into your compost bin, especially when they are seeking warmth or a place to lay eggs. Keep sheds tidy and store everything off the floor. Don’t leave uncovered food around and do store birdseed (etc) in a rodent-proof container. Anything that will attract vermin, will in turn attract snakes. Ensure bird cages, aviaries and chook pens are rodent-proof and snake-proof. Choosing a property that is set in or beside a natural environment, or with thickly planted gardens, is likely to increase your chance of encountering a snake. Take a torch when out in the yard at night. Snakes are deaf so yelling at them to make them move wont help. They do feel vibrations, and also sense body heat with their tongue. And if you’re in Townsville, keep the toilet lid down!   If you encounter a snake; Some local Councils do provide information on managing encounters with...
  • There are a lot of property owners out there who self-manage their rental properties.  -Why?   Perhaps they are cost cutting, had a negative experience with young and inexperienced agents, emotional attachment to their property, or perhaps they live in the same complex as their investment. When the "cost cut" scenario is the reason for self management this can leave you more out of pocket then paying a good agent. Your personal time is spent on renting, managing and organizing maintenance. And what of the inconvenience of being woken at 1 or 2 am for a maintenance emergency! If you are a private landlord then you need to challenge yourself to think more commercially - what value $$$$ do you place on your time? Could you be of more value $$$$ if you applied your talents elsewhere? We all know the answer to this - YES! So, lets look at the $$$$ saving equation for the managing of your property by an agent who knows what they are doing: The average yearly management fee is approximately $1500 per year or 365 days. This equates to 8760 hours. If we take the average management fee of $1500 and divide it by the number of hours in a year, 8760 this equates to 17 cents per hour for an experience Property Management Specialist. Why would you self manage? Oh! I also forgot! Management fees are tax deductible.  
  • In recent times we have received a number of regular enquiries via the PM support Service relating to serving notices and what is considered ‘the norm’ as far as delivery times and what is considered appropriate.  We have also received feedback from property managers regarding this issue and the outcome of some QCAT hearings. In some cases the notices issued by the agent were rendered invalid as it was deemed insufficient notice had been given to the tenant based on the required postage time. It appears the recent changes to postal delivery timeframes by Australia Post are impacting on the situation. There is a common misperception in our profession that you allow 2 days for postage in addition to the required minimum notice period, no matter what part of Queensland you are sending the document to. This timeframe is onerous, it is not legislated and should not be relied on. It is recommended you use the guide from Australia Post for delivery timeframes if you intend on posting notices with minimum timeframes to tenants. Where notices are served by post, the sender must allow time for the mail to arrive when counting the days and working out the date for the notice period to end. This means that the first day counted in the notice period is the day after the notice arrives at the address. When calculating the end date or handover date for a notice it is recommended you confirm the approximate delivery time via Australia Post. Their website provides a guide to the anticipated delivery times to and from suburbs / postcodes.  https://auspost.com.au/parcels-mail/delivery-times.html We did the exercise of sending a notice on 15 September 2015 from an inner city suburb of Brisbane to another inner city Brisbane suburb. The Australia Post website indicated the delivery of the document could be anywhere from 15 September 2015 to 21 September 2015 (taking into consideration the days that Australia Post operates). As observed in a published QCAT Appeal the learned Adjudicator observed “issued” is not the same as “given”. It was also noted the agent gave the tenant notice by posting it on Friday 1 August 2014. The earliest date that the tenant could have received the notice was 4 August 2014. The notice called for a breach to be remedied by 10 August 2014. In this particular case the learned Adjudicator was correct in finding that the agent did not give the necessary seven day time frame required for this type of notice.** Published QCAT decisions should be reviewed regularly to provide guidance on how the Tribunal may view a particular matter. It is a timely reminder for property managers that if delivery time is not sufficient, this could impact on the ‘notice period’ and put a property manager in a position that they haven’t allowed the tenant the minimum required time to remedy a breach as an example. A discussion no property manager wants to have with their client/lessor is that a QCAT application had been dismissed due to the agency not allowing sufficient delivery time for a notice.   When calculating the minimum notice period required property managers must comply with the provisions of the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008. When issuing notices and taking into account the delivery timeframe be precise in relation to what the legislation requires as minimum notice periods. Depending on the issue, notice periods may have a minimum amount of days, weeks or months. All are different time frames (eg. 2 calendar months is not necessarily 60 days). If in doubt contact the property management support service team or visit the RTA website; https://www.rta.qld.gov.au/Resources/Fact-sheets/General-tenancy-fact-sheets/Allowing-time-when-serving-notices-fact-sheet Property managers also need to be aware of what the tenants have agreed to on the Form 18a in relation to the address for service of notices and how the notices may be given. Pay particular attention to what is noted in Items 2 and 4 of the General Tenancy Agreement (Form 18a). Both of these sections provide provision for the tenant to nominate how they would like to be served any notices, whether it be by an alternate postal address or their preference of emails or facsimiles (electronic transactions). It is also important to be mindful of Standard Term 44 of the General Tenancy Agreement headed “Notices”.  In subsection 3 it notes A notice may be given to a party to this agreement or the lessor’s agent – By giving it to the party or agent personally; or If an address of service for the party or agent is stated in this agreement  for item 1, 2 or 3 – by leaving it at the address, sending it by prepaid post as a letter to the address; or If an address for service for the party or agent is stated in this agreement for Item 1, 2 or 3 and item 4 indicates that a notice may be giving by facsimile – by sending it by facsimile to the facsimile number in accordance with the Electronic Transactions (Queensland) Act 2001; or If an email address for the party or agent is stated in this agreement for item 1, 2 or 3 and item 4 indicates that a notice may be given by email – by sending it electronically to the email address in accordance with the Electronic Transactions (Queensland) Act 2001.Given that Australia Post provide a fairly broad timeframe on when documents will arrive at their destination, more and more agencies are looking for more cost effective and time efficient ways to deliver notices, namely via email. SERVING NOTICES ELECTRONICALLY When serving notices electronically, the server does not count the day of service in the notice period. The first day of the notice period should be the day after the notice is served. An email delivery receipt may be used as proof of the time and date of service.  The Electronic Transactions (Queensland) Act 2001, section 24 applies to residential tenancies when a notice is served electronically.  (https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/LEGISLTN/CURRENT/E/ElectronTrQA01.pdf) The types of evidence QCAT may consider in assessing the delivery of a notice transmitted electronically are: Evidence of a delivery receipt. Make sure the ‘delivery’ and ‘read’ function is activated on your emails. Evidence of SMS communication to the tenant to confirm you have sent a notice via email (if you have consent to communicate this way). Keep diary notes and system notes at all times showing that there is a demonstrated pattern of communication via email between you and the tenant. For example: Throughout the tenancy, what has been the average time for that particular tenant to read or respond to an email you have sent to them. If a particular tenant has a demonstrated history of not accessing emails on a daily basis best practice would be to err on the side of caution and factor in additional delivery time when calculating the minimum notice period. 
  • Choosing a service provider is always challenging. Whether it’s a plumber or a real estate agent you can’t assess the quality of their service before you buy, as you can with a product you can touch and see. It’s so much easier if you’ve dealt with them before or have the recommendation of a friend. But without them, choosing a real estate agent to sell or manage your property, can be daunting. So how do you look past the pitch, beyond the promises, to make sure you’re hiring a property professional? It’s now an old saying that ‘success leaves clues’. So too does professionalism. A property professional is holding themselves accountable to a higher standard than the law requires. For example they’re a member of the Real Estate Institute of Queensland, agreeing to be bound to a code of conduct and committing to mandatory training each and every year. They’re raising the bar for themselves and their profession, recognising you entrust them with your largest assets. Calling on government to tighten educational requirements for real estate agents. Not shying away from greater accountability and scrutiny. The kind of agent you want working for you is one who’s making a career in property. Long term thinking will set them apart when it comes to those critical moments that can make a big difference for you. When they make one extra call to a buyer to ask for more money on your sale. When they do that extra reference check on the tenants for your investment property. Those extra steps taken, not because they have to, but because they know it’s the difference between okay service and great service. And great service leads to recommendations and referrals. The leading agents know this. Market knowledge is also critical to you. Your agent needs to be ‘plugged in’ to trends and ahead of the market to help guide you. They’re updated, in touch and involved, seeking out new data and reading the latest stats on their area. They’re subscribing and digesting, ensuring your sale price and rents are maximised. Ask them what sources they use. How do they stay on top of the latest in legislation? Ask them. We have a whole new Act governing agents in Queensland and they need to know it inside out. Tenancy issues change regularly and can have big consequences for you as a landlord. The agent you want attends industry updates and training regularly. Without this they’re simply swinging blind. The great agents have pride in their career. Ask them – “are you proud of what you do for a living?” The great agents want to be seen as a property professional and they’re serious about greater professionalism in real estate. Next time you’re hiring an agent give these ideas some thought. The agent you want is doing so much more than ‘just turning up’. A few, well-chosen questions will soon set them apart from the crowd.  
