Here’re some tips I’ve learnt over the years sharing apartments. Some are only applicable if you live in the state of NSW in Australia.
- You’ll have a much better chance of getting quality housemates if you have basic furniture and appliances, like sofa in the living room, a dining table in the kitchen, fridge and microwave oven. If you don’t have them, invest in free or dirt cheap second hand ones off gumtree.
- Clean the place up and get used to keeping it clean.
- Sign up for a free throw-away email account and use it for correspondence with applicants.
- Insure your apartment and belongings for theft, fire and flood.
- At the time of this writing, gumtree is one of the best places to advertise on.
- Don’t get any more specific than the street name when specifying the address (and maybe a cross street).
- Take clear and high resolution day photos of the room, common areas including bathroom and kitchen. Make sure blinds are open and the areas are well lit.
- Clearly indicate what the rent will cover (e.g. electricity and Internet) and what costs will be shared (e.g. toilet papers, dishwashing liquid).
- Put down the number of housemates currently living in the residence.
- Indicate your gender/age preference if any, and preferably a reason for having one (e.g. room is shared with a female, all other housemates are male).
- Indicate minimum and/or maximum length of stay.
- Mention the 4 weeks bond and 2 weeks rent in advance, noting that this is the normal arrangement for rental properties in NSW (or the equivalent in your state).
- Put down what room furniture is available (e.g. bed) and what they should bring with them.
- Information such as what floor the apartment is on, whether it has internal laundry and the like never hurt and are always welcome by the applicants.
- Ask them to call you but don’t ignore email replies.
- If you know you’re going to get enormous number of replies because your apartment is so top notch, you can ask them to reply with a paragraph about themselves talking about something interesting.
- People do appreciate it when they’re not left wondering if they made it or not, so try replying to all the inquiries.
- Arrange a date/time for a face to face meetup. Do it on the phone preferably so you can get an initial sense of their mannerism, personality and English proficiency (none of these may matter to you in which case you need not be concerned — however if you actually care to talk to your future housemate over a meal, you want to make sure they’re compatible with you).
- Daytime’s the best time for interviews.
Face to face interview
This is a lot like a job interview and just like one, there are two components to it: their ability to do their job (in this case, their ability to pay the rent on time), and whether they fit the culture (in this case, whether their personality is compatible with yours). So you’ll be asking two sets of questions, tastefully interleaved, to assess both:
Can they pay the rent on time?
- What job and where, if student, what degree, the university and what year they’re in.
- Source(s) of income, savings.
- Their current living situation and reason for leaving.
- Intended length of stay and any factors that may affect it.
- When will they be moving in.
- Quickly confirm the details of the ad with them to make sure you’re both on the same page.
Are they a good fit?
- Will they have regular visitors (e.g. boyfriend) and will they stay overnight often (you should decide in advance if you’re going to be OK with that).
- Are they fond of big loud parties at home.
- How early/late do they come and go.
- Do they like to spend a lot of time in their room doing their own thing, or socialise and hang in (you should decide in advance, if you care enough to even ask this and if you do, what your preference is).
- What do they do besides work/school (e.g. hobbies).
- Why they chose your place and what they like(d) about it (so far).
General Interview Tips
- Make sure to let them know they should ask any questions they have at any time (never tell people to wait till the end — this is not military).
- For every question you ask, make sure you have an answer for when they throw it back at you.
- If you’re not good at remembering the list of things to ask, write it down. It’s perfectly fine to have a piece of paper to look at once in awhile. Equally fine for them to have one.
- Filter and sort the applications after assessing each and start with the most desirable one. Call them and let them know they’re in. If they’re not sure, give them a few days to decide. After that time, move on to the next application and repeat.
- Once you find your housemate, get them to sign a tenancy agreement as soon as possible and according to the next section.
- Inform your own landlord/real estate agent in writing, of your new living arrangement (under law, your landlord cannot object to you sharing your apartment if the number of residents is reasonable for your property — e.g. 3 people living in a two bedroom apartment is considered reasonable).
- Ask for 4 weeks rent as rental bond, made to Rental Bond Board as money order (or other forms of payment accepted by NSW Fair Trading). Both of you must show up to a Fair Trading office and submit the bond.
- Ask for 2 weeks rent in advance in addition to the bond (and give email/written receipt) for each payment.
- Visually inspect your housemate’s primary ID (e.g. Driver’s License).
- Fill and sign a standard Residential Tenancy Agreement Form, two forms both signed by both parties, each keeping one.
- Take photos of the keys to the apartment/mailbox and attach to each copy of the tenancy agreement (inform your landlord if you’re making your own copy of the key).
- Optionally, fill and sign a Condition Report, keeping two copies as above (and take photos of the unit throughout to go with the form).
- In the tenancy agreement form, clearly indicate what costs are covered by the agreed rent (e.g. includes usage of Internet, bills, etc.) and what costs are to be shared.
- You are free to change the tenancy agreement as much as you like as long as both parties agree with the terms.
During their stay
- During your housemate’s stay, make sure you give them receipts for each payment. This can be a simple email or on paper. Keep yourself a copy.
- Rental bond is there for a reason. If your housemate can’t make their payments, you have the right to use their bond as rent money.
After and beyond
- If your housemate decides to checkout early, make sure they give you enough notice as agreed in your contract.
- If they’ve damaged the property or are leaving the carpet in a mess, they’re obligated to either pay for repair/cleaning or forfeit their bond. Discuss and come to an agreement with them.
- If they were a good housemate, be ready to and prompt in writing them a letter of recommendation should they ask for it.