Host – Belinda Heit – Communication and Education – RTA
Guest – Ben Gerwald – Customer Experience – RTA
Host: Welcome to the Talking Tenancies podcast, brought to you by the Residential Tenancies Authority. I'm your host, Belinda Heit. Join me as we explore everything you need to know about renting in Queensland with experts from the RTA and industry. We're here to help make renting work for everyone.
As the end of the year rapidly approaches, it can be easy to get carried away during the festive season with celebrations and commitments. In this episode, we have some tips and reminders to help tenants plan for a happy, safe, secure and enjoyable holiday season. Today's expert from the RTA is Ben Gerwald. Welcome Ben.
Guest: Hey, how you going?
Host: Yeah, good. Now, can you tell us about your role at the RTA and what you're responsible for?
Guest: Absolutely. So my role here at the RTA, I'm a Conciliator. So, I take people through a teleconference process where I assist people in helping them to reach an agreement over either bond or tenancy matters.
Host: Excellent. And again, you're back by popular demand. We love having you on the podcast.
Guest: Thank you, I enjoy these as well.
Host: Now at the time of recording, it is almost Christmas. With Christmas and New Year celebration planning, what do we need to be mindful of as a tenant if we're wanting to host a party with family and friends?
Guest: Well the main issue that comes to mind is monitoring noise levels if you are going to have a gathering or a party. The noise levels can depend on many factors, and some of these examples are; how many people are there; whether you're playing music and at what volume; and how close your neighbours are. Keeping in mind, noise can travel. Not everybody gets holidays at the end of the year, so if you are celebrating ‘til late in the evening, or on your balcony, or on your deck, be considerate of others. It's really important to find that balance between your right to enjoy your celebrations in your home, and also your neighbour’s right to peace and privacy as well. You know it's never fun when the police are calling to resolve a noise issue.
Host: Especially at Christmas.
Guest: No, definitely. Well it puts a damper on your celebrations and nobody really wants that. You know, I've heard of some people giving their neighbours notice if they are going to have a big gathering, or allowed one, which opens up those lines of communication in advance if there were going to be any issues. You know it's not a bad idea, you never know what other people may have planned the next day so these sorts of conversations can keep the good neighbour relations going. It shows that you take them into consideration, which can go a long way.
The other issue may be accidental damage to the property by your guests during the party or the gathering. So, remember, you are responsible for your guests when they visit, so this means if they do cause damage, you will be the one responsible for fixing it.
Host: Yes, they’re good things to remember if you're going to have a party, especially at this time of year. And that is a really good point that you make there Ben, too, that you know making sure that you keep those communication lines open with your neighbours, because that's all part of being a good neighbour too. I know my neighbour always does it when she's having a gathering, so I love that. It’s good.
Guest: So does mine. Yep, absolutely 100 percent. You totally appreciate it.
Host: Now, festive season can also be a time where friends or relatives come to visit and stay for a while. Any tips on what we need to do if we're a tenant who has space for guests during the holidays?
Guest: Yeah, this is a really important one. All tenancy agreements outline the number of occupants for a property. So an overnight guest once in a while, maybe considered reasonable, however if your guests are staying for a longer term—like a few days or up to a week or more—then they could be viewed by the managing party as an unapproved occupant. So, check with the managing party on what they may consider to be reasonable and have the discussion early so that you can have that piece of mind before your guests arrive. You won't have to worry about breaching your agreement either as you've already checked in with the managing party in terms of expectations around guests.
Host: Yeah, that's actually a really good point because there's nothing more awkward when they come for an inspection and there's these extra people around.
Guest: Yes haha.
Host: Now many communities are getting into the festive spirit with decorations and lights to rival the Griswald family Christmas, but we must take care when it comes to setting up lights or hanging decorations, right?
Guest: Absolutely, and I love some good Christmas lights and decorations. You know, I think it really adds to the festive atmosphere and it just generally gets everybody that little bit more excited.