  • As you are aware, lessors are able to pass on the full water consumption charges (including bulk water charges) for a rental property to tenants if the following criteria apply: The premises are individually metered; and The premises are water efficient; and The tenancy agreement states that the tenant is responsible for the water consumption at the property. Concerns can arise as to whether it is the responsibility of the property manager to verify the accuracy or reasonableness of the water meter reading, in circumstances where the tenant or lessor disputes the bill. In this article, we will delineate the scope of property manager’s obligations in relation to the reading of water meters at rental properties. Whose responsibility is it? As an investor, you would be familiar with the layout of the Form 1a Entry Condition Report and Form 14a Exit Condition Report.   On the first page of both reports, there is a section to record the water meter reading for premises that are individually metered. The inclusion of this section in both the Entry and Exit Condition Reports implies that there is an obligation on property managers to read the water meter during these inspections, or that property managers are by some measure responsible for verifying the accuracy or reasonableness of any reading taken. Interestingly, the governing legislation, being the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 (Qld) and the Property Occupations Act 2014(Qld) do not contain any provisions which impose obligations on property managers to read the water meter during inspections. In addition to this, the operation of clause 7.9 of the Essential Terms and Conditions of the Form 6 Appointment Agreement bolsters the position of agents in this regard.   Relevantly, clause 7.9 provides that the lessor of the property acknowledges that the property manager is not a licensed engineer, architect, builder, pool safety certifier or any other type of professional or tradesperson (emphasis added) and is only responsible to report to the owner on matters that are readily apparent on a visual inspection. This clause offers an additional level of protection by denoting that property managers cannot be held responsible for making any assessments as to safety or functionality regarding features of the property, which would require special skill. The key point to be distilled here is that property managers are not responsible for reading water meters at rental properties. However, as the legislation and appointment agreement is silent in regards to who is in fact responsible, we recommend property managers implement our best practice strategies in order to eliminate any concerns in relation to this issue. It is our Best Practice Recommendations: When entering into a new appointment, we always ensure the lessor of the property is aware that we will not be responsible for reading the water meters at the property; We insert a special condition in the POA Form 6 to the effect that Rental Trends will not be responsible for reading the water meters at the property; For existing appointments, we ensure that there is clear communication with the lessor so all parties have a full understanding of the scope of our responsibilities regarding the management of the property; and We ensure that our owners are fully conversant with all legislative and contractual obligations imposed on us.  
  • You hear about the property cycle a fair bit in the news. Knowing when to buy a property - and the subsequent amount of success that you’re going to have -  depends largely on where you buy and at what stage of the property cycle the market is in when you buy. The property market moves in cycles, and property values will rise, fall, remain steady or even boom – depending on what stage of the cycle things are at. It’s important to note that the entire country doesn’t experience the same stages of the property cycle at the same time, and there are different economic factors occurring that affect the entire country, states, cities and even suburbs within cities at any time.   Because of this variance within areas and prices, it’s possible to find a property that is well priced and primed for growth at any time, you just need to know what to look for. Part of knowing what to look for is having an understanding of how the property cycle works, so let’s take a look now. There are four major stages in the property cycle: Boom, slump, stabilisation and upturn Each phase is characterised by certain markers, which indicate where the property cycle is at during each stage. Boom Shortest phase in the cycle – property prices rise rapidly as investors see returns and more enter the market, property prices and rental yields are increasing.   Lots of people try to get on board to capitalise on this stage of the process and new investors will jostle with builders and developers who will be flooding the market with properties. This leads to excess supply, which eventually brings the boom to an end. This leads to the next phase: The Slump. Slump The slump happens because of an oversupply of property from the builders and developers during the previous boom phase. When there’s an oversupply, vacancy rates increase and the rental returns decrease. Property prices stop rising and may even decline, home buyers can find themselves in hot water as they struggle to make repayments. Many buyers over-commit during the exuberance of the boom phase – some people have to sell during this depressed period – sometimes at a lower price. Stabilisation Stabilisation in the market occurs, various economic factors play catch up. Upturn Vacancy rates start to fall and rents start to rise. Property values start to increase again and more investment opportunities are created. Values start to increase first in the inner suburbs, and then move outwards in a ring. Property is generally affordable, values will slowly increase and pushes the market to the next boom stage which starts the cycle again.   A full run through of these stages takes anywhere from seven to ten years to complete. Although there is speculation from observers that the property cycles are going to get shorter and become less uniform, the basic drivers behind a property cycle are unlikely to change. Major Drivers: Liquidity Supply and demand Economic growth Investment returns Consumer confidence Apart from these major drivers, there is often other factors which build influence and help to create an atmosphere or to tip the balance. During 2014 we saw that some of these factors included interest in SMSFs, foreign investment and a lower Aussie dollar. This was particularly obvious in Sydney and Melbourne, where a huge amount of interest was being generated from foreign investors. As investors we need to understand that there will be periods where supply exceeds demand. We need to understand how the property cycle works, the right times to exercise caution, and the right times to buy.
  • Adding value to your property: What does it mean and how can you do it Any reasonable vendor will want to get the highest price for their house come open or auction day. It’s a no- brainer. But how can you add value to yours? Or more specifically- how can you add value on a budget? As an agent, I stress to my clients the importance of educating themselves to buy, but this also applies to selling. While you need to consider the risks of overcapitalisation, it is true that simple yet inexpensive changes to the appearance of your home can significantly increase your asking price. Here’s a few helpful pointers. Think: Who are my buyers? Value lies in the kitchen, bathroom and garden. This is because they are usually the most cost- heavy and time consuming part of the house to alter. When preparing your house for sale, consider your target buyers- who are they and what are they looking for in a property? While it is not unreasonable to want to maintain the home’s ‘personality’, the more neutral in colour and design your home is, the higher your chances of attracting a wide range of buyers. Small alterations like retiling your bathroom or giving a new coat of paint can lift a room. It may also be worthwhile investigating second hand bathrooms and kitchens. Remember- beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so while you may think your fuchsia pink wallpaper looks great, others may not. Think: How can I enhance my outdoor space? Much of the external changes to your property such as gardening, yard grooming or maintenance can be done yourself. Building a balcony or deck can also be a simple yet cost effective additional to the outside of your property, extending the overall entertaining space of your home. This is particularly attractive when selling in warmer months such as spring or summer. While building a pool can seem like a logical option if you have the means and space to do so, this isn’t always an appealing aspect to potential buyers (for example, if buyers are in search of low maintenance properties). In doing a cost- benefit analysis, will the cost in seeing these additions through yield a higher price? Think: How can I dress to impress? You can expect your agent to take you through a presentation debriefing prior to your first open home, and this should give you a chance to receive feedback on presentation. I am always of the opinion that less is more. While installing the latest sound system or state of the art oven may be appealing, it is possible to also achieve that same great impression with small presentation changes. Furniture, for example, can contribute to the overall ‘feel’ of a home, so if your couches are tired but you cannot afford to replace them, hiring furniture could be considered. If an open home is like a first date, keep in mind that it’s the little things that can really make your property appealing and add value. You’ll only get one first impression so make it count.
  • Whenever a tenant has moved out without returning the keys, the agent should make every effort to contact the tenants and persuade them to return the keys so that handover can be said to have occurred. This ensures clarity for all parties. There are varied reasons a tenant might decide to abandon a property – in some instances the tenancy has already been problematic, but other instances the tenancy might have been going along quite smoothly beforehand. As agents, we might suspect a property has been abandoned on the basis of Unpaid rent Telephone disconnected Tenant not responding to communications Letterbox at property is not being cleared Unkempt lawns and gardens Information provided by neighbours  or other persons Information from the tenants themselves Abandoned properties can also arise in a situation where a tenant has either served a Form 13, or has been served with a Form 12, but then they have failed to return keys on the handover date of the relevant notice. In that case the lessor/agent might be left uncertain as to whether the tenant has vacated or not, especially where the tenant is proving to be un-contactable. In this circumstance, the lessor/agent could take the matter to QCAT as an urgent application due to the tenants’ failure to handover, or, follow the process for abandoned properties. Discuss the options with the lessor-client, including the positives and negatives of each, and act on the client’s lawful instructions. Abandoned Property Process – First Stage: If a lessor/agent has reasonable cause to suspect that a property has been abandoned, the RTRA Act allows the opportunity to gain access to the property to check [RTRA Act section 192 (1) (h)]. An RTA Form 9 Entry Notice would be served to the tenant in order to gain access to confirm whether or not the property has been abandoned, allowing 24 hours notice prior to entering the property. In part 5 of the Form 9, tick the ninth box which says ‘The lessor believes, on reasonable grounds, that the property have been abandoned’. The notice would be served to the tenant in accordance with the Form 18a General Tenancy Agreement, as per standard term 44, and item 4.2 of the schedule in relation to whether email consent has been established. An agent might decide to hand deliver it to the premises, and email it, to increase the chance of the tenant receiving it.  The tenant might contact the agent during the 24 hours notice, advising that they have received the Form 9 and have not abandoned the premises. If this is the case, then the agent has the opportunity to discuss their reasons for suspecting the property had been abandoned with the tenant and to resolve those outstanding issues. However, if the agent received no response, they would then access the property as per the Form 9, using the agency keys.  Whilst at the property, the agent would document any evidence that indicates the property  has been abandoned. The agent would also take any reasonable actions to ensure the lessor’s property was not at risk of imminent or further damage – such as closing windows that have been left open and could allow rain to water damage carpets, and locking unsecured doors that leave the property vulnerable to unauthorised entry being gained by third parties. Abandoned Property Process –  Second Stage: After looking through the property, the agent might then be more certain that the property has been abandoned. Section 355 of the RTRA Act allows termination of a tenancy agreement where the lessor believes on reasonable grounds that the tenant has abandoned the premises. However the lessor/agent cannot take possession of the property unless the correct notice has first been served. The approved form to use for this purpose is the RTA Form 15 Abandonment Termination Notice, and a minimum of 7 days notice is required.  When attending a property to inspect on the basis of suspicion of abandonment, the agent should take with them an already completed RTA Form 15 and leave it in the letterbox as they leave the property.   If the tenant does not take action to object to the notice by applying to QCAT within 7 days, the tenant is taken to have abandoned the premises and the lessor/agent can then take possession of the property. Alternatively, after looking through the property, the agent might still not be entirely certain whether the tenant has actually abandoned the property. If so, the lessor/agent would (instead of serving the RTA Form 15) make an urgent application to QCAT under Section 357 of the RTRA Act, seeking an order to terminate the tenancy. Abandoned Property Process – Third Stage: Once the tenancy has been terminated at the expiry of the Form 15, the lessor/agent can change the locks, prepare the property for reletting, and commence the reletting process. A claim can be made against the bond in the usual way by sending an RTA Form 4 to the RTA The RTA would not be able to process the Form 4 before the Form 15 has ended. Any goods and documents left behind in the premises must be handled as per the provisions of the RTRA Act for abandoned goods. Compensation Claims: The lessor/agent can apply to QCAT for compensation if they lose money, including unpaid rent or costs for damages caused either during the tenancy or after abandonment  If a tenant claims that the premises were not abandoned, they could pursue the matter through QCAT. If QCAT agrees that the premises were not abandoned the tenant could then seek compensation for expenses incurred. A tenant has 28 days to make a compensation claim.  Both lessor/agent and tenant are required to take all reasonable steps to mitigate loss or expense for the other party, and cannot claim compensation where the loss or expense being claimed could have actually been reasonably avoided.
