Editorial: We’re getting to that time of year where everyone is starting to think about next year’s flatting.
That is, unless you’re an idiot fresher who signed a flat in April, paid way too much, and have already had a falling out with the former “best friends” you had known for two months.
Flatting as a student can be a little fucked up in terms of power dynamics. Landlords love to skirt the rules and cheap out on the basics, and they get away with it because so many students are new to flatting and don’t know their rights.
A lot of flats in Dunedin are shit, but at the end of the day if you’ve got good flatmates and a decent landlord, you can have a good year anywhere. The things that will absolutely ruin your year are a falling out between friends, and a landlord that fucks you over.
I can’t tell you how to pick your friends, but there are a couple of things you can do to check your landlord out before you sign and hold them to account once you do.
If you go on the Tenancy Tribunal website you can search Tribunal decisions. Look for your prospective landlord’s name, their company name, and the address of the place you’re looking at to see if they’ve had rulings against them in the past. They’re definitely doing the same thing to you, so you might as well even things up.
Ask about whether there is insulation in the flat. As Esme Hall reports in this issue, the Healthy Homes Guarantees Act enforces minimum standards for heating, insulation and ventilation. It comes into effect in July next year, but up to 60% of landlords still haven’t done anything about it.
If there are renovations planned for the summer, remember you do not have to pay rent for a flat that is not in liveable condition. Just because you are out of town doesn’t mean your landlord can turn your room into a construction site. They can’t charge rent while they do that.
If you’re looking at a studio room, know the difference between a ‘boarding house’ and a ‘studio room’. A boarding house has shared kitchen & dining facilities. Studio rooms have their own facilities. This matters because landlords can’t enforce fixed term contracts on boarding houses. You can pack up and leave within 48 hours notice of your last exam, and then you don’t have to pay rent over summer.
But it’s one thing to know the rules, it’s another to enforce them. Obviously going to the Tenancy Tribunal is a big process and even if you’re a law student it doesn’t mean you have the expertise needed. Luckily, you can always call the Tenancy Services hotline on 0800 836 262 with any question whatsoever, even if you think you sound like a moron. And of course, there’s OUSA Student Support, which exists for exactly this kind of thing. They’ll talk to your landlord for you, they’ll even go to Tenancy Tribunal with you. You can call them on 479 5449 or just drop into their building on Ethel Benjamin Place.
And if you really wanna make it spicy, you can send a news tip to firstname.lastname@example.org and put our crack team of journalists on the case.