What's The Best Way To Get Along With Your Landlord?

At some point in your life, it's likely you're going to be renting somewhere to live. What's the best strategy for a peaceful existence with your landlord?

Image: Turkeychic

I've recently moved into rental accommodation for the first time this century -- a woeful tale involving my family home, a storm and a gum tree has seen me move out temporarily -- which means I have a landlord for the first time in a very long time indeed.

In the case of the place that I'm temporarily living in, it's a subdivided block, with the landlord living in a "granny flat" style building out the back. For the short term, that works OK with me, but it did get me thinking about the upsides and downsides of that kind of arrangement versus the slightly more traditional landlord-at-arms-length deal.

On the one hand, if there are repairs that need to be made, he's rather easy to find. Equally, if I did want to make some kind of small alteration to the property, it's easy enough to lean over the subdividing fence and simply ask.

On the other hand, he's always there and that has some effects on how I live in the property itself. The other day he commented to me, quite innocently (I think) that I had "a nice quiet family who goes to bed early". I think it's just a cultural thing and he was simply commenting that he's happy having us as tenants, but at the same time it reminded me that I'm (in essence) living in his front yard. I'm just that bit more wary about noise levels as a result, and equally any of the kinds of things that tenants do that they try to sneak past their landlords, because there's little doubt that they'd know rather quickly.

Then again, the last time I was renting included a stint in a property where the real estate agency managing the unit couldn't stop interfering, complaining and trying to book open days (the apartment was for sale while we were renting it) without notice, which I took rather badly. There's upsides and downsides to every renting situation.

What are your strategies for peaceful coexistence with your landlord/landlady? Got any horror stories to share? Let me know in the comments below!


Comments

    Try to interact with them as little as possible.

    fin.

    Make sure the whole "lean over the fence" thing doesn't end up getting you in trouble. Always better to have certain things in writing.

    I've become somewhat of an expert in this area. I've been living in Australia for the last 8 1/2 years, and I've rented about 11 different places (started off as a uni student: constantly shifting and moving). I've had my fair share of horror stories and I've learned a solid lesson from every one of them:

    - One agent accused us of putting cigarette burn holes on a carpet, neither I or my housemate at the time smoked or had any smokers over. Lesson learned: take pictures of any problem areas in the house as soon as you move in (with time and date stamp on the picture if possible)

    - One of the tenants in our joint tenancy at one property left the country and essentially vanished without a trace. When it came time to move out of the property our bond couldn't be released unless that tenant also signed the bond release form. The RE agent (from a very reputed, national RE agency) promised us to help us file a petition with the RTBA and help get our money back if we paid for some damages (which the other two tenants had caused) out of our pockets, and then we get our full bond back without deductions. The agent claimed getting a partial bond refund would look bad in our rental records and would work against us when we tried to rent in the future. Being naive 18-19 year olds, we agreed. The agent quit 2 months after we paid, and no one at the agency would even entertain our calls or get back to us. That was 8 years ago. Lesson learned: Don't trust RE agents. Ever.

    - We threatened to take action with TUV when one of the RE agents we had kept turning up unannounced to check up on the place. He fired back at us and threatened to call the cops on us for 'hoon' behaviour based on some burnout marks in the road right outside our house (not done by us). Lesson learned: RE agents can be real A$$holes.

    - We were offered to have our gardening/lawn mowing done by the landlord included in the price of our rent. Landlord used to mow lawns on a tuesday afternoon when all of us were at uni/lectures. One day I decided to stay back and sleep. Woke up to find the landlord going through the cupboards kitchen/living area. Lesson learned: If landlord comes over to do some work, restrict their access as much as possible.

    On the flip side:
    - The last apartment I rented came with a washing machine in the laundry left behind by the landlord. I was told I was free to use the washing machine. Few months into my tenancy, I realised the washing machine was leaking water inside the walls and under the floorboards, resulting in thousands of dollars worth of water damage in a couple of rooms. Landlord was understandably pissed and wanted me to fix the problem and pay out of my own pocket. I explained to the RE agent (a new agent looking after the property) that the washing machine belonged to the landlord and I wasn't liable because I was told I could use the machine which belonged to the landlord. In short, RE agent sticks up for me, and gets landlord to pay for damage. At the end of the tenancy, I get a thank you e-mail from the agent for keeping the house in such a tidy condition and for doing a thorough clean. Lesson learned: Not all RE agents are A$$holes/Stick up for yourself and speak out if you feel you're being treated unfairly.

    After 8 years of dealing with shitty tenancies and RE agents, I decided enough was enough and bought a place of my own.

    @timetotom is right, the least amount of interaction probably works out best.

      I have a friend who was renting a place that wound up suffering some really bad storm damage... Long of the short of it was that RE Agent got the landlord to pay for the repairs, which never happened, pocketed the money, and left my friend unable to get their bond back because of the damage which had nothing to do with them...

        Sad case of affairs really. At the end of the day, RE Agents are after commission and nothing else. It's in their best interest to keep landlords happy so they keep receiving a 7% cut from the rent every month. I know I might be generalising, but having gone through at least 7 different RE Agents over 11 properties has taught me that most agents are absolute scum who treat tenants like shit and a liability.

        Ironically enough, I had one of my old agents who used to talk to my housemates and I like shit trying to sell me a property (which had been on the market for a while). When he learned that I was in the market to buy, the change in his tone and behaviour was hilarious. Promptly told him to f*ck off (a result of the property asking price being way over market value and sweet sweet revenge :P).

        Did your friend escalate the issue with authorities? I find most tenants unwilling to take it further fearing backlash or expenses incurred.

          Yeah, you can be the best tenant in the world, but they don't really give two shits... Not sure what happened after that - I think they managed to sort it out, but it wasn't a nice and simple process at all!

    Put a deposit on a place. 1 week before I was due to move in the current tenant decided to stay. Apparently there is nothing I can do about that because no lease was signed and it was held for the full 7 days from the time the deposit was taken. I asked Fair Trading and there was nothing we could do about this one.

    Bu then the RE decided it was too hard to give us a refund for the deposit. Every time we chased he gave us the run around. eventually I had to send him a letter threatening legal action before he transferred the funds.

    1 - Be aware even if you place a deposit it won't guarantee you the property.
    2 - Be prepared to push to get any deposit back if the rental falls through.

      I'm guessing the previous tenant was paying more than you. I know there was a significant price adjustment in the market here over the last few years, while advertised prices haven't changed so much, people were offering $100-$150 a week above advertised price to secure properties due to undersupply. Now with the huge number of new apartments on the market the competition is much lower, and prices more reasonable, with the ability to negotiate a lower rent!

    Get any agreements you make in writing and make sure you get receipts for any money you hand over. Do this for even simple things. Know your rights and ensure that everything is done by the book. A good landlord will respect you for enforcing this as it protects both parties. Be suss on anyone who wants to cut corners in any way. It always comes back to bite you later in ways that you don't expect. I've been on both sides of the landlord / tenant equation and been burned on both too.
    Try to be on friendly terms with your landlord, never pay the rent late, keep the yard tidy.

    Absolutely agree with the above comments - make sure everything is in writing.

    That way you have a paper-trail and can substantiate your side of events if there are any fall-outs or snafus later on. While it's fine being on friendly terms with the landlord, they are not your friend. This is a business relationship and it needs to be handled as such.

    That said, email counts (legally) as in writing. So there's no need to have everything on hard copy. And the advantage of email is it's easier to save and track correspondence. This is especially important if you later need to enforce your rights under tenancy Acts.

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