  • Landlords in Brisbane’s inner-suburbs often get the wrong advice to this question. January and February are busy in the rental market so that must be the best time to have the lease expire. The best time to find a new tenant if the property’s becoming vacant. Right?? The market results just do not support this and our inner Brisbane property management team live and breathe this. In most suburbs the March quarter can be the worst time of year for you to have your investment property vacant, and here’s the stats to show you why: property management Brisbane We’ve written before on this “March quarter myth” but we’ve taken a fresh look at the Residential Tenancies Authority bond data. This shows us the median rent for all new bonds lodged during each quarter, and we went back 10 years. Across inner-Brisbane rents actually dropped 1.8% on average during the first quarter of each year. During April to June they rose an average of 5%. The first quarter is by far the busiest, with one third of new tenancies starting. But the downside for landlords is really clear – there’s a lot of tenants looking at this time of year, but in most suburbs there’s also a lot of competition for your property. Inner Brisbane property manager are busy and we’d argue many of them get too busy. In some cases they might not respond quickly to enquiry, are too slow to process applications from tenants and generally can’t give your vacant property and your customers – the tenants – the attention needed. Old heads in the property management profession plan for this time and we add resources to stay ahead of demand. Brisbane’s inner-city rental market has its nuances so you need a tactic that works for your neighbourhood and your type of property. Across the wider Brisbane marketplace the March quarter is actually the strongest for rent growth  (where rents rose an average 2.6% while June was flat!) If your investment’s in St Lucia and heavily impacted by university demand, then the start of their year is best for landlords. But plan that timing carefully – rents rose an average 5.2% during their March quarters, but dropped 4.1% in the last quarter of the year. Our tip? Look ahead and discuss with your agent the best time of year to rent your property. If it’s becoming vacant soon then why not offer a 14 or 15 month lease? Tip it into that June quarter and improve your outcome next year. The inner-Brisbane rental market is tough for landlords at the moment, particularly for apartments, so it’s worth considering this to ensure you achieve the best possible rent with the least vacancy. Our inner Brisbane property managers would love to help you!
  • Many people will probably have seen a story on one of those nightly current affair programs exposing the unscrupulous behaviour of a landlord who refuses to comply with their obligations to make the necessary repairs in regards to a rental property. However, allow us to take a moment to make the point that we’re not for one moment suggesting that all landlords are immoral, nor are we saying that all tenants are angelic. There are many shades of grey – but with that being said – landlords do have an obligation to keep the premises in a reasonable state of repair and fit for its designated purpose, which may be an issue that many tenants may experience from time to time. The obligation to keep the premises in a reasonable state of repair All States and Territories have laws in place which require lessors (landlords) to keep property in reasonable shape, and using s 72(2) of Queensland’s Residential Tenancies Act 1997 as our example, the landlord at the start of a tenancy must ensure: the premises and inclusions are clean; the premises are fit for the tenant to live in; the premises and inclusions are in good repair; the lessor is not in breach of a law dealing with issues about health and safety of persons using or entering the premises. Section 72(3) of the Queensland Act further requires while a tenancy continues, that the lessor: maintain the premises in a way that remains fit for a person to live in; must maintain the premises and inclusions in good repair; ensure any law dealing with issues about health or safety of persons using or entering the premises is complied with; any common area must be kept clean. Turning to case law, in the matter of Proudfoot v Hart (1890) 25 QBD, 42, the Queen’s Bench stated that keeping a premises in a reasonable state of repair, such repairs will “… have regard to the age, character and locality of the house, would make it reasonably fit for the occupation of a reasonably minded tenant of the class who would be likely to take it…” What happens if a repair is urgent and the tenant is required to pay? There’ll of course be circumstances where repairs are urgently required and there is no choice but for a tenant to arrange for repairs to be made immediately. Looking towards s 72 of Victoria’s Residential Tenancies Act 1997 for example, a tenant may arrange for urgent repairs to be carried out to the rented property if the tenant:   has taken reasonable steps to arrange for the landlord or the landlord’s agent to immediately carry out the repairs; and is unable to get the landlord or agent to carry out the repairs. If a tenant does have to use their own money in undertaking any urgent repairs, in New South Wales and Victoria, tenants can be reimbursed for up to $1000 or such other prescribed amount, and within 14 days, must provide written notice to the landlord about the costs associated in organising for the urgent repairs to be undertaken. This piece is only a general overview of the laws regarding rental properties and if you do need assistance with any tenancy matter, please seek the help of a lawyer who will be able to help
  • One of Australia's largest property groups, Mirvac, is synonymous with selling apartments but for the past 12 months, the developer has been exploring a different kind of housing product – building apartments and with a view to renting them. If successful, then Mirvac could be an apartment landlord – not just with one apartment but hundreds of apartments. The "build-to-rent" industry is thriving in the US and in Europe, but is non-existent in Australia although experts including Mirvac, say Australia is poised for the advent of such a sector, known overseas as the "multi-family" or "private rental" sector where institutional groups build masses of apartments to lease on a long-term basis, sometimes indefinitely. "This is a great customer proposition, why don't we have it in Australia?" Mirvac chief executive Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz asks.  Morrison encouraged cashed-up superannuation funds to consider providing build-to-rent housing similar to those in the ... Morrison encouraged cashed-up superannuation funds to consider providing build-to-rent housing similar to those in the US and Canada. Louise Kennerley "Because the yield differential between residential property – pushed down by people looking for a capital growth – has been too big a stretch with retail and commercial property," she says, answering her own question. "But now with capitalisation rate compression, we are now very, very close to them being parallel." "And why do we think we have a chance to make institutional multi-family work? Because renting in Australia is generally a very miserable customer experience ... the whole industry is set up to serve the owner not the tenant." In other words, the demand and supply of build-to-rent housing products are now at a confluence in Australia. New generation to emerge Which is just as well because with house prices where they are a whole new generation of lifetime-renters is about to emerge.  The US multi-family sector is the largest real estate class, bigger than commercial property and 25 per cent larger than ... The US multi-family sector is the largest real estate class, bigger than commercial property and 25 per cent larger than the Australian real estate investment trust sector, AP A third of Australian households rent and more than 40 per cent of those have been in the rental market more than 10 years or more, says a recent survey by CHOICE, the National Association of Tenants' Organisations and National Shelter shows. Those numbers are growing as home ownership has become more unaffordable – Sydney and Melbourne house prices have doubled since the global financial crisis in 2009, according to Corelogic – and because there is now a growing trend of people not interested in buying a home. Online rental platform Rent.com.au's recent survey of 2000 renters reveals 20 per cent of renters choose to rent, because they are not interested in real estate or they are using their capital, not sunk into a mortgage deposit, to invest elsewhere. But one of the biggest obstacles is the lack of long-term leases, a stumbling block for people who have kids in school, long-term job commitments or simply want a settled life.  A third of Australian households rent and more than 40 per cent of those have been in the rental market more than 10 ... A third of Australian households rent and more than 40 per cent of those have been in the rental market more than 10 years or more, says a recent survey by CHOICE, the National Association of Tenants' Organisations and National Shelter shows. Jessica Shapiro CHOICE's recent report, Unsettled: Life in Australia's private rental market indicates "rental rights in Australia lag behind those in many other developed countries, where renters often enjoy secure long-term arrangements with strict limits on rent increases". The Netherlands, Germany and Denmark offer infinite leases. In the US, Lloyd-Hurwitz says with multi-family rental housing, apartment leases can get up to 5 years. 'No poorer service' - In Australia leases can be as short as six months and renters can be evicted anytime on short notice. Apart from funding issues and yield Cofa Capital's Kevin Choi says "You are looking at red tape in new development, high costs in construction ... in my opinion, it's a very wafty market and it only takes one or two factors for it to fall." Robert Shakespeare "It's hard to imagine a product or service this poor in any other sector," CHOICE chief executive Alan Kirkland says Previously, suppliers – large institutions such as developers or private capital – were unwilling to enter the market because of weak returns compared to other asset classes such as commercial property. Lloyd-Hurwitz says "residential yields are 3.5 per cent on a good day" but in reality gross yields – rental revenue before other expenses are deducted – have dipped below 3 per cent in Sydney in the past few months, SQM Research shows. The same has happened in Melbourne However, other yields – even in commercial property have fallen – as global wealth chases investment and push prices up. "The true net yield of an office is about 4 per cent after you take out incentives," Lloyd-Hurwitz says. "So it's 3.5 per cent versus 4 per cent, against 3.5 versus 7 per cent a few years ago."   Pros and Cons - Advisory group, Emerge Capital Partners has been advising many interested investors in this space in Australia and says Australia's first build-to-rent, in the current cycle, is likely to emerge in the next 12 to 24 months. Interestingly, it was potential settlement risks faced by many apartment builders which has also given the sector a kick-start. Managing partner Tim Frogley says many developers currently building tall towers for onselling – concerned with settlement issues and the breaching of sunset clauses – are considering converting their towers into build-to-rent apartments. Associate Director John Fitzsimons says with settlement risk tailwinds, developers are now seriously considering taking short-term profits, opting for the more attractive long-term cash flows afforded by apartment rentals. Emerge says the government does not need to intervene to make the sector work, although tax concessions and faster planning systems will allow the sector to take off faster, the same as any housing industry. But CLSA's head of real estate Sholto Maconochie says very generous tax concessions and reformed planning laws will be needed for the sector to work. "We have looked at his but it is not that simple. It requires a combination of state and commonwealth government support and/or legislation changes as currently the yields do not stack up relative to other real estate asset classes," he says. "Also there is tax asymmetry for retail investors via negative gearing and the 50 per cent capital gains tax concession," unlike institutional investors – so it's not a truly level playing field. "Another issue is that the multi-family model would need to have land contributed by state or councils at below market value to make the returns stack up. Another option would be for lower council and state infrastructure charges for multi-family, to help increase returns." Lloyd-Hurwitz says aside from government financial assistance, a change in Division 6C in the Income Tax Act to classify apartments as assets for "operating income" not "capital growth" will be favourable particularly to REITs, an easier planning system and changes in land tax will also encourage more players to the sector. The players in Australia - Other players are starting to emerge in the sector aside from Mirvac Last year, Macquarie Capital, a division of Macquarie Group agreed to a partnership with major US multi-family provider Greystar to provide build-to-rental property in Asia Pacific. On Thursday, the pair, in a move to accelerate plans, appointed Charles Ma and Chris Key as managing directors to the project. Cbus Property CEO Adrian Pozzo told a Property Council function this month the company was exploring the sector. "It won't be through Cbus Property. We are most likely to be the developer in a transaction," he says. "The returns in multi-family just don't sit within the Cbus Property mandate. We are up the risk return curve. We are in the high teens, we need to be every year for the risk we are taking. Multi-family might return you a 3 to 4 per cent income return if you are lucky." Australian Super's Christine Phillips says the fund also has a multi-family mandate centred on the US and is looking to place "some money" there "probably in the near term" "It's harder to do multi-family domestically. We find it hard to generate the returns you need," she says. "And we are looking at it in the UK." The Urban Land Institute says competitive entrants to the market are likely to be offshore institutions which can tap into a lower cost of capital, therefore not pressured by low yields. But multi-family may already have some green shoots in Australia. Harry Triguboff's Meriton, which owns just under 7000 long-term rental and serviced apartments across Australia is the closest example of an Australian multi-family market. More than just affordable housing - "While this is not about affordable housing, it is about taking the pressure off the market," Frogley says. With more people out of the market, and comfortably renting, price pressures may start to fall. Renting by choice will grow in the Sydney market says Lloyd-Hurwitz but, "There is no reason why it won't grow in Brisbane or Perth ... because renters want to put their equity into something else and are happy to live in a high tower with good services...
