Ask LH: What Do I Need To Know When I First Move Out Of Home?

Ask LH: What Do I Need To Know When I First Move Out Of Home?

Dear Lifehacker, I’m planning to move out of home for the first time with some mates into a rental property. Do you have any tips for someone living out of home for the first time? And can I customise my house without breaking the lease? Thanks, Rental Virgin

Dear RV,

By choosing to move out with friends, you’ve successfully eliminated one of the unknowable pitfalls of shared accommodation: namely, horrible housemates. Presumably you get on well with your buddies, are already aware of their annoying habits and believe they can all be trusted — none of these factors are guaranteed when moving out with strangers. So that’s one big hurdle that you’ve already managed to cross. (Again, we’re assuming that you know your friends well, which is obviously essential.)

Moving into a new apartment still involves a bit of a gamble though. There are some things a property inspection wont reveal — such as overly bossy landlords or neighbours who are frequently noisy.

Thankfully, there are review sites and apps available that may be able to give you a bit of a heads-up before you sign the lease. For example, Dontwakeme is an anonymous crowdsourcing website that collects noise complaint data from the general public. Simply type in the area code for the property you’re interest in and the site will give you a noise rating, complete with individual reviews.

Once you and your friends have decided on a property, it will be time to sign the lease: this is a legally binding contract, so it’s important to get everything clearly spelled out. If you’re dealing directly with a landlord (rather than through a real estate agent) make sure you’ve had extensive talks with them and come prepared with plenty of questions: the more you know about their expectations in a tenant, the less likely that strife will occur in the future.

It also pays to document the accommodation from top to bottom by writing notes and taking photos. This will stop the landlord from blaming you for existing damage when it’s time to move out.

Another possible bone of contention is how exactly the various bills should be split between you and your mates. For example, if one person has a spacious bedroom complete with an en suite bathroom and someone else is crammed in a cupboard-sized box, they should not be paying equal shares of the rent. Likewise, some people hog lots of electricity each week while others stick to basic usage. This is where the Splitwise website attempts to help: it allows renters to divvy up rent, power and other bills so that everything is fair.

Other things to be mindful of are long term leases (it’s best to avoid these to begin with just in case everything doesn’t work out), mobile reception (how reliable is it the the area?) and working out an internet and phone line connection (avoid sharing if possible!)

It’s also a good idea to work out everyone’s cooking/cleaning responsibilities as soon as possible: otherwise some people will end up doing more than their fair share of the work and resentment is bound to fester.

As to the second part of your question, you usually need to get permission from the landlord before you make any alterations to a property, whether major or minor. Unless permitted under the tenancy agreement, the renter agrees not to add or remove any fixtures or do any renovations, alterations or additions to the premises without the landlord’s written consent.

You can read an overview of the relevant regulations in each state below:

That said, if there are any major problems with the household, such as broken doors or leaky taps, the landlord will be required to repair them. An email or phone call to your real estate agent will usually get the issue seen to, although sometimes you’ll need to bug a few times (especially if the faulty issue isn’t life-threatening yet costs a lot to fix).

If you were thinking more about apartment aesthetics, there are various DIY tricks you can employ that will spruce the place up without creating any permanent alterations to the property. You can read a bunch of suggestions in our rental property customisation guide which covers everything from standing shelves to vinyl wall stickers.

If any shared accommodation renters are reading this, feel free to share your own advice and/or tips in the comments section below.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • I’m going to disagree with the advice that moving in with your friends is a great idea. What makes someone a great friend may make them a hellish roommate depending on how you want to live. The life of the party may be bringing that party home with him/her every night. You can find yourself caught up in relationship dramas that you were able to avoid before. Some people need lots of company all the time and others need a bit of alone time to refresh and regroup. What’s important is that people are clear on what they want in a share – party house, quiet refuge, etc. I’ve made a lot of close friends in house shares, however, some friends I would never share with – we are just too different in the way we want to live our lives.

    There are some references you should read:

    John Birmingham’s classic “He died with a Felafel in his hand”

    and for your rights as a tenant – you can’t go by Jimmy Thomson’s Flat Chat. Great resource for renters.

    • Oh, definitely. Which is why I inferred the advice only applies if you’re aware of your friends’ annoying habits and believe they’re endurable.

  • Immature version: I would go so far as to say that you won’t know even 50% about what a person is really like until you live with them. If it’s all guys and you’re all pretty young, I would suggest making a pact:
    Everyone cleans or GTFO
    Everyone buys TP or GTFO
    Everyone has to shut up by majority vote or GTFO

    Mature version: Between any 2 people there will be different standards in cleanliness, organisation and courtesy and it these differences that will be argued about. Make prior agreements as to minimum standards. Keep communication open, level-headed and frequent enough to avoid conflict.

    Good luck and never pass out on the couch [ever].

  • PROTIP: Compromise, Don’t Sacrifice.

    One of the biggest things I find is people expect everything to go their way / be done a certain way. Have a little respect and leniency towards your housemates, and you can expect the same in return.

    Don’t get worked up over minor issues, as it will leave you with at least some form of resent towards your friends. Depending on what it is, either let the issue slide, or discuss the problem with them in a fair / open manner (e.g. NO DICTATING or yelling at them to do something, Compromise on a solution that works for both of you).

    These are some pretty small things that can irritate you really quickly, especially if you have had a bad day or something. Unfortunately, they are going to happen regardless of who you live with, try to not get angry about it as at some point you will likely do the exact same thing:
    * Getting woken up by housemates coming home late at night / early morning.
    * housemates and or their guests being loud at unreasonable hour.
    * A housemate having guests over when you want to just have a chill night at home without a lot of people around.
    * Different eating / cleanliness habits. (I suggest establishing a rotating cleaning chore list early on, so bad habits don’t set in and become harder to change).

  • Moving with friends is always fun, but rememebr to set some ground rules when you move in since you all my have different expectations for house keeping and the like. Good luck!

  • Dontwakeme is an anonymous crowdsourcing website that collects noise complaint data from the general public. Not anymore.

  • Holy crap…this timing…could not be more perfect. I am moving out for the first time in a week – I HAVE THESE EXACT SAME QUESTIONS.

  • Some things that I remember from moving out of home for the first time:
    * The first couple of months are almost always going to be tight financially for you, or at least one of your flatmates. Budget, and be prepared.
    * Make a “Glory Boxy” in the weeks/months leading up to moving out. Fill it with household items such as dinnerware, cutlery, glasses and other basic kitchenware, cleaning products, etc. It’s best to buy these before you move out to minimise impact on your finances in the first few months.
    * Your first grocery shopping is going to be horrific – I can recall moving into a place with four other guys and our first grocery bill was over $1,200 and had three trolleys full of stuff. This is a bit of an extreme case, but the point is valid.
    * Be extremely wary of appliance rental terms and rent-to-own deals – the true cost of these “deals” can be way, way more than the actual value of the appliances themselves.

    • never rent appliances. best to get a second hand one if you cant afford a new one.

      Fridges/washing machines/dryers are expensive when new but they do not hold their value.

      also Op-shops are your friends… as is gumtree, ebay and any older friends/family looking upgrade there stuff… knowing you can get rid of your old couch/fridge/table without a hard rubbish or having to drag it outside an opshop is very helpfull.

  • friends can help you move your stuff upstairs but they might have moved out when you want to move your stuff again.

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