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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bmag 23rd Oct 2012 - Rental owner register

Fences, trees and noise – these are the big three when it comes to disputes between neighbours. In an ideal world you are on good terms with the folk next door, you casually mention the issue and you come to some sort of agreement. But things can become complicated if your neighbour is a tenant, rather than an owner-occupier.

When 612 Breakfast listener Steve had a problem with overhanging trees from the rental property next door, he had a terrible time identifying the real estate agent managing the property. Steve told me he couldn’t get the information from his neighbours and ended up having to track down the owner, who put him onto the property manager. “They said ‘you shouldn’t have contacted the owner, your first point of contact should always be the manager’ but you can’t find out who the manager is!” Steve recalls.

The whole kerfuffle prompted Steve to email me, suggesting there should be a register of rental properties and their property managers. Says Steve: “If you live next door to really nice people, you jump the fence and say ‘Hey Bill, we need to do something about the trees, can you give me the phone number of the real estate manager?’” But Steve’s neighbours were not so cooperative: “Absolutely not and I bet there are a lot of people in Brisbane and surrounding suburbs who are in the same situation,” he says.

I invited Steve onto my radio show and here are just some of the responses that came in during and after the program: Naomi emailed: “I think the rental register is a great idea. Our former tenant had a drug lab. Luckily the owner of an adjoining unit contacted the building managers who contacted our agent. It would have been much easier if they could have gone straight to a register.”

Anne tweeted that a register would have been handy for her: “Had a problem with noisy neighbours once (renters) and ended up ringing all the local real estate agents to find the property manager.” And Fiona texted: “I totally support the register! If there’s something wrong with my house, I want and need the property manager to know ASAP!”

But, according to Cameron on Twitter, it shouldn’t be that hard: “Any real estate agent can look up a property to see which real estate is managing the property. Walk in and ask.” Tell me what you think at the email below.

Antonia Mercorella, general counsel with the Real Estate Institute of Queensland, sees merit in the idea: “Something like that could be a good idea. It would just be a matter of how that register is developed, where it’s maintained and who maintains it. “Certainly the act that covers residency tenancies in Queensland is administered by the Residential Tenancies Authority. The conduct of real estate agents is governed by the Property Agents and Motor Dealers’ Act and that’s looked after by the Office of Fair Trading. “My gut feel is that a register of this nature would be maintained by one of those two parties.”

But is a register really needed? And who would pay for it? Antonia Mercorella concedes it’s not an issue that comes up frequently: “In most instances, the tenant will disclose that they are renting and then go one step further and disclose the identity of the agent managing the property and you can then proceed to communicate through that agency.”

Barbecue hot tip

It’s that time of year when friendly neighbours start to invite each other over for barbecues. So here’s a handy hint, suggested to me by my Radio National colleague Ian Townsend. To save money, always run two gas bottles. If you only have one bottle, you risk running out while you’re cooking for guests.

So, to avoid such embarrassment (not to mention ruined food), you tend to exchange the bottle too early, before it has expired, hence wasting whatever gas is still in the bottle. By interchanging two bottles you can always comfortably cook away until the very last gasp of gas, before subtly and seamlessly slipping the other bottle onto the barbecue.

You then have all the time in the world to replace the first bottle, which becomes your standby. A simple idea which will have you cooking with gas!

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