Guest: Absolutely so, it is important to be mindful of any marks, holes or damages to the property and its fixtures. Now this also includes the yard and lawns and things that are left over once the decorations, or the lights have been removed because you are responsible for repairing any damages you've caused. And if you plan on using a variety of lights and electrical decorations, they may have been in storage for a while, so make sure that you check that the electrical cords are intact and again even more so ensure no power points or power boards are overloaded as this could be a fire hazard. Move flammable materials away from the lights and power points as a precaution. And for outdoor decorations, use specific lights that are designed for outdoor use that can withstand those elements. Now we have a webinar with the Electrical Safety Office on the RTA website which will have a few more tips to help you reduce electrical safety risks around the property, so you may want to take some time to go through that as well.
Host: Yeah, it's one of those things that we sometimes forget to do is take care of electrical safety when we're so excited to celebrate. There's some really great resources that we've got online on our website so that you can check out.
Guest: Yeah definitely.
Host: Now whilst some of us may be on holidays, the repairs and maintenance on the property never end. What can we do in advance to avoid an emergency?
Guest: Well look, as always, make sure you report any maintenance issues to the managing party early to allow that extra time. I mean, this helps to ensure that your managing party can both plan ahead and avoid any last-minute rushes. So, the reason for this is trades people and businesses supplying parts may be closed or on their annual holiday and this could also cause delays. So, most people tend to want things to be repaired or fixed before celebrations begin—as they may be hosting the family or a gathering—so getting in early and trying to beat the rush is a good way to go.
I also encourage managing parties who are going away over the holidays to make sure that their tenants are prepared for repairs and that, well, repairs that may just be required over the holidays. You know tenants can check in with their managing party to see what their availability is over the holiday period, and managing parties should make sure that their tenants have the correct contact details on hand for their preferred repairer or tradespeople or know where they can actually find those details.
So, managing parties can also take time to clarify the emergency repairs procedures with their tenants in case this is required. Now tenants, again, should also make sure that they are prepared for extreme weather events and have a plan for what to do in case of emergencies.
Host: Yeah, great advice. Now it's generally a time of year when the weather heats up here in Queensland, which means we like to cool down in the pool—if we're lucky to have one. But caution is needed here too.
Guest: Yeah, absolutely. Water safety is a very real issue and what some people don't realise is that pool safety laws and fencing requirements apply to temporary pools as well. So we've got a podcast episode and a webinar on our website to help make sure your pool, no matter permanent or temporary, meets those required safety standards to prevent tragedies.
Host: Now Ben, you and I know there's nothing better than getting away for a holiday, and it's been a while since we've done that. And so, it's important as a tenant that you also plan ahead for your rental property. How can we do that?
Guest: Yeah well, look, if going away, possibly notifying the managing party of your absence. If you are going away, first of all it's important to fulfil your tenancy obligations. You know, make sure you manage your finances properly and plan ahead. Have the rent paid on time, especially if you are going away, because if you have automatic transfers set up, you may want to check what arrangements you have because some people only set up set that up until the end of the year, which may cause some delay in rent payments in the new year. You know, having to catch up rent payments is never fun, and it's additional stress you don't need over the holidays. I always like to know everything is set up so I can fully enjoy my time off.
So, some people go away as well and have house sitters or pet sitters in the premises. In these cases, again, letting your managing party know that someone else who is not the approved occupant on the tenancy agreement is going to be staying or living in there for a duration of time. You know you will be responsible, as well, for any damages that they cause or any breaches of the agreement that occurs.
Secondly, making sure your home is secure while you're away is super important. A home that looks unattended could be seen as a target. So make sure you have a checklist which could include things like: locking all doors and windows; turning off appliances when necessary; asking a family member or a friend to collect your mail and take care of your plants and yard, if you're away for an extended period of time; and passing on details for an emergency contact to the managing party, in case something does go wrong, can also be a really good idea.
Host: Yeah, all great advice. Thanks Ben, for helping us to get a greater understanding of how we can enjoy this festive season with peace of mind as a tenant in Queensland.
Guest: Thank you.
Host: Thank you for listening to the Talking Tenancies podcast. For more information about the Residential Tenancies Authority, visit rta.qld.gov.au.