Host - Belinda Heit – Communication and Education – RTA
Guest – Lynn Smith – Communication and Education - 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.
The Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008, otherwise known as the Act, contains the rules covering rooming accommodation such as boarding houses, hostels and off-campus student accommodation in Queensland. Today's expert from the RTA is Lynn Smith. Welcome, Lynn.
Guest: Thanks Belinda.
Host: Now, can you tell us about your role at the RTA and what you're responsible for?
Guest: Sure, so my role is a Senior Community Education Officer with the RTA and I'm involved with raising awareness of the RTA services and educating tenants, landlords and agents of their rights and obligations under Queensland’s tenancy laws. As part of the Education team we do this through various channels such as webinars, presentations and events and also working with our stakeholders.
Host: Brilliant, and I love working with you, Lynn! Today we're talking about rooming accommodation. So, what is classed as rooming accommodation under the Act?
Guest: Belinda, there's a few different types of rooming accommodation defined under Queensland’s tenancy laws, the most common types are the off campus or purpose-built student accommodation.
You also have boarding houses and supported accommodation. So, with your supported accommodation, that's usually a combination where there's a higher level of care and support for people with particular needs, and that also may include that they might have food or personal care services involved. On occasion, you might see employees provided room-only accommodation and that's very common on mining sites and long-term residences in hotels can also be covered.
Finally, another type of rooming accommodation is where there's four or more rooms in a property that's rented out as rooming only accommodation and the landlord or the property owner also lives there on the property. But if I can also just clarify too, if we look at what's not covered under the Act, so that's the on-campus rooming accommodation, like university or school colleges, they're exempt from the Act, however if a bond is paid, it must be lodged with the RTA. And you also have aged care, retirement villages and private hospital accommodation and backpackers which are not governed with our legislation and have their own.
Host: So how do the rules differ from a general tenancy? So, for example, you have house rules in addition to the actual agreement and the use of common areas and things like that. You know special terms, how do they differ?
Guest: Belinda, most people are really familiar with general tenancies, and they cover the majority of tenancies like your houses, your townhouses and granny flats and even we have houseboats. However, with rooming accommodation, this is where a tenant rents a room only, in a larger property. So, the rooming accommodation tenant is known as a resident, and they have shared facilities such as kitchens and bathrooms. Residents in rooming are responsible for their own room and again, it differs from a general tenancy agreement where you might have co-tenants where all the tenants are jointly responsible for the property, and they need to maintain the entire property. A significant difference is that rooming accommodation also has house rules, and these are rules: that's about the use, the enjoyment and the management of the rooming accommodation property.
So, Belinda, I just want to spend a bit of time to clarify a little bit more around the house rules as they are a legal requirement, and they are going to form part of the rooming agreement that residents do sign. So just to clarify, the difference between house rules in rooming compared to general tenancies - when you share with a flatmate in a house or unit, you could have those informal house rules which are more likely to cover those weekly household tasks like cleaning or who takes the rubbish out. The rooming house rules as I said earlier are a little bit more like a legal requirement.
So, there are two types of house rules in rooming accommodation. We have what we call prescribed rules, and we also have rules that a provider or manager can make about the premises. So prescribed rules are listed in the Act and apply to all rooming accommodation across Queensland. These rules govern the resident and the guest behavior, they make sure that residents are not interfering with the reasonable peace and privacy of other residents. You can also have topics around maintenance of the room, so meaning that the residents must ensure that they don't create a health or fire hazard or recklessly damage the room. There will also be rules around the common areas and that link through things like a TV room or living area, your bathroom, kitchen and outside area and as a resident, you'll need to make sure that you or any of the guests leave those common areas in a clean and tidy condition after you use them. Keep in mind too, that the provider of accommodation is responsible to make sure those common areas and facilities are safe, clean, and are also in good repair.
The other prescribed rules include access to the resident room, so again, we're looking at the provider or the manager can only enter in a way that's allowed under the Act and for door locks and keys. As a resident, you cannot change those locks without the provider's permission and finally to pets. If you want a pet, it does require the providers permission for that.
