So you have the keys to the house – what now?
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 125 No 1, 21 February 2020, page no. 14
Moving house and starting at a new workplace are two of the most stressful things a person can do, yet Queensland teachers frequently combine these stressors when they take up duty in our rural and remote towns.
Here are some things to consider during the first weeks in your new home.
The quality of a house has little to do with age and a lot to do with amenity and fitness-for-purpose. That is why local accommodation committees (LACs) are empowered to make local decisions about housing allocations. These committees are central to grassroots, local management of housing for teachers and can make decisions locally, including determining which housing is suitable for multiple tenants.
Teachers living in department accommodation are covered by the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 (Qld). As tenants, you have a right to, and will be housed in, accommodation that is fit to live in. It should be safe and in a good state of repair. It is reasonable to expect that the property has been cleaned and left tidy, including the garden. Because of the long summer holidays, where in some parts of the state it has been dusty and dry and other parts humid and tropical, assume that the property has been empty over the holidays. There will be dust to wipe down and mould to clean off. The LAC Guidelines note that garden maintenance between tenancies is the responsibility of the LAC (department). The local accommodation officer or administrative support person should be able to provide you with a document that outlines your rights and responsibilities.
When you are issued with your keys and enter the house for the first time, you should fill out an EA1 form, which is then sent to central housing by the LAC administrative support officer. This initiates the process to commence rent deductions from your pay.
It is also crucial to fill out the entry report. Fill it out for every room and note all maintenance issues. Keep a hard copy for yourself. Do not assume that because you put maintenance issues on your entry report they will be repaired. It is important that you find out how to report maintenance issues in your centre and then use the formal processes to do so. It will be useful to take photos that support what you have recorded in the entry report. Keeping good records (in hard copy) can be very helpful when you eventually move on.
As a tenant, you should become familiar with the process for lodging maintenance requests and know the difference between urgent and non-urgent requests. Be sure to follow up if the request is not dealt with in a timely way. The more remote you are, the more important it is to understand how maintenance and repairs can be planned for and facilitated. If your reasonable efforts are not delivering, contact the QTU for assistance. Do not let safety issues slide.
Under the act, tenants have a right to “quiet enjoyment of the premises” (i.e. reasonable peace, comfort and privacy). This applies to sole and multi-tenants, so should multi-tenants find that they are getting a new house-mate, reasonable notice and consultation does need to occur with you. Further, tenanted property should only be entered at a reasonable time and with prior notice.
If you are in a multi-tenancy household, sit with your housemates to discuss shared jobs/responsibilities, e.g. mowing, cleaning, cooking, visitors, shared lounge spaces etc, and how those things will be managed in your household.
If you have concerns, here are some steps to follow.
- Identify what the challenge or concern is.
- Identify the solution that you would like to see.
- Speak with your principal about your concern. They may ask you to contact the local accommodation officer.
- Get to know about your LAC and become involved so that you understand the allocations, maintenance processes, funding and so you can represent your colleagues. The committee is made up of elected teacher reps who work to ensure the culture of the LAC is transparent and consistent regarding decision making, placing local knowledge as a key overlay in relation to the systemic procedures and accountabilities.