  • Prior to settlement, the seller of a property with a pool must provide the buyer with a copy of the valid Pool Safety Certificate. If a certificate can not be provided then a Form 36 must be given to the buyer prior to the contract being entered into, declaring that there will be no pool Safety Certificate in place prior to settlement. This form must also be given to the Pool Safety Council. Under the REIQ Contract for Houses and Residential Land, if the latter of the two options is provided to the buyer, the buyer will inherit the obligation to ensure that there is a valid pool safety certificate in place for the regulated pool within 90 days of ownership at their expense. If there is not a valid Pool Safety Certificate in place at the time of contract being formed between the seller and the buyer, there is provision that the buyer may arrange for a pool safety inspection to be conducted within a nominated time frame (under similar terms to a building or pest inspection). If the inspection results in a pool safety certificate being issued by a suitably qualified inspector, there is no further action required by either party. If the inspection result in a notice being issued for non-compliance, the buyer has the right to terminate the contract by notice in writing to the seller or to waive the4 condition and the contract proceeds, as per the provisions of clause 4.2 of the terms and conditions. Agents should be mindful that they inform all parties involved that a pool safety inspection can only be carried out by a suitably qualified pool safety inspector. Checking the contactor’s qualifications can be done through the pool register on the Department of Housing and Public Works Website : (www.hpw.qld.gov.au ) Any agent engaging a pool safety inspector on behalf of a client should ensure that they have a completes and signed contractor appointment form from the inspector and also check the pool register via www.hpw.qld.gov.au before engaging any services. It is prudent for an agent to ensure that the issue of a pool safety certificate is discussed with their client at listing stage and throughout the marketing of a property. Having a pool safety certificate in place at the time of a contract being forms will minimise any possible negotiation issues between the seller and buyer.  
  • Owning a rental property can be a nerve racking venture especially for first-time landlords. The concept of the rental property might be simple, however, it is riddled with threats that can topple down your business before it even begins to flourish. Your hard work begins right from when you first purchased your property. So before you take a leap, you should make sure that you are ready for any possible hurdles ahead. Most of all, you must ensure you choose a new property and property manager wisely. Let us guide you on the things that you need to consider when choosing the right investment property. How’s the neighbourhood? If you are looking to target a particular demographic of tenants, you must also be particular with the kind of neighbourhood you want your property to be in. Remember, a good neighbourhood attracts good quality tenants. Of course, this includes looking into the local crime rate. Go to the police to acquire accurate data that would give you a perfect view of the kind of neighbourhood the property is in. No one wants to live in constant fear of being robbed, right? You also have to look at the amenities that are in and around the area, such as schools and universities, transport, shopping centres and restaurants, as these would significantly affect the number of prospective tenants that you might have. Are there schools nearby? Choosing a property that is conveniently close to schools boosts up its chances of getting rented fairly quickly. Not only will you be attracting students, you’ll also be drawing lots of young families in, as well as couples planning to have children. On the other hand, you still might need to do an assessment on the school’s reputation as it can considerably affect the rental rate and the price of the property should you decide on selling it. How is the employment trend? People are constantly drawn towards places where there is a great opportunity for career establishment and advancement. Be on the lookout for large companies opening or moving to the area. What is the estimated weekly rent? Obtaining a rental appraisal will give you a good insight on how your investment property will fare in the market. A rental appraisal will also be important to ensure you are aware of how much will be required to cover taxes, mortgage, as well as other costs such as maintenance. Also do some research on your chosen suburb. How much progress will there be in the next 5 years? Will the cost of living grow drastically or will it stay relatively close to the current trend? Such factors would greatly affect the profitability of your property in the long run. What is the vacancy rate? The vacancy rate signals whether it is good to invest in a property in a particular area or not. The rise and fall of the vacancy rate might be subjective to a particular time of the year. A hike in the number of listings could mean one of two things. It could either be just a seasonal trend or it could simply mean that the area is just not marketable. It’s important that you know how to distinguish one from the other in order for you to make the right call.  
  • One of the more stressful situations for any tenant moving out of a rental is waiting to hear whether you’ll get your bond back. And there’s good reason for the stress. Only about half of tenants receive a refund on their bond, new data shows. In 2015/16 one in 10 tenants did not receive any of their bond back, while 35 per cent only received some of their bond back, the latest Rental Bond Board Annual Report shows.   This could be due to small issues in the home overlooked by tenants – even after a routine clean and moving out your furniture there are often issues that can eat into your bond.   Rental Trends that the tenant speak with us and ask for our recommended cleaner to come in and do a bond clean. The cost can vary from [a few hundred] upwards depending on the size of the property and how clean it is to begin with. Understanding your obligations under the tenancy agreement is critical, but for those who do decide to clean themselves, rental experts said tenants should pay particular attention to several key areas. Forgotten fans and filters:   At the top of the list were fans, filters and unseen parts of the property that can get particularly dirty during a 12-month tenancy.  In particular, exhaust fans are a common case of out-of-sight and out-of-mind. From our experience, tenants sometimes overlook the cleanliness of their exhaust fans which are prone to attracting lint and dust in bathrooms and oil and grease in kitchens.   Oven and dishwahser cleaning: It might seem counter-intuitive, but dishwashers frequently need cleaning.  For the dishwasher running a cleaner through, pulling the filters out and also cleaning the internal trims is necessary.  Rental Trends property managers will also look inside the oven when inspecting a property.  A landlord or property manager are within their rights to open and inspect the oven, so they should be clean and free from food splatters, overflow or built up grease and oil.  The range top should also be clean for the next tenant,  A lot of people don’t realise gas stove top burners come apart and disassemble for cleaning. Pet related dirt:  Those with pets in their rental property should also take special care to clean up after them.  Buy a good quality vacuum … while a landlord or property manager might allow pets at the property, it is generally on the basis the property remains free from pet fur and mess.  In particular, dirt can accrue “in door tracks and on skirting boards” that can quickly be cleaned by a tenant.  Damage outside from pets should also be attended to. Mould Issues:  Another issue that should be tackled sooner rather than later is any sign of mould in a rental property.  This could be a result of failing to ventilate a home properly during the tenancy, so should be attended to well before moving day. This is particularly a problem in the bathroom, where tenants should “leave the window open a couple of inches.  Rental Trends encourages tenants to thoroughly scrub shower screens, grout in bathrooms and other wet areas to remove bacteria. Incomplete gardening and outdoor maintenance:  Tenants in houses with the benefit of a yard may have some work ahead of them to get their property in tip-top condition to vacate.  For tenants that have a pool and pool maintenance is not included in their lease then they need to properly cleaned the filters and the cell.  It is important to maintain the garden as best, despite wilted plants being part and parcel of a hot Australian summer.  Some leases make the tenant responsible for maintaining the backyard while others may have a gardener included in the lease.  Damage and marks on walls and doors:  The final issue most tenants will find themselves needing to attend to is any dirt or damage to walls and doors that wouldn’t be considered wear and tear.  Spot cleaning around lights switches, on door handles and internal doors would make a big difference at inspection time.  Cleaning blinds and skirting boards were also high on the list of issues for departing tenants.  Rental Trends also advises all tenants to take a full set of entry photos when completing the entry condition report and keep them in their own files …  tenants need to be taking the same amount of care and time completing the exit condition report as they did when completing the entry condition report.                
