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There are a lot of different ways to live while you’re studying. A surprisingly large proportion of students choose to live with their parents for most or all of their academic incarceration. This is of course because many of us come from comfortable upper-middle class inner-city homes and rather naturally want to postpone the painful process of growing up.

The life experience that comes part in parcel with living this hedonistic brand of poverty that is leaving-the-nest-while-you’re-a-student will make you an entertaining, fascinating, proficient and generally better human being.

In saying this, we realise moving out of the nourishing womb that is your family’s house comes with its own unique set of challenges. Here are a few pointers from your Guild to make the process easier.

Living on campus

Curtin outsources the management of  eight housing facilities at Bentley Campus, and our sources tell us that at least four of them are almost completely liveable. Curtin campus accommodation aims to be convenient and affordable, and can be an excellent choice for new students to the University. Find out more about Curtin accommodation on their website (http://life.curtin.edu.au/housing-and-childcare/oncampus_accomodation.htm), or head to Curtin Housing Services in Building 102.

Renting things

If you’d rather not live on campus you could try to find a room on gumtree.com.au—or if you have a bunch of friends and want to try and find a house to rent, you could start looking on sites like realestate.com.au and domain.com.au.

Keep in mind, as a bunch of 18–21 year olds with little income and limited rental history, the chance of you being accepted into a house where you don’t personally know the owner is very slim. One way to get around this is to have your parents guarantee your lease, which means they have to pay up if you miss your rent or break things.

A detailed guide on tenancy and rights can be found here.

Leases

Leases may be fixed-term or periodic. A fixed-term lease is for a certain period (usually six months to two years), whereas a periodic lease is recurring in which the landlord must give 60 days’ notice and the tenant must give 21 days’ notice of termination. Most landlords will want a fixed term lease because there are costs in finding tenants.

Tenancy Agreements

So, you’ve found a house, what now? Do you all sign the lease? Does one of you, and the rest enter a verbal agreement? Neither of these are the best option—remember you need to keep your landlord informed about how many people are living in the house and who they are, or they will get pissed. There are three types of lease arrangements between housemates that make sense:

—OPTION 1—

Everybody co-signs the lease, everybody pays a split of the bond, and everybody chips in X amount each period for the rent.

This is a good option because your application becomes more acceptable as there are more incomes on the agreement; however, in the event you all don’t live together well, and people refuse to leave, things can get messy—once someone is on a lease, it is very difficult to kick them out. Also, if your mate skips town, you can’t just get out of the lease—you all co-signed it. You also can’t get their bond back, because the bond can only be released with their signature.

If you choose this option you should put an agreement in writing between housemates about how the rent is split, who pays it, and how disputes are resolved.

A good resource for learning about renters’ rights (Tenancy Act) can be found here.

—OPTION 2—

One signs the lease as the head tenant, and the rest sign a lease with them as subtenants.

Each subtenant signs a tenancy agreement with the head tenant for exclusive tenancy over their room, and shared tenancy over common rooms and amenities—this is known as subletting.

The benefit of subletting is that in the event of a dispute between housemates, the head tenant decides how it is resolved, and the roles of each housemate are clearer. The head tenant is responsible for communication with the landlord and paying the rent, and the subtenants must pay their rent to the head tenant. You will need to keep your landlord up to date with who your subtenants are.

It may be more difficult to get accepted into a house if only one person is applying, however that person’s parents could apply. In this agreement, the sub-tenants will still retain tenancy rights, only their landlord will be the head tenant, not the actual property owner. If utilities are split, this should be specified in the agreement between the head tenant and subtenant.

Please note: some leases specifically forbid this practice.

—OPTION 3—

The tenant/head tenant signs the lease, and everyone else is a lodger.

This has similarities to a subtenant agreement, except lodgers do not have exclusive access to their house/room, and they lack the protection given in the Tenancy Act, including things like notice of entry.

Sometimes an agreement with a lodger may include a flat rate inclusive of utilities. The benefit of this is that the lodger is not obliged to give notice of leaving, and the tenant can kick them out without notice too. A lodger generally does not sign a fixed term agreement while a subtenant would. This type of agreement is good if the non-tenants want flexibility, or they are strangers.

Pro Tip: Moving into a rental property isn’t cheap, so be prepared for ongoing costs.

Bonds

If your landlord asks for a bond, they can’t just keep it under a mattress or in their savings account, they must lodge the bond in a trust account or with the state Bond Administrator, and they must provide you with a receipt. If there is no damage at the end of a lease, you get the bond back.

If you are subletting your rooms and want to collect a bond you must also do this, otherwise you are breaking the law—it may be easier in this case not to charge a bond.

When moving into a rental property, be sure to meticulously fill out the property condition report, and take photos of all parts of the property. The condition report is your evidence of how the property looked/functioned at the beginning of the lease. This means that should you receive a damage bill you have the evidence to substantiate your claims that the garden chair was on the roof when you moved in. When it comes time to move out, the landlord cannot deduct “general wear and tear” from your bond (e.g. faded curtains, worn carpet etc.).

Advance Rent

You must not be asked for more than two weeks’ rent in advance.

Your landlord cannot ask you for rent until the period covered by the previous payment—which cannot be more than two weeks—is finished. Any deviation from this breaches the Tenancy Act.

Utilities

Remember when parents used to arbitrarily punish you for leaving the lights on, or flushing the toilet too much, or having long showers? Well, you’re about to know exactly what they were on about.

Many utility providers will charge your bill on a quarterly basis, so it’s easy to get complacent about how much water, power, or gas you’re using between bills. This also means you need to ration your funds to ensure you have the coin to pay these bills when they inevitably turn up at the worst time possible.

There are many ways of keeping your utility costs under control. Try these handy hints for a greener, cheaper way of life:

  • Instead of using air conditioning, gather your house-mates in a close circle, and gently blow on each other.
  • On Wednesdays, instead of drinking water from your own tap, go to the Guild Tavern and make use of the free water available at the bar.
  • Don’t wash. Not yourself, not dishes, not anything.