If you’ve never had to deal with a shared accommodation situation, well you obviously don’t live in Sydney and I envy you. For the rest of us, it’s just another part of life. For the most part, it’s amazing. Of the 6 share houses around the world that I’ve lived in, I’ve met some amazing people who continue to be some of my closest friends. Until now.
This is the first week I’ve been able to sleep properly. Why? It’s been interrupted by the stress and worry of a single flatmate who at first seemed great, but several months later has unleashed an aggressive and unhinged tirade at my other perplexed housemate and I. We’re talking messing with our toothbrushes while we weren’t home levels of unhinged.
Perhaps because I’ve only had amazing experiences before, I foolishly believed all people to at least be reasonable and therefore never thought too hard before moving into a new share home. Which is how I got stuck with someone whose behaviour ticking way too many sociopathic boxes. I can’t even tell a fraction of how horrific he made the finals weeks of living together, for one thing there’s not enough space, for another, it’s so batshit you wouldn’t even believe me.
But why do I tell you this? Because you should all learn from my mistake. The share house world is a fast-paced beast and you often feel pressured to accept or be out on your arse. If a house isn’t willing to go through the extra steps with you…AVOID. Sleep on a couch or stay in a backpackers if you must. You’ll thank me later.
Before You Move In
Meet everyone. Or if you’re the one inviting a new tenant in, make sure they meet the rest of your housemates before you accept them. That way you get a better idea of their vibe and can make sure everyone’s on the same page. Obviously, you need to see/show the place at this stage as well.
Know everyone’s expectations. Discuss the details as a group. It’s so hard to think of all the right things to ask or share with a potential tenant at the time, so I suggest using this checklist. It has everything I wish we had gone through as both potential and existing tenant.
I’ve learned to assume NOTHING is obvious. For example, I assumed it was obvious that you knew just not to go into your housemate’s private room, right? Nup. Douchbag housemate has very casually told me he’s gone into our other housemates’ room to ‘check it out’. When I reacted in a horrified manner he casually shrugged his shoulders and said ‘why not?’. You can bet your butt he’s done the same to my room. The checklist above even goes through where housemates can and can’t go. See my point?
Get it in writing. This, THIS, is the number one thing I wish I had done for myself and for the douchebag housemate who came 3 weeks after me. Get that checklist and turn it into a written and signed agreement, for the love of God. If you’re only renting one room and sharing the rest of the house, you can either use a Common Law Agreement or a Tenancy Agreement.
The latter is more official and likely to speed up the court process if anything goes wrong. You can download an official Tenancy Agreement for your state from government websites, or head here for links if you’re lazy.
However, a Common Law Agreement is going to be the more likely option for sharehouses when you’re dealing with other tenants and not the landlord. Flatmates.com.au has a good template to follow right here to make sure you cover yourself.
Get your own condition report. There’s going to be one of these kicking around between the tenants on the lease and the landlord/real estate. A huge part of what made my douchebag housemate go crazy was that he hadn’t seen the condition report and he didn’t want to lose part of his bond. Of course, when we realised that we showed it to him right away to ease his mind and it made zero difference but still, it’s now something I consider essential. Show it to your new housemate before they move in and have it in writing that they agree to it, or insist on seeing it if you’re the one moving in to see if you’re going to be liable for any extensive damage.
If there somehow isn’t or the tenants won’t show you…well run tbh. Failing that, here’s an official Australian Government condition report you can download and inspect yourself, be sure that your other tenants, and if possible your landlord, sign it.
If Everything Goes To Shit
Talk it out. Again, most people are not insane and disagreements or misunderstandings are easily solved when they’re addressed head-on. That’s even if you’re reading this and going ‘oh crap I didn’t do any of those agreement things’. Any disagreements I’ve had before this current situation were over before they started.
Know your rights. We have extensive evidence of what douchebag housemate agreed to via text and email and believe me, I’m glad of it because I’ve had to refer to it several times to refute his lies and accusations. But because there was no official agreement everyone signed, but rather an assumption that everyone would be decent enough to stick to their written word, douchebag housemate both refused to stay without replacing himself and refused to leave about 5 times each in the space of a week and it felt like there was nothing we could do but beg him to be rational and at least just pick one position and stick to it.
Exactly what you’re entitled to can depend on your state, so check in here to get the right information for you. For example, the tenant has a right to enjoy their rented premises without excessive noise and in turn, must not create excessive noise themselves. Another one, that we had to explain time and again to douchebag housemate who kept trying to rent his room to couples, tenants aren’t allowed to exceed the max number of people living on the premises as agreed to in the lease, whether you’re actually on the lease or not.
If you or a housemate is trying to end the lease (or get a douchebag housemate out) then you’ll need this little factsheet here. Again the exact rules depend on your state but do keep in mind that just about all situations require at least 2 weeks notice before anyone can stop paying rent.
Seek Legal Advice. This doesn’t mean go find a lawyer necessarily, from personal experience I would recommend checking the Tenants Union for your state. I called The Tenants Union Of NSW. They get all the details of the situation from you over the phone and record it for a lawyer to call you back in 1 to 2 weeks to give you advice for free.