  • Those looking to make the most of a renovation are often left deciding between holding onto the property as a rental, or flipping it for profit.  While those who cannot afford to hold onto the property will be forced to sell, for those with a choice the answer of which option is best isn’t always straightforward.   For most the main aim is to build a property portfolio when investing and if you sell you’re not achieving that objective, Renovating for Profit founder Cherie Barber said.  While opting to hold onto a property or not is highly dependent on your goals and the investment itself, renovated rentals do have some benefits worth considering. “The bulk of housing across Australia is still largely unrenovated so you’ll find freshly-renovated properties will rent quickly and getting a tenant will be no problem,”  Ms Barber said. This leads to fewer vacancies.   “You also typically get a rental premium for freshly-renovated properties.” One property she renovated, in a western Sydney suburb is a clear example of this rental premium.  Her three-bedroom property, bought for $360,000 in 2014, went through a recent $42,000 extensive renovation. The home was re-valued at $480,000, and the rent increased $150 a week – from $320 to $450. For many, this could push their negatively geared asset into positive cash flow territory.   For those who intend to rent the property out, she recommended looking for hard-wearing fixtures and fittings.  “Wood floors are especially susceptible to mishaps and carelessness,” Ms Barber said.  “An overflowing washing machine or open window on a rainy day will result in buckled floors if you’ve installed timber laminate boards. Engineered timber or timber-look vinyl floors will stand up to a tenant’s wear and tear much better.” It is important to ensure that what you’re looking to spend will improve your property’s increase in your rental returns. The more modern and aesthetically styled a property is, the greater will be the premium someone is willing to pay for it If an investor’s property is run down with broken fixtures, old interior fittings and damage to paintwork, carpets, doors and more, it will be difficult to rent at a good return. Hence renovating your property is a great opportunity to increase the value of the property and consequently its rental returns. For those deciding between renting and selling, it would be worthwhile to choose pre-renovating as this can affect the choices about the durability of finishes.  While the same “big ticket” items would be on the list – such as renovating the kitchen and bathrooms or painting the walls – a rental property needs a durable renovation.  Examples of this would be a tougher fabric for a rental in a window furnishing, one that you could easily wash and hang or wipe and clean, and a carpet would be a darker choice and closer to a commercial durability. Tips for choosing your strategy:  Six questions to ask yourself: Can I afford to hold the property? How will holding the property affect my serviceability? Is there a better way for me to be using my money? Can I actually get a tenant? What are the capital growth prospects for this suburb? How long would I hold onto the property for?
  • Across Queensland, there are more than 45,000 bodies corporate managing over 400,000 apartments and townhouses.That means about 20 per cent of people have some connection to a body corporate, but many owners and tenants still don’t understand their rights and responsibilities and too many believe in myths. There has been an explosion of unit owners during the last two decades.  However, still too many owners still take scant interest in their buildings. Back in the old days, prior to the legislation changing 13 July 1997 a body corporate manager was usually the chairman, secretary and treasurer in most instances.  There was no internet, no email …  So the owners of units were very ignorant and in a lot of cases, just didn't care.  They didn’t know anything about the legislation and they didn’t want to know. The main difference today, apart from greater numbers of apartment owners and tenants, is improved education and easy access to more information.  Still,  many unit owners fail to get involved in their body corporate and often pay a high price for it.   Owners that don't pay attention to the look of the building and the maintenance of the building end up falling behind.  Because they have not been involved in the general running of the body corporate including maintenance they then complain when they can't rent their unit because the building is looking dowdy.  Ignorance is bliss but it comes back to bite.  Too many unit owners don't seek to care about the managerment of their building.   The big message here is that apartment owners really can’t afford to stick their heads in the sand and ignore body corporate meetings and issues. There’s too much at stake in the running of their buildings. Owner or tenant, you’ve got obligations and rights whether you want them or not. You might choose to not attend meetings or vote to have your say on how your building’s run and fees are determined. But you can’t opt out of paying those fees or complying with the by-laws.   It is also quite common for owners and tenants to believe in a variety of myths, which include that there are “standard by-laws” when in fact each scheme adopts its own unique set of by-laws, and that pets cannot be banned from complexes.  Bodies corporate can’t make unreasonable by-laws, such as the banning of all pets, but they can still develop guidelines that must be adhered to by owners and tenants, such as demanding that a noisy pet be removed. More myths include the idea that anyone, including residents, can park in visitor car parks or that owners can complete renovations such as the installation of timber floors without appropriate approvals. So take the time to be involved with the decision making of your body corporate.  You are paying pretty hefty fees in some cases so don't miss your opportunity to voice your opinion with the end result being that your property is being maintained in all aspects.  
  • Why now is the best time to be a renter in Brisbane -  NOW is the best time to rent in Brisbane with the city fast becoming a renter’s paradise, according to the latest REA Group Property Demand Index.  While southern capitals saw record rental demand in March, Brisbane’s housing oversupply has seen it become a renter’s paradise with the number of tenants unable to keep up with the growth in homes available for rent.   Among the freebies being thrown in by owners to sweeten the deal for potential tenants were one to four weeks worth of free rent in some properties with others offering things like free gym membership.   The Index named Queensland as “the country’s most concerning market” after buyer demand declined slightly over the month (-0.2 per cent for all dwellings) but there was “a larger drop in rental demand on realestate.com.au” (-1.7 per cent). Somewhat surprisingly given the publicity surrounding the supply of units in the market, the rent index for houses saw a higher drop in Queensland (-1.8 per cent) than units (-1.5 per cent).   “Brisbane in particular is seeing high levels of development and dropping rental demand suggests that the market in Queensland will continue to take some time to absorb the supply,” the report said. High levels of unit supply, particularly in Brisbane, was having a more negative impact on the market but there was some reason for investors to still hope, given developers had slowed down on the rollout of planned developments.  “On the positive side, the pipeline of new apartments in Brisbane remains low, which will give the market time to absorb current stock.” Nerida Conisbee, REA Group Chief Economist said cooling measures pushed through by APRA and banks continuing to increase rates independently of the RBA had so far failed to stem skyrocketing prices in Sydney and Melbourne.  She said there was yet to be any impact on consumer demand for property on realestate.com.au. “Borrowers are shrugging off rising interest rates and restrictions to lending, continuing to search for property on realestate.com.au,” she said.  “With the impacts from these measures likely to take some time to flow through, people can expect to see continued property price increases throughout April.   “On realestate.com.au we’ve seen a 25 per cent increase in demand year-on-year from consumers looking for property. Increasing demand in the market is driving record property prices.  “Concerns about affordability will continue to gather pace in 2017, with the record price growth in 2016 set to continue.”
  • Whether you like your hot cross buns traditional, crammed with chocolate chips, or something a little different, one thing is for sure, the warm Easter treat is always a good idea.   Take a look at our list of all the best hot cross buns around Queensland, that you need to try before the Easter bunny arrives: Jocelyn's Provisions - This pretty little cafe in Fortitude Valley loves Easter baking.  “Our bakers have been testing, mixing and baking to ensure our hot cross buns are as delicious as ever”, their Facebook page says.  Their traditional-style buns are made with plump fruit, candied peel and are brushed with a sweet sticky glaze.  Their customers describe the buns as dense, warm and fresh.  The cafe also sells baked Easter egg-shaped treats, cakes and extravagant Easter eggs filled with chocolate mendiants (a traditional French confection). Chester Street Bakery - Known for their elaborately sweet and colourful deserts and incredible cakes, Chester St Bakery also does traditional hot cross buns.   Unlike a traditional bakery, this store in Newstead is one of Brisbane’s best late night dessert bars – so if you’re feeling like the Easter treat later at night, this may be the place to try. Flour & Chocolate - This bakery is a favourite in Brisbane for its unique pastries and breads.  Their hot cross buns are baked with 100% organic flour and according to the Visit Brisbane website, “are filled with raisins, sultanas, cranberries, apricots, figs, glace cherries, glace peel and topped with a traditional iced cross.”  The bakery often announces its specials via Facebook, so keep an eye out for any unique flavours they may bake in the lead up to Easter.  Couverture & Co - If you’re torn between buying a hot cross bun or Easter chocolate, Couvertue & Co in Red Hill makes the perfect hybrid of the two.   Their ‘hot cross truffle’ is made from milk or dark chocolate, filled with a chocolate ganache plus all the best bits of a hot cross bun – raisins, cinnamon and spices. Brewbakers - Brewbakers is an artisan bakery in Alibon, Brisbane.  Baking fresh goods every day from hot croissants, sourdough and rolls for lunch, this bakery has got a reputation for being worthy to drive across town for.  They’re also baking hot cross buns all holiday season, which customers say are some of the best you’ll ever taste.        
  • In slower rental markets Rental Trends finds itself managing vacant properties. But ‘unoccupied’ doesn’t have to mean ‘unattended’. Given our duty to act in our clients’ best interests, vacancy management is an important part of protecting the client’s asset. Here are few tips on how Rental Trends manages vacant property. • Is the property secure? The property is being advertised ‘for rent’ so it is going to be more obvious when it is vacant. We ensure all doors and windows are locked, and no keys are left hidden onsite. • Does the property look unmonitored? A letterbox choked with junk mail, bins left out on the footpath for weeks, and waist-high grass, tell people that nobody is watching things. We return bins back to their place inside the boundary, we ensure that grass is well kept.  An unoccupied and unattended property can attract trespassers. Managing a vacant property usually means regularly checking the premises and ensuring that it doesn’t look unattended. Encouraging vacated tenants to establish mail redirection, and adding a ‘no junk mail’ sticker to the letterbox can also help. • Does the property look derelict? One broken window may make vandals feel invited to break more. Don’t defer repairs because the property is vacant.  • How fast are the weeds growing? An unkempt property is even more difficult to let, and if the lawns and gardens are overgrown at the start of the new tenancy – the tenant can leave it unkempt (possibly even more so) when they vacate. • Who is cleaning the pool and checking chemical levels? If this is normally left to the tenant, we would ask you to engage a pool cleaner whilst the property is vacant. • Will the electricity disconnection have any negative impacts? Examples might relate to alarm systems not functioning and therefore leaving the property even less secure, pool filters stopping and causing deterioration of the pool condition, or an enviro cycle toilet that is complicated to reset after a prolonged disconnection. Electricity should be reconnected in the lessor’s name until the property is relet, and then disconnected. • Is the Lessor’s insurance affected? Some insurance policies may not cover unoccupied or vacant properties, or may require notification if the property is unoccupied for more than a certain timeframe. This is because from an insurer’s perspective the risks are higher – if something is leaking and nobody is there to report it, the damage bill is going to be much higher. Rental Trends encourages our Lessors to seek advice from their insurer about their particular circumstances and what is required under their policy. • If a property is vacant there is no tenant to report burst pipes, or to notice that something electrical has shorted. Fires can start in empty properties, and in certain conditions, a property that is locked up without any ventilation might develop mould. Even if letting enquiries are slow, we visit the property regularly to mitigate risks for the lessor by regularly checking the condition of the empty property. Vacant properties should always be checked after weather events. • A property that is locked up and not ventilated for days at a time over summer may become quite hot. Rental Trends likes to ensure there is nothing stored at the property that could be damaged or become hazardous. • Do neighbours know how to get in touch if they see anything that warrants attention? Many neighbours would feel a sense of responsibility to call if they saw people lurking about or causing trouble at the property next door, or if there was an obvious problem. If you have a ‘for rent’ sign out the front then chances are the neighbours know how to reach us but otherwise we do introduce ourselves to neighbours and leave a business card.    • It has become the norm for Agencies to charge the owner a fee for providing vacancy management services, but only if this is stated on the signed Appoiintment form (PO Form 6).  Rental Trends offers this service at no cost making it a viable proposition for the Lessor.    
