06 Jun 2018

New to renting? Here's how to avoid housing horror stories

It's easy to be won over by price or location but signing a lease based on emotion, or without looking at the fine print, could see you locked into a contract on a property that doesn't tick all the boxes.

As a tenant, there is a lot you are expected to know and plenty of traps for those new to the game.

Seasoned tenants learn from their mistakes — here are a few tips to avoid making when you are starting out.

House hunting? Here's what to look for on inspection

Real Estate Institute of Australia's President Malcolm Gunning said prospective tenants needed to be on their A-game from the get-go.

"You lease it as it is. You've got to go in knowing very clearly what you're leasing," Mr Gunning said.

He suggested doing a self-audit.

Ask yourself (and your housemates) what you need out of a property, before going in.

Does the property work for pets, will it stay warm/cool, are there enough power points and if there are gardens, what kind of maintenance are you looking at?

Keep your eye out for these key areas:

Electrical

How old is the meter board and is it up to the job?

Mould and water damage

When it comes to mould, Mr Gunning said to steer clear of the property all together. You want a rental with ventilation in places like bathrooms and the kitchen.

Security

Do all doors and windows lock? Do all the keys work? Could someone break in easily?

Parking

Is there somewhere to park your car and will it fit? Older houses are made for older (and smaller) cars.

Pet friendly

Just because a property allows pets, does not always mean it will work for your pet.

You've been approved — now what?

You have been approved and it is time to move in — but do not sign your lease just yet.

Mr Gunning suggests taking the time to thoroughly crosscheck the inspection report.

It will include a list of areas where there is damage or issues and if you find something that is not recorded you could cop the blame (and a fee) when you leave.

Now is the time to take heaps of notes and photos.

New home not so clean?

If you move into a property and feel it is not clean, the time to note that is on the inspection report (and again, take some photos).

"If you accept something which is not necessarily up to your standards and you have no documentation, you're going to be hard to argue the contrary," Mr Gunning said.

Renter, Therese Sheen said she had been left re-cleaning a new rental upon moving in.

"As I did my condition report on one occasion, I noticed that the oven was dirty, the cupboards had sauce bottle rings in them, the carpets had not been cleaned," she said.

"When I complained I was told it had been found satisfactory by the agent's inspection."

Mr Gunning said you can refute this and have it corrected by the real estate.

What are your rights as a tenant?

In short, you have the right to expect to live in a clean, safe property that will be maintained in the condition you leased it.

"Don't assume the conditions of a new rental are the same as those of previous rentals," Mr Gunning said.

His advice: Read your tenancy agreement and clarify terms you do not understand with the owner or agent.

An agent or owner must also give you sufficient notice before they enter the property for inspections or repairs.

They cannot simply turn up and come in.

What should the landlord maintain?

The landlord should maintain the property based on the condition it was in at the time you leased it.

"This includes the general maintenance of the house," Mr Gunning said.

"Primarily it's the fixtures and fittings. That is, things such as hot water, stoves, sewage, toilets.

However, Mr Gunning said it may not always include garden maintenance or pest control — unless it is a provision on the lease.

Holding up your end of the deal

First and foremost, you don't have any flexibility as far as rent is concerned.

And you can be on notice if you fall behind.

Mr Gunning said a landlord had the right to expect you care and maintain the property and pay your rent in full and on time.

Who pays for 'fair wear and tear'?

Mr Gunning said it came down to what was considered reasonable.

"If you've been in a place for four or five years and the carpet starts to track and wear out that's not your problem it's more the landlord's problem," Mr Gunning said.

"But if you start to stain carpets, by spilling red wine or not cleaning your feet when you come in, then it becomes a tenant problem."

Renting though an agent or privately

When you are new to renting, an agent can help keep both parties accountable, Mr Gunning said.

"Your agent is your advocate," he said.

Renter, Carly Razum said as well as inspecting the house, you should inspect the agency too.

"Check online for reviews of the real estate and what they're like to deal with," she said.

Private rentals can seem a bit more informal but you still need to get everything in writing and know the ins and outs of your lease agreement.

Where else can you go for help?

Tenancy tribunals do not simply hold your bond — they can also help resolve and investigate disputes between you and your landlord.

Each state and territory in Australia has its own tenancy tribunal or body, like the Residential Tribunal Authority (RTA) in Queensland.

SOURCE ; http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-14/renting-how-to-avoid-housing-horror-stories/9044470

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