So, as well as these prescribed rules, the provider can also make their own house rules and that applies to the particular rooming accommodation that the provider runs and they're going to be specific to that type of accommodation. So, they can include things such as no smoking or no alcohol on the property or stipulate that the common areas can only be used between certain times.
So, say the kitchen might only be open between 6:00am and 10:00pm. There could be rules around noise or that guests may not be able to stay overnight. So, you can find out more information on house rules by reading the RTA’s house rules in rooming accommodation factsheet we have on our website.
Host: Yeah, it's good to know all those rules because I mean it can really make or break someone’s living conditions in rooming accommodation, can’t it? Now, how can you be a good rooming accommodation resident and what are some tips to be mindful of?
Guest: I think one of the big things to remember here, Belinda, is that you are sharing the property in common areas with others so it's really important to be respectful, being a good neighbor as such because you are in really close proximity of others. Every resident has a right to feel safe and comfortable in their home, so you need to be very mindful of your behavior. Try to keep the volume down at night so that you don't disturb others. Keep the common area and the facilities tidy, respect other residents right to privacy so you know, don't go barging into their rooms unless you're invited.
If there's a problem during your tenancy, it's so important that you do talk to your rooming accommodation provider as soon as it's possible, particularly if there's a repair that needs to be made in your room or something broken in the common area. If you're having issues with another resident, or they're not obeying the house rules. And also too, while your room is your own, just make sure that you're not doing anything that could be having a negative impact on the other residents. And really honestly, its common-sense stuff, so be courteous to everyone that's around you and clean up after yourself.
Host: Yeah, just be a tidy human I think is probably the easiest rule, isn't it? Now in terms of time frames for notices, they're generally shorter for rooming accommodation. Is that right?
Guest: Yeah, that's right Belinda. For example, the minimum notice period for a resident if they're leaving at the end of their tenancy is seven days for rooming, compared to 14 days for a general tenancy if you're in a house or unit. Another example of the shorter notice periods is that if you haven't paid rent for rooming accommodation, the provider or the manager can give you a notice to remedy breach once you're two days behind in your payments. They'll then give you four days to rectify that breach by paying the rent. In contrast again to general tenancies where your landlord or property manager must wait until you're at least seven days behind, and then you have seven days to rectify that breach. So, the time frames also do vary true depending on your length of stay, so if a resident does something wrong and it's been less than 28 days, there's a shorter timeframe again. You can find out more information about the time frames for those notice periods on general tenancies and also rooming accommodation on our website.
Host: So, what do you need to know before you sign an agreement from rooming accommodation?
Guest: One of the main things to remember is that rooming accommodation agreements are a legal, binding document, and that's between the resident and the provider or their manager, and it's going to set out the terms for that agreement.
So, it's really important that as a resident you understand the terms, including any special terms, before you sign it. Just make sure you are given a copy of the agreement as well, either on the day that you're signing it or before. Just make sure that you don't sign any agreement that you don't understand, and even if you don't sign, you still do have protection under Queensland’s laws.
If you are a resident, there are things that you need to make sure that you do know and that is, what's the length of the rooming agreement and what the rental amount is. So whether you're signing for a fixed term agreement (that has a start date and an end date, as well as a fixed period of time), or it could be that you're on a periodic agreement (usually has a start date, but there's no end date) and can just continue until someone gives notice to end that agreement. Many people would liken this to the old ways of saying, like a month-to-month or week-to-week type of agreement and check that you can commit to stay for the full duration of your tenancy. There could be financial penalties if you do end your agreement early without sufficient reason and also too, check if there's a bond to be paid. While it's not compulsory for your provider to ask for a bond it would be probably common practice that most people do, and if a bond is taken, it does need to be lodged with the RTA. Also too, just make sure that you understand which room you'll be in and what shared facilities you'll have access to. Remember not all the facilities may be open 24 hours a day, again, ask those good questions to your manager or your provider. And also too, understand what's included in the rent. In some situations, it's going to include your electricity and gas services and for your supported accommodation, meals or other personal care services.
And lastly, don't forget those important house rules that we talked about earlier, make sure that you read them and actually understand what you're signing that agreement for.