  • Garden maintenance – Some Fast Facts It is generally the responsibility of the tenant to look after general yard jobs such as mowing, edging and weeding, however this should be specified in the tenancy agreement.  Fast facts: • Any special arrangements about the maintenance of gardens and lawns should be listed in the tenancy agreement. • Any plants, hedges or lawns that require specialist upkeep are usually not the responsibility of the tenant, unless the tenant agrees. • Local council water restrictions should also be considered. The tenant may not be held responsible if lawns, trees or other plants die because of compliance with these local laws or due to excessive dry weather conditions. • Major work such as tree lopping is usually carried out by the property manager/owner as part of their obligation to keep the property in good repair. This type of work is not carried out on a regular basis and is more likely to require specialist knowledge or equipment such as ladders. • If the yard maintenance is covered by a contract between the lessor and an external company this should be listed in the tenancy agreement. • A property manager/owner cannot require the tenant to enter into a maintenance contract with a particular company in addition to their rent, or require the tenant to use a specific company to provide maintenance services. • It is important to include the condition of the lawns and gardens on the Entry condition report (Form 1a) as the tenant will need to return the property in the same condition they received it, excluding fair wear and tear.
  • AIRBNB has hired a management consultant to assess its potential entrance into the long-term rental marketplace, according to sources familiar with the matter.  Sharing economy giant AIRBNB has set its sights on the long-term rental market and enlisted the help of consulting firm McKinsey & Co to research the possibility. The platform already has a ‘sublets’ tab on their website which offers longer term stays in more than 5,000 cities around the world, including Sydney and Melbourne. REINSW president John Cunningham said companies like Airbnb have failed in the past.  “The reality is that this space already does exist. There’s always been the threat of a disrupter to come along. There’s always been the opportunity to do things quicker and easier. The big question mark is, do they do it better?” Mr Cunningham told news.com.au. “Whenever anyone’s tried to manage properties from a central hub, it had failed dismally. The reality is you need to be on the ground in the location and do what needs to be done.” AIRBNB has faced controversy in several countries, including Australia. In New York, short-term lets are banned.  Australia also recently saw a rise in companies offering to ‘manage’ property listings on AIRBNB and other home share platforms. “Australia has fairly strict controls. It’s a legal document when people are signing a lease and AIRBNB likes to stay well and clear of that area. Once a residential agreement goes beyond the three-month mark, they’re getting involved in a completely different regulatory environment,” Mr Cunningham said. “The short-term holiday rental area is where things are very murky, outside the Residential Tenancies Act, but once it ticks over, things become [an] entirely different model. For them to go into that space would require a big change.”
  • Vacancy rates for new Inner Brisbane apartments remained tight at 2.3 per cent over the December quarter 2016, according to new research released by Urbis. The Urbis Inner Brisbane Apartment Rental Review found that new developments are out-performing older, established projects with lower levels of amenity. The Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) reported a higher vacancy rate of 3.6 per cent for the total Inner Brisbane rental market over the same period. Urbis Associate Director of Property Economics and Research Paul Riga said that the indicative vacancy rate of 2.3 per cent for new apartments is a slight increase on the September quarter 2016, which recorded 2.2 per cent. “Given that 2016 has seen the highest number of new apartments to ever settle within Inner Brisbane, this is a positive result,” Mr Riga said. The report, which surveyed 23 projects containing over 4,000 apartments, found that close to 50 per cent of renters in the new projects had moved from Middle and Outer precincts of Brisbane, and increased choice, competitive rents and desirable locations were driving renters’ movements. The Middle Ring (5-20km) and Brisbane Local Government Authority recorded vacancy rates of 3.3 per cent and 3.4 per cent respectively (REIQ). “These vacancy rates are expected to rise as the trend for new apartments attracting residents from the outer areas into Inner Brisbane continues,” Mr Riga said. While vacancy remained tight, the competitive nature of the Inner Brisbane apartment market drove softening rents over the December quarter, resulting in a decrease in average rental yields. Building managers also reported that new buildings were taking longer to reach full occupancy.  However, well-located, high-quality buildings with strong amenity are largely unaffected, recording little rental price decreases and have seen minimal ‘renter churn’ – with renters happy to stay on despite new projects available around them. According to the report, there were indications the inner Brisbane apartment rental market had begun to self-regulate. Positive absorption of new apartment rentals was already evident through the 24 per cent increase in bond lodgements for the December quarter, compared to the same period 12 months prior, based on Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) data. The growth in bond lodgement is expected to continue over the next 12 months, boding well with a declining level of new apartment supply coming to the market. Additional research from Urbis indicated that new projects launching were significantly down on this time last year. “The continued decrease in future apartment supply will give the rental market time to absorb new apartments,” Mr Riga said.
  • The unexpected death of a tenant is a sensitive situation that Rental Trends is prepared for.  It is important to understand the rules because the remaining tenants, or the deceased’s legal representative, will more than likely be looking to us for guidance during such a difficult time. Tenancies involving more than one person: When two or more people share a tenancy, and one party dies, the tenancy agreement does not automatically end. We speak to the remaining tenants and/or the deceased tenant’s representative, about updating the tenancy agreement. If there is a change of bond contributors, a change of shared bond arrangement (Form 6) will also need to be completed and lodged with the RTA. Co-tenants cannot claim the deceased’s bond contribution; this is only available to the deceased tenant’s estate. Any tenancy related debts are a separate matter to be dealt with by the deceased tenant’s legal representative.    Tenancies involving a sole tenant: When a sole tenant dies, they are not breaking their lease. Instead, the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 takes a compassionate approach to the situation, and allows for the tenancy to end in the following ways: 1. The tenant’s representative can give our office written notice to end the tenancy two weeks from the service of the notice, or vice versa. 2. The tenant’s representative and our office can mutually agree to a different end date. When this occurs we document the arrangement in writing, including signatures from both parties, to show their agreement. 3. The tenant’s representative, or our office can apply to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) to end the tenancy, and QCAT will set the end date. 4. The tenancy agreement expires automatically one month after the tenant’s death if neither party serves notice to end the tenancy, and nobody makes an application to QCAT. If the next-of-kin cannot be located: We are always proactive getting emergency contact details at the beginning of a tenancy. However, sometimes we have trouble locating the next of kin, and this is when we would call the police.    We can also apply to QCAT to end the tenancy, or to issue an Abandonment termination notice (Form 15). These options are only visited after all other avenues are exhausted. Other reasons for ending a tenancy: There are a myriad of reasons for tenancy agreement changes other than death (e.g. job changes, illness and relationship breakdown). Where some parties to a tenancy want to terminate their agreement because they would suffer excessive hardship from it continuing, they can lodge an urgent application to QCAT. It is up to the person lodging the application to prove the hardship, and the decision about whether the agreement will be terminated (with or without penalties) will be made by the QCAT adjudicator.  
  • Outsourcing is now a hot topic in the property management industry.  Keeping up with the demands of owners and tenants, while still performing out-if-office tasks, have become a time management nightmare. Is it any wonder a property manager might decide to seek help to help them deal with the stresses of the job?  To help determine whether our business should outsource, it pays to know the types of solutions available.  Onshore outsourcing - In recent years, this type of outsourcing has become more common with property managers using third-party apps like Inspections Manager, LiveAgent or Maintenance Manager for tasks such as routine inspections, maintenance repairs or quotes. There are also options to hire temps and have external companies perform your inspections and even answer your phone. Offshore outsourcing - Business process outsourcing (BPO) is new territory for the property management industry. In this day and age, there’s no business that hasn’t been touched by offshore outsourcing.    Companies such as Telstra, Optus and Foxtel have been offshore outsourcing for years. Internal outsourcing - This is where you increase your staff by hiring local labour. You might hire someone for a junior position, an assistant property manager or a part-time employee. The objective here is to hire the extra pair of hands to assist with the workload. Internal outsourcing has been common practice for years in the industry, and for a long time it’s been the only option available to handle business growth. The downside is that it's the most expensive option available. All of these outsourcing solutions will provide either short or long-term relief from the tasks that need to be accomplished on a daily basis. Weighing up the options ..... Onshore outsourcing is more of a short term-fix, but hiring someone else to physically do your property inspections is risky and takes away from what your owner is paying us to do.  Offshore outsourcing can be cost-effective.  However, it is difficult to locate an overseas worker whose English is acceptable and then spending hours training them all leads to further cost. Internal outsourcing is great but not necessarily cost-effective. However, although labour costs are the largest expense in any rental department, that personal service that the client receives when telephoning us is immeasurable.  We want to talk to our owners, we want to meet their needs and we want you to know that we are on the other end of the line. 
