Dear Lifehacker, I did a careful inspection of my new apartment, signed the lease, and moved in . . . but once I was there, problems cropped up left and right. How can I hold my landlord accountable for stuff that looked OK during the inspection, but fell apart after normal use? Thanks, Frustrated Tenant
Dear Frustrated Tenant,
That’s a bummer! There are a lot of things you can identify in routine inspections of an apartment or home before you move in, but you’re right — some things won’t become obvious until you have been regularly living in a space. As well, good rental properties are in relatively short supply in Australia, so you can often feel pressured into making a decision too quickly.
Property owners (or the real estate agents they employ to manage their properties) can often be incredibly picky about small details when you move out of a place. When you move into a place, you should document the state of absolutely everything. You’ll usually be asked to sign and agree to a condition report. Use a digital camera (or your phone) and take photos. Note down any cracks, broken items, rust marks, stains on carpets or ceilings, flaking paint . . . cover absolutely everything. If those problems affect how something actually works rather than how it looks — say a window won’t open — single it out when you return the report and ask for it to be fixed.
If you’re renting a place which is furnished, note the conditions of the furnishings as well. Check that the oven actually operates and that any heating or cooling systems work.
The basic rule? As soon as you identify an issue, report it. Don’t worry about being considered a “fussy” tenant; you need to protect yourself and ensure you get your bond back. (The costs of any needed repairs will also be a tax deduction for the owner.)
It sounds as if you have just moved in, so don’t assume your landlord will be opposed to fixing the issues. Sometimes all you need to do is ask nicely and your landlord will work with you — after all, it’s in their best interest to keep you in the place, happy, and paying rent, not to mention maintaining their property value.
Know Your Rights
In the event of a dispute that can’t be solved, you need to be clear on your rights. These vary from state to state. We’ve collected together links to the relevant departments in each state, as well as the tenants’ unions organisations:
- NSW: NSW Fair Trading, Tenants NSW
- Victoria: Consumer Affairs Victoria, Tenants Union Of Victoria
- Queensland: Residential Tenancies Authority, Tenants’ Union Of Queensland
- WA: Department Of Commerce, Tenants Advice Service
- SA: SA.gov.au, Tenants Information And Adovacy Service
- Tasmania: Consumer Affairs And Fair Trading, Tenants’ Union Of Tasmania
- NT: Consumer Affairs, Tenants’ Advice Service
- ACT: ACT Government, Tenants’ Union Of ACT
Some property owners suck, and sometimes you’ll need to resort to bringing in an external arbiter (and start looking for a new place). But if you document everything carefully and ask nicely, most issues can be resolved. Good luck!