Going flatting and managing money with flatmates

Flatting means freedom

It also means managing your money and working together with your flatmates.

Flatting is a big step towards being independent, but it also means getting used to paying the bills. Before leaving the comfort of home, it’s important to find out how much rent and other expenses will cost – let’s not get caught out by the costs of flatting!

 

Getting set up with your rent

The biggest ongoing cost of flatting will be rent, which most people pay weekly or fortnightly. The Department of Building and Housing’s Tenancy Services website will give an idea of typical rents in different areas.

Paying your bond

The bond is money held by Tenancy Services that could cover unpaid rent, damage to the property or any other claims relating to your flat while you live there. If you have looked after the house, paid rent in full, and paid any amounts owing, you should get a refund of your bond when you move out.

Before moving into a flat it's usual to pay a bond of up to four weeks' rent as well as two weeks’ rent in advance – so if rent is $150 a week that will mean paying up to $900 before moving in. You can no longer be charged letting fees.

The landlord must pay the bond to Department of Building and Housing within 23 working days, where it’s kept safe until you leave. The Tenancy Services website has more information about bonds and how they work.

Keep in mind that unpaid rent can affect your credit reports and ability to borrow money in the future.

Sorting out the bills and expenses

1

Setting up an account for rent and bills

If the flat is reasonably stable, you might want to set up a joint account for the rent and/or expenses. Each person makes automatic payments into this account, from which rent and bills are paid. Setting up direct debits from the joint account will make sure bills are paid on time and lets you take advantage of any prompt payment discounts.

It’s a good idea for one or two flatmates to keep an eye on the flatting account, just to make sure it’s all working as it should be.

2

Utility bills

Whose name will go on the bills for power, internet, etc?

If it's yours, you’re responsible for payment even if the flatmates leave without paying. It's a good idea to have everyone’s names on bills or share them around to reduce the risk.

It's worth reading the meters regularly so you're not hit with a big bill after your flatmates have moved out. A large unpaid bill could have a bad effect on your credit reports, which could limit your choices in future.

3

A separate account for expenses

One way to manage expenses while flatting is to share payments as bills come in or pay a regular amount into a ‘kitty’ – a specific fund to cover bills and groceries. Typically one person is in charge of the kitty.

4

Managing extra costs and furnishings

As well as rent you'll need to pay power, phone, internet and sometimes water bills. Costs vary from flat to flat and suburb to suburb. You may also need to pay bonds to get set up with power and other services.

There may be lots of things you suddenly need when flatting, like a couch, washing machine or TV.

In a large flat or with new people, it might be easier to hire appliances and split the rental charge. That way everyone knows exactly how much each person's share is and there's no argument about dividing things up at the end.

Sometimes it’s easier, although more expensive, to choose a deal that doesn't require a deposit.

5

Shopping together

Sometimes it’s easier for the whole flat to do the weekly shop together. That way everyone pays upfront and there’s no chance of anyone dipping into money for rent or bills.

Keeping records of what you've paid

Whichever way you choose to divide costs and pay for things when sharing a flat, it's a good idea to keep written records of kitty payments and bills. Tenancy Services has forms you can use for tracking rent payments.

If the flat’s already established, ask about how all these things work before moving in. If paying the bond to a tenant rather than the landlord directly, make sure to get a written receipt. It’s a good idea to sign a flat-sharing agreement, too.

 

Getting insurance when flatting

When starting out you may not have much stuff to your name! And if you don't own a lot it may be tempting not to pay for house contents insurance.

What many flatters don't think about is what happens if the landlord's property is accidentally damaged by any of the flatmates.

If you cause a fire you could be charged tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for the repair. A contents insurance policy can cover you for personal liability in a situation like that.

You will also need to have contents insurance to get EQC cover for damage to your belongings caused by a natural disaster. 

Find out more about the different types of insurance.

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