  • We are regularly asked questions about ‘break lease fees’ - when an agent can charge one, how much it is, and where it can be found in the legislation. Under the RTRA Act, there is no mention of a ‘break lease fee’ at all, let alone any suggestion of a particular amount.   An agent cannot charge a tenant a fee for re-letting a premises, but can of course charge the property owner (their client) a letting commission for providing that particular agency service.   Letting commissions were de-regulated in December 2014 so this could be any amount negotiated between the client and agent, and included on the signed Property Occupations Form 6. However, where a tenant terminates an agreement before the end of their fixed term tenancy (in a way not permitted under the Act) a lessor can recover, from that tenant, the lessor’s reasonable costs incurred in reletting the premises. This is stated on every Queensland tenancy agreement in standard term 7. As one example of what the lessor’s reasonable costs of reletting may include: if the lessor has had to pay their managing agent a letting commission to find a new tenant, then this is generally considered to be recoverable from the tenant who terminated the agreement before its end.    So the real story is that the agent is recovering the lessor’s actual costs from a tenant - not charging the tenant a ‘fee’.  If a tenant is leaving only a short time before the end of their fixed term tenancy, then consideration would be given to the fact that the owner would have incurred the agent’s full letting commission in the very near future in the normal course of things anyway. In that circumstance, it might not be considered reasonable to expect the tenant to reimburse the owner for the full letting commission.   If a property owner decides not to relet the property, then they won’t be charged a letting commission by their managing agent and therefore this won’t be a particular cost the lessor has actually ncurred. In some cases, lessors may incur other reasonable costs in reletting - such as advertising. A lessor can incur other forms of loss as a result of a tenant breaching the agreement, and the Act does allow a claim for compensation as a result of a tenant’s breach. This could be pursued through mediation, and then an application to QCAT, and can be done either during the agreement, or after the agreement has ended. Sections 419, 420 and 421 of the RTRA Act are relevant when this applies.  
  • A leading real estate network is considering extending residential leases to provide landlords and tenants with more long-term security. The agency is calling for extended residential leases, similar to those offered in commercial leasing situations. Currently the traditional residential lease term is six-12 months, whereas commercial leases are three-, five- or 10-year agreements. Long-term leases allow tenants in the commercial space to put their roots down and go about their business. Residential tenants could be offered the option.   Other features of commercial leases that would be considered would be set rent reviews and lease extension options. The agency is of the opinion that these longer leases would be beneficial to both tenants and landlords, providing more stability to both, especially in the current rental market where owners are struggling to find tenants due to the oversupply.  Rental Trends has offered this option to investors over the years as they have been happy to pay a lease renewal fee based on the length of lease. Rental Trends believes that its all about speaking with the investor and offer to match their needs to the tenant’s.   A long-term investor will be better served with a long-term tenant. After a 12-month period, when everyone is happy, it’s worth having a conversation about a longer-term lease with set rental increases for how much and when it will be applied. At the end of the day, it’s all about Owners, Tenants and Rental Trends working in harmony.
  • The tenant is on a periodic tenancy. Can I increase their rent?   Yes, with minimum 2 months written notice.  The notice could be given to the tenant at any time, but the rent increase cannot commence sooner than 6 months after they started paying the current rent amount.   The tenant is on a fixed term tenancy. Can I increase their rent during their fixed term?  Yes but only if:  • The rent increase was included as a special term of the signed tenancy agreement from the very beginning, stating when the rent would increase and the amount of the increase or how this is to be worked out • Minimum 2 months written notice is provided • The increase does not commence sooner than 6 months after they started paying the initial (current) rent amount.   We had negotiated a three month tenancy with new tenants to move into a property. At the end of that three month agreement we are negotiating a new 3 month agreement with the same tenants at a higher rent. Is this permitted?    No. Because it is with the same tenants, the rent increase cannot commence if it is sooner than 6 months after the current rent became payable, even if the increase takes effect from one agreement to the next. I rented the property to two tenants for a 6 month agreement. Three months later, one of the tenants has vacated, one has stayed, and a different co-tenant has been approved.    Can we increase the rent?   No. The increase cannot commence sooner than 6 months after they started paying the current rent amount in situations where even one of the tenants paying the current rent will be subject to the increase.  We had previously negotiated a three month tenancy on a property. That agreement is now ending, and all of the tenants are vacating. We have found completely new tenants to commence a new agreement. The previous tenants were only paying their rental amount for less than 6 months, but we want to charge the new tenants a higher rent than the previous tenants were paying. Can we do this? Yes. In this case, none of the tenants paying the current rent will be subject to the increase, as they are all moving out. The higher rent will be payable by completely new tenants. You can charge the new tenants a higher rent from day one of their tenancy because they were not the tenants paying the lower rent. The higher rent is stated in item 7 of the new agreement and is payable by the new tenants from the start date of the new tenants’ tenancy agreement. The tenant is on a fixed term agreement which expires in a few days time. The owner has only just instructed me to have a new agreement signed at a higher rent. Do I have to give the tenant 2 months notice?  Not if the tenant signs a new agreement with the higher rent. The two months notice only applies to a rent increase for a periodic tenancy, or for a rent increase coming into effect during the term of a fixed term agreement.    In a situation where a tenant is entering into a new fixed term at the end of their current fixed term, and the new fixed term agreement is at a higher rent, the rent increase is not occurring during the original fixed term. In these situations the RTRA Act does not require any particular period of notice to the tenant regarding the rent increase. If the tenant signs the new tenancy agreement, then whatever rent is stated in item 7 will be payable from whatever date is stated in item 6.2, even if that is immediately. Best practice is to give the tenant as much notice as possible to increase the chance of them signing the new agreement, and to ensure that good tenants are persuaded to stay.  The tenant has been paying the same rent for at least 6 months, and is currently on a periodic agreement. The owner has instructed me to have a new fixed term agreement signed at a higher rent. Do I have to give the tenant 2 months notice?  Not if the tenant signs a new agreement with the higher rent. The two months notice only applies to a rent increase for a periodic tenancy, or for a rent increase coming into effect during the term of a fixed term agreement. In a situation where a tenant is entering into a new fixed term, and the new fixed term agreement is at a higher rent, the rent increase is not occurring during the periodic tenancy. In these situations the RTRA Act does not require any particular period of notice to the tenant regarding the rent increase. If the tenant signs the new tenancy agreement, then whatever rent is stated in item 7 will be payable from whatever date is stated in item 6.2, even if that is immediately.  A new owner has bought a tenanted property. Seeing as the current rent was negotiated with the previous lessor, she now wants to increase the rent. Can she?    Regardless of a change of lessor (or agent), the rules about rent increases still apply to the tenancy. Therefore this answer will depend on the type of tenancy in place, and how long it has been since the current rent amount became payable with the tenants.     Is there a particular form used to notify a tenant of a rent increase?  There is no form provided by RTA, but the notice must state the amount of the increased rent, and the day from when the increase is payable. Can a tenant object to a rent increase?   Yes.   When a tenant is notified of a rent increase, they can make an application to QCAT within 30 days (and before the end of the fixed term). QCAT must have regard for the types of issues mentioned in section 92(4) of the RTRA Act.  What sections of the RTRA Act cover rent increases?   Section 91, 92, and 93.4  
  •   While Airbnb has been offering a subletting service since 2011 with monthly rentals in over 5000 cities, it has never appeared on their homepage. The focus has always been on short-term holiday rentals. Until now. Last week Bloomberg reported that the app-based home-sharing service is conducting research with McKinsey & Co in preparation for expansion into the long-term rental market. What does this mean for the real estate industry? According to Inside Airbnb data, 61.9% of Airbnb listings in the city of Sydney are entire homes and apartments. Concerns have arisen amongst body corporates, property managers and owners amidst Airbnb’s rapid expansion in Australia, affecting traditional rentals and leading to properties being rented out illegally or undesirably. Damien Tudehope, Member for Epping reinforced these concerns last week, telling NSW Parliament “there are now residential properties being built in Sydney’s most sought-after suburbs solely for the purpose of servicing tourists through the Airbnb market rather than being offered as a home.” Malcolm Gunning, president of the Real Estate Institute of Australia told news.com.au that Airbnb’s potential expansion into the long-term rental market “will be a disrupter” and “will have an effect on the residential agencies”. However, Gunning also said that the industry would not be opposed to Airbnb’s next move, as long as they were playing by the rules, and that the industry would “stand up to them”. This sentiment ripples through the real estate industry with John Cunningham, president of the Real Estate Institute of New South Wales saying that leasing a property is only the start of a tenant and landlord relationship. Cunningham pointed out that Airbnb lacks the means for the screening and vetting of tenants and inspection management. These differences would make it difficult for Airbnb to compete in the long-term rental market. Not only that, but Australia has strict tenancy laws that may form hurdles for the home-sharing service. However, Airbnb has been known to push the boundaries of body corporate by-laws and regulations, so it may not be a matter of if but when Airbnb will disrupt into the long-term rental market. Kinsey is expected to present its findings to Airbnb’s senior leadership next month so be sure to check back for updates.
