Congratulations! You just got your Australian Permanent Residency visa. And the first thing you want to do is get a piece of property because come on, you are now eligible and you totally deserve it. So you went to an open house, checked the kitchen area and the coastal view from the window, and you’re sold. You signed the papers and moved in.
Then you realized only two out of the fourteen sockets works, and the shower won’t even give you warm water. You ended up with electricity and plumbing cost piling higher than Mount Kosciuszko.
What went wrong? You did your research and the seller is very honest in assuring you that everything is working. Well, for one, you didn’t do your homework well enough. There are some minor inspection tasks that people often neglect to do that resulted to big expenses and even bigger headaches.
So the next time you look for a new house or apartment, do these five things.
Since mankind left the caves and jumped to modern and civilized housing, it has only two basic needs, water and electricity. But it is still a mystery why movers neglect to take a look at these things when shopping for a new home.
During house visits, see if your prospective domicile has enough wall outlets to handle all your appliances and electrical devices (read: smart phones), or if there is enough in every room. Also, you may bring a multi meter or any portable electrical device to test the outlets. It could be an electric shaver or a portable lamp. Plugging in your smart phone is not really advisable, unless you can afford to lose it in a fit of short circuit or over voltage.
And while you are at it, turn on all the faucets to see if it’s working and if the volume of water is well enough. Inspect also for the water’s clarity, any discoloration, or presence of small debris or particles.
You don’t want to be in a situation where your marriage gets endangered because you and your spouse have to fight over that sole working outlet because your respective tablets need some juice.
While you are surveying down the walls looking for outlets, you might as well lock up and examine the windows. Do they open? Are they stuck? Can you securely close them? Windows are sources of natural light and ventilation and are important components to your safety. A pane that you can’t easily open and/or can't be firmly close is a hazard to your well-being.
And here’s the thing: replacing dysfunctional windows can be super costly and would take a lot of time and effort. You measure the holes, shop for replacements, follow the city’s building and safety codes, get professional help, pay for all of these, and so on. An inexpensive place with broken windows will slap you with repair and maintenance costs that cancels out the bargain that you thankfully got. It is not really worth it after all.
Always remember, when you buy/get a property, the neighborhood comes with the package. A beautiful villa with half the price situated in an area replete with altercations from inebriated people isn’t really beautiful at all. And sometimes the landlord/property agent will try to sell the house to you, a clueless stranger, by overblowing the features and benefits while trivializing these deal breakers.
The neighbors, on the other hand, will always offer the raw details. These are people who had gotten over the first impression atmosphere already and will not hold back on spilling the hidden flaws. So politely strike a conversation (Australians are always open to chats, even from random blokes) and ask a few questions about the neighborhood. How’s the noise level in the area? Any parking areas around? How many gas stations, restaurants, and shops are around? What’s the frequency of the rent increase? How’s the general safety in the area? And so on.
The neighbor’s collective opinion and observation will provide a feel of the life in your new place without having to spend two weeks there only to find out that the Williams and the Browns engage in a shouting contest every night because they don't get along very well, at which point, you can’t get out of the contract anymore.
And while we are on the topic of the contract…
“I AGREE” is probably the biggest lie in the Internet. We scroll down past the Terms and Conditions section composed of strings of legal patois and technical concepts so we can just click the Agree button and call it a day. This habit might work in the Internet (you can just uninstall that app or return the product if you want). But in buying/renting properties, this will get you in trouble.
Hidden within the fine print of the lease agreement are details that can mess up your stay, your money, or even your legal safety if you are too much in a hurry to get the ink on the papers.
When reading the leases, zero in on addresses and the contact numbers, who manages the property, and which property is being leased. It should also specify the monthly rent and the amount of the security deposit, the date when a rent payment is considered late, and what the penalties are. It should also indicate the minimum and maximum length of your stay, who is responsible for the repairs, and who settles which utility fee.
Remember, when problems arise and lawsuits get thrown between parties, the lease stands in court as evidence, and will either be your shield or deathtrap.
And we mean the damages that you found the day before you get the property. Do this while the landlord is walking you through the house. Inspect every wall, every ceiling, every nook and cranny, check for peeling paint or wallpapers, worn out carpet, stains and burns on the counters and cabinets, leakages, rust, moldings, and water damages (and yes, including that dysfunctional window pane if you pushed for it). Take pictures of them and document them into paper with the date included in which you and your landlord will sign on both. This will protect you from deposit troubles in which the landlord will charge you for pre-existing damages and keep your installment.
For the images, make sure the date is imbedded on your camera/phone, as this can never edited. Another trick is upload them on your email and send them to yourself on the same day, as date stamps on email can never be altered. Uploading them on social media is not really advisable as they are visible to other people and might be negatively interpreted.
These contingency plans will prove that such flaws have existed before you moved in, and that you are not liable for them. They can be burdensome to do, but you will be thankful once your contract expires and your landlord attempts to rip you off.