Brisbane landlords, Brisbane's rental market

37 students in the bed, then the little one said "roll over, roll over"!

toothbrushesInteresting but not surprising news today that Brisbane City Council has uncovered a student share house with 37 occupants. Yes, in the one house!

Brisbanetimes.com.au reports a raid on the Sunnybank Hills home discovered the student-slum, part of a city-wide crackdown on over-crowded residential dwellings. Such a big number in one house is unusual but we’d suggest  ‘extended households’ aren’t surprising anymore, especially in our inner city. International students particularly are more open to sharing small spaces. They don’t have big rent budgets and they don’t crave privacy the way many locals do.

For Council there’s some obvious problems with noise, fire risks, extra carparking and waste and rubbish volumes. For landlords the wear and tear on a property will obviously be more significant.

Some landlords are happy to wear this, often exploiting tenants and achieving above-market rent by encouraging or turning a blind eye to the practice. They need to be careful though, with fines of up to $100,000 if they exceed BCC’s new limit of 5 “unrelated” occupants in any one home.

So how do we as property managers police this issue? With difficulty, is the truth. We do scrutinise tenancy applications carefully (e.g. 2 students rarely intend to cover the rent on their own for a 3 bedroom with heaps of spare space), a previous rental history/reference always a good indicator of what they’ll do. The Act requires us to give 7 days notice to inspect so unless there’s an emergency we can’t do a surprise inspection. When we do check on a property we can count toothbrush numbers for example, but even experienced property managers will find it hard to be sure if there’s ‘hidden’ occupants.

The best way to avoid this problem is to get good rental references from their past agents/landlords. It’s no guarantee the tenants won’t move 9 of their best friends into the home, but it is some peace of mind.

If your property is vacant and you’re faced with a choice of reducing the rent or accepting a tenant with limited rental references, what should you do? Does every tenant deserve the ‘presumption of innocence’? Each landlord should make their own choice but for me, I’d drop the rent.