  • Should landlords change the Locks for Every New Tenant?  Here’s the answer ..... The responsibilities that go into becoming a landlord are extensive, to say the lease.  Aside from collecting rent, landlords are tasked with property maintenance and general upkeep.   Among these responsibilities is the issue of whether or not landlords should change their locks every time that they get a new tenant. Some people will be quick to say “yes” and some will be quick to say that doing so will incur a higher price.  When it comes to rentals, temporary ownership to a particular room or space changes hands quite often.  This process makes it hard to have absolute key control.  There is no clear-cut answer to the question posed, but there are options that landlords can take to ensure that tenants remain secure, and that their costs stay down.  Why should locks be changed?  What’s the main reason why people advocate landlords to change the locks after someone new moves in?  They are worried about the integrity of their home security.  If you look at it from the perspective of a new tenant you can see why this is worrisome.  Many of them want to make sure that their homes are as secure as possible.  In all fairness, tenants that are vacating the premises are required to hand over their keys to the landlord but this does not mean that they do not have copies of a key. According to crime statistics, 73.2% of all burglary offenses committed were on residential properties, so it is easy to understand why some tenants might be wary of their locks not being changed.  Why shouldn’t locks be changed?  In most cases, landlords are against constantly changing the locks to rentals because of the cost.  If the landlord carried out the task themselves, it would undoubtedly keep the cost of the replacement down.  Obviously if it was free, they would definitely do it.  Let’s take a look at what the best possible solution is and what landlords should do. According to most landlord/tenant laws which vary from state to state, the landlord is required to provide functioning deadbolt locks on exterior doors.  Unless the lock is damaged or compromised, they are not necessarily obligated to replace the lock.  And because the tenant doesn’t own the property they cannot make any changes with the landlords approval.  If the lock is damaged or compromised, the landlord is not obligated to replace the entire lock but instead can rekey the lock.  Rekeying a lock will lessen the fears new renters have of their homes being compromised and it can be done at a fraction of the cost.  Rekeying negates the change of anyone breaking into the apartment with an old key.  In terms of risk management, rekeying is a quick, cost effective measure.  Rekeying only replaces a few small internal mechanisms.  For most locks, these mechanisms are known as pins and pins come in various lengths.  Replacing the pins with different sizes or in a different order means the old key will no longer work. Conclusion:   Rental Trends ensures that at the start of every tenancy a Key Annexure is drawn up.  And I mean "literally" drawn up!. We draw each key on an Annexure and have the tenant sign off both on the drawn key type and the number of keys being supplied.  When the tenant returns the keys we marry up each individual key to each drawing.  Should a key not be returned,  then we advise the tenant that they are responsible for changing the barrel in the lock.   Other agencies only photocopy a bunch of keys all muddled up on a ring.  This results in the key profile not being able to be determined.  When a key is lost, they tell the tenant that they will need to charge them for the cutting of a new key.  Really, what does this achieve?  Lost keys out in the wide wonder and your new tenant feeling anxious about their security! Landlords have a great deal of responsibility when it comes to their tenants.  The mark of a good landlord can be seen in those who pay close attention to the state of their rental units.  If a lock is damaged when an old tenant is moving out, then a landlord should replace it for their new tenants.  It is at the landlords discretion to rekey locks after each tenancy but if they are assured that their agent is acting diligently with keys being provided to tenants then they can rest assured that their property is safe.    
  • As consumers, we are never really satisfied with customer service. In fact, business reviews today are showing that this is one of the few areas of differentiation between competitors. Alister Maple-Brown looks at the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in improving customer service and whether it means the end of the ‘human touch’. There’s just something about picking up a phone to talk to a customer service rep that’s agitating. But why?   Once you’ve searched the company website to find the right number, you inevitably speak to someone who completely fails to understand what you’re saying. You answer questions asked by a real human only to find out you’re not speaking to the right person or are transferred to someone else. When you’re finally transferred to the right person, you’re so frustrated with the entire process you’re close to losing it, demand to speak to a supervisor or threaten to switch to a new provider. Sound familiar?  Enter:   Artificial Intelligence. WHAT IS AI? - Thanks to Hollywood, when many of us think about AI we envisage robots taking over the world. And, because it’s largely misunderstood, many fear even considering adopting the technology. But ignoring is not going to make it go away.  Put simply, AI is a branch of computer science focusing on developing applications and technology to perform like human beings, based on information gathered from behaviour patterns, speech recognition, online activity, knowledge databases and so on.  So how can it help when it comes to customer service? Properly synthesised into the customer service process, AI has the potential to produce amazing results by feeding it with past customer service logs, behaviour patterns, soft skills and more. AN END TO THE HUMAN TOUCH?  Far from it. Developers of AI customer service technology say that its purpose is not to replace humans, but rather to make it easier for them to serve customers. Many customer service glitches occur because information isn’t easily accessible by customer service reps.  So if AI can help reps more quickly search for information and prompt responses based on customer requests, it can certainly go a long way to improving the overall experience. There are already AI solutions that use information from historical customer service chats and data, or from frequently asked questions to populate knowledge bases. These can easily be accessed by customer service reps to find the right solutions quickly.  The idea is that AI can research the knowledge base faster and provide prompts to reps to help them resolve queries more efficiently. Other solutions are focused on the human elements of AI, for example the ability to read the emotions of the customer, whether angry or frustrated, with the objective of being able to show empathy.  And then there are applications aimed at responding to customer complaints on social media. These use AI to seek out customers on social media platforms who appear to be having difficulty with their enquiries or help requests. Finding these customers and responding to their queries can be a major boost to customer service. There will always be the need for a human touch, and AI isn’t ready to solve complex issues on its own; not just yet anyway. Nevertheless, adding an element of AI to your customer service plans can make a lot of sense and contribute to a more seamless approach to customer service.  And with any luck, those frustrating and multiple phone calls will be a thing of the past.   
  • Taking care of your relationship with your tenants is one thing. However, what most landlords usually fail to do is to establish an amicable relationship with the people they work with – their contractors. Like most of the people we associate within this industry, these contractors are also professionals and should treated as such. Many contractors claim that they don’t get paid on time for their services, waiting for payment for months, sometimes, even years. Just like any other worker, they rely on their income in order to survive and fulfill their financial obligations. They need their income to pay bills and support their lives so they can continue doing their jobs. You’ll end up paying more when they refuse your work as there will be a shortage of contractors you can call. And as contractors would need to compensate for their loss, they will most likely end up increasing their hourly rate, thus costing their clients more. It’s like a domino effect which will ultimately affect you. In dealing with contractors, terms should be stated from the outset, including when the service is expected to be paid. Where and how you are going to get the funds for payment does not matter. In situations in which you are waiting for a bond dispute, you still have to be aware of your obligation to pay the contractor in the interim until the funds are reimbursed. So what point are we trying to drive at here? We cannot stress enough the importance of treating your/our contractors well. Making sure they get paid on time and, in case that there is a slight delay with an invoice, letting them know and reassure them that you are taking action to get them paid. We hope that by reading this, property owners would appreciate the value of their contractors and never neglect to pay them on time for the services they have rendered.
  • With a tenancy agreement being legally binding, compensation must be paid if a fixed term agreement is ended by a landlord or a tenant before the end date under no valid grounds. This is otherwise known as “Breaking a Lease”. Here are the answers to a few questions you might have about break leases. What is involved in early termination of a tenancy agreement A typical example is when a tenant chooses to end a fixed term tenancy before the end date. This is pretty common and is often due to various reasons – a decision to move in with a partner, job transfer, purchase of a property or just a simple change of plan. Of course, as disappointing as it may seem, you really can’t make your tenants stay if they don’t want to. Nonetheless, it does not mean they can just get off the hook that easily. There are some financial obligations that they have to settle. Tenant’s Obligations There are 44 regulated standard terms in Queensland’s General Tenancy Agreement where standard term 7 indicates the tenant’s obligations prior to leaving the property before the end of a fixed term. 7 Costs apply to early ending of a fixed term agreement [1] This clause applies if —     [a] this agreement is a fixed term agreement; and     [b] the tenant terminates it before the term ends in a way not permitted under the Act [2] The tenant must pay the reasonable costs incurred by the lessor in reletting the premises. On the other hand, such obligation will not be applicable if the tenant ends the agreement in a way the Act permits. Should the rent still be paid by the early terminating tenant? The tenant is still responsible to continue paying rent until the day before a new tenant moves in. If the tenant refuses to pay for the landlord’s loss of rent, a compensation claim can be made through QCAT. There will be no final amount determined until a new tenancy has been secured. The compensation will consist of the amount of rent from when the ‘break lease’ tenant stopped paying through until the day a new tenancy starts. Who pays for re-advertising? Since the landlord would have to re-advertise the property in order to find a new tenant, it is the obligation of the ‘break lease’ tenant to cover the advertising costs. If the tenant refuses to compensate the landlord, the latter can make a claim through QCAT for compensation (Section 421 [1] (b) of the RTRA Act). The landlord must present evidence of the advertising costs incurred. Who pays the agent’s letting commission? Regardless if it’s an early termination or if the tenancy is really due to end, the landlord is expected to pay the agent their letting commission. However, if the reason for re-letting is because the tenant chose to vacate the property prior to the end of the agreement, it can reasonably be expected that the tenant will reimburse the letting commission charged by the agent. The agency appointment or the Property Occupations Form 6 states the amount in question. It depends on how much the landlord has agreed to pay the agent. The letting commission is basically 110% of one week’s rent, including GST. Other re-letting costs the tenant is expected to pay Re-cleaning and re-testing of the smoke alarm to prepare for the new tenancy. Here is an example of a QCAT decision to let the tenant reimburse the landlord for a smoke alarm clean/test.  
  • We have known Ann from Rental Trends for approximately four years. We originally engaged her services to manage one of our Brisbane based investment properties  We have always found Ann to be very reliable.   The property management division has always run very smoothly to the point where we have no concerns.   Ann has always good tenants to lease our property and we are always very confident in relying on her decisions. Ann is knowledgeable when we need to seek her advice as we live interstate and we are not up to date with Brisbane tenancy laws. We also engaged Ann to manage another one of our Brisbane based investment properties as the previous property manager was not very diligent in managing the property effectively, hence causing us to spend thousands of dollars in restoring the property back to its original condition. Ann now manages all our Brisbane based properties as we know we are in very good hands and we have no hesitation in referring Ann to manage your investment property.  Luisa Manera and Eddy Rostirolla
  • As an out-of-state property owner, it has been very important to have a great property manager  who we can trust and who looks after our property as if it were their own. We are very happy with the service provided by Ann and her team and have full trust in their continued management of our property.  We would recommend Ann and her team to anyone who requires property management and have done so in the past.   Jacqualin Baldwin
  • Ann and her team at Rental Trends have been nothing but a pleasure to work with over the last few years. I had endless troubles with previous agents and I find that Rental Trends really delivers a personal and professional approach in the management of my rental unit. There is no problem too large or situation that Ann and her team can't handle. Rental Trends' knowledge of the market is great and they always provide honest, concise and timely feedback with all arising matters. I would definitely recommend Rental Trends for owners that seek quality property management for their assets.  R. Antrobus
  • Being an absentee owner, I have entrusted management of my Brisbane property to Rental Trends for a number of years now. All dealings I have had with Ann and her team have met my expectations over this time, and I would highly recommend Rental Trends for their professional management in protecting all property interests. Dan Phillips