“The more people there are in the household, the more there is to discuss,” Mitchell said.
“I don’t think these are natural conversations. When you make new friends, you generally don’t know right away when you’re going to get up… People might just skip them, but that can lead to conflict later.
“Young people moving out of home might think they’re looking for someone fun… and think I should exaggerate my personality.
“This is wrong, they are looking for someone with normal behavior and values and someone they can trust, someone with a sense of maturity.”
Do the paperwork
Once you’ve found a home, you’ll typically need to sign a lease. It’s usually better to do this – it gives you some legal protection if something goes wrong with your roommates or your landlord.
Adding you to the rental agreement – which in some states may incur a fee from the agency – also means that your share of the existing deposit will be transferred to your name with the state’s residential leasing authority. Once this is done, make sure you get a copy of the receipt.
If you didn’t sign the lease and paid a deposit to a previous tenant, make sure you get a copy of the transaction receipt just in case.
“Legally, your bond is meant to be posted,” Mitchell said. “There needs to be a written record of your rental that you can fall back on if something goes wrong.
“If you pay the deposit and rent in cash, you should receive a receipt for this.”
Some landlords may add their own terms and conditions, but Ben Cording, senior community education advocate at Tenants Victoria, said it was worth checking whether they were legally enforceable.
He has seen tenants forced to sign agreements to use third-party payment services or to continue paying rent after a lease ends until a new tenant is found.
“If the conditions are not consistent with the law, [a landlord] will not be able to enforce it,” he said.
Pay the bills
Bills such as electricity, internet or water are usually split equally. If at any point the proportions of bills – even rent – need to be adjusted, it might be time to call a house meeting. Some may only require payment of the portion of the bill for which they are responsible, for example if they have been abroad for a few months.
Apps like SplitWise and Beem offer a bill splitting feature that can make it easier to keep track of who owes what to whom.
You can get help dividing the rent with online calculators that allow you to enter all the information about the rooms and the apartment in order to achieve a somewhat objective division. SplitWise also has this functionality.
Live with others
A shared house means shared tasks. It’s common to create a roster to divide tasks, but it’s not uncommon for other arrangements to exist.
Another point to consider is sharing the refrigerator and pantry. Some homes like to provide one shelf per person, others share space, and others even share pantry staples or meals.
To avoid conflict, it is always best to have a conversation about how meals and household chores will be arranged. However, it is common for conflicts to arise in a sharehouse, Mitchell said.
“Reckless behavior is a topic that comes up often,” he said. “People leaving the kitchen untidy… being loud at inappropriate times, overloading the bathroom, bringing friends or strangers home unannounced… inappropriate behavior, perhaps not adequately dressed…”
Mitchell recommended discussing issues early to avoid bad feelings from spreading.
Landlords and property managers
It is likely that shared apartment tenants will have contact with the landlord or property management at some point.
Whether it’s fixing a leaky faucet or renewing a lease, there are times when contacting a landlord or property manager can be stressful.
Cording said it’s important to make sure everyone in the home is on the same page and to record conversations with the property manager and landlord.
“You have to make decisions as a household. Think about what you want to do,” he said. “The most important thing is to put it in writing and tell everyone what’s going on.”
Property managers typically oversee hundreds of rental properties and can therefore be slow to respond in some cases.
Some repairs may be considered urgent depending on the state in which you live. These typically include gas and water leaks, a broken oven or stove, and dangerous electrical malfunctions.
Full lists are available on state government websites (e.g. NSW Fair Trading and Consumer Affairs Victoria). If these repairs are not carried out within the prescribed time frame, you can organize the repairs yourself and invoice the landlord up to a certain amount.
If a landlord does not comply with the obligations listed in the rental agreement, tenants can retaliate against the landlord, which is often the first step in resolving problems. Legal document templates are available on government websites.