Host: Yeah, and like any agreement, it's really important that you read it and you understand it before signing it, so make sure that you take your time to do that.
Guest: Absolutely, and don't be afraid to ask the provider to clarify any questions that you have.
Host: Yep, now bond lodgement for accommodation agreements. Does this work in the same way as a general tenancy?
Guest: Uh, in a nutshell, yes it does. So just like in general tenancies, the resident can choose to lodge their bond directly to the RTA. That can be done via the RTA’s web services on our website or downloading and sending through a paper form to the RTA. However, if you do have a Department of Housing bond loan, just keep in mind that does need to be submitted by paper form. Alternatively, a resident can pay money directly to a provider and have that provider lodge the bond to the RTA on their behalf. Just make sure too, as a resident, any money that you do pay, whether it's rent or a bond, make sure that you do get a receipt. A resident can always contact the RTA after they've paid that bond just to clarify whether or not the RTA has received it, the RTA will send out an acknowledgement of rental bond to the residents, once we have received that bond. So, you can call us to double check.
Host: So, do entry and exit condition reports also apply for rooming accommodation?
Guest: So, if a bond has been taken, then the provider needs to complete, sign and give the resident an entry condition report. This report is really important, it's going to outline the condition of the room, whether it's clean, and whether there's any damage. Let’s face it, you don't want to be responsible for someone else’s damage. So the resident can go through the report and if there's something that they don't agree with, make the comments on the report, they need to sign it and give a copy back to the provider. We always do recommend too, it's a great idea to take photos as further evidence so when it comes time for a resident to leave at the end of the agreement, they do need to return the room in the same condition it was in at the start, less fair wear and tear. So again, great idea to take some more photos at the end to show what that room condition.
Host: Excellent. So, if someone is served a breach notice during a rooming accommodation agreement, what dispute resolution process is available if they feel that they did not breach the agreement?
Guest: Right, so if the provider thinks there's been a breach of the agreement, they may issue the resident with a notice to remedy breach. If they allege the breach of the agreement is serious enough, then they may also issue the resident with the notice to leave. If the resident does not believe they've breached the agreement, the first point of call is that they really should go and speak to the provider, discuss the alleged breach and see if they can come to a resolution. Self-resolution is the fastest and easiest way to resolve tenancy disputes and we do encourage that as much as we possibly can. But if you do come to an agreement between yourself and a provider, make sure that you do record it in writing.
Also too, if you can't get to an agreement or you still feel that there wasn't a breach, either party can actually also request access to the RTA’s free dispute resolution service. You can apply by the RTA’s web services or through our paper dispute resolution form which you can download from our website. However, before you do submit a request for the dispute resolution, just maybe call our contact centre, discuss your individual situation and be informed on what avenues that you can take.
So Belinda, for listeners, I think it's a really important to note here too if it is a serious breach, the provider can issue that notice to leave and end the agreement immediately and ask the resident to leave. So, if the resident doesn't leave, the provider can remove them. This is a very different process and does not require tribunal application, like it does in general tenancies.
Host: OK, so I guess another theme here is that communication is super important regardless of what kind of accommodation you’re in, just communicate if you're having issues.
Guest: Absolutely, communication is key to resolving a lot of disputes that happen whether it's general tenancies or rooming accommodation. But also too, making sure that if you are unable to talk to your provider or you don't feel that you have the skills to do that, you could also get a support person in to help you, or potentially again contacting the RTA first to discuss your individual situation, so we can help you and guide you with what your rights and responsibilities are.
Host: Exactly. Now what resources are available for residents in rooming accommodation if they'd like to learn more about their rights and responsibilities?
Guest: Sure, you can check out our RTA rooming accommodation factsheets, and there's also plenty of information and other resources to help residents and providers of rooming accommodation on our website. And remember too, if you can't find the answer to your question, you can always call us in our contact centre, it's open Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5:00pm.
Host: Awesome, thanks Lynn for helping us to get a greater understanding on what we need to know when it comes to rooming accommodation in Queensland.
Guest: You're welcome, thanks Belinda.
Host: Thank you for listening to the Talking Tenancies podcast. For more information about the Residential Tenancies Authority, visit rta.qld.gov.au.