Sunday, October 12

Real Estate Agents

It is quite a change from being a home owner to being a tenant.  I do recall many years ago when we rented as a family it was much easier.  In fact I recall that in most of the places we had rented in Victoria, New South Wales (with one exception) we had no trouble.

The NSW story was fairly simple.  We were to move out on a certain date - company transfer from Sydney to Brisbane, and the removalists which had been organised by the company my husband worked for did not turn up on time - and the delay upset the plans of the home owner who had wanted to move in.  He was very angry that we had not moved out when he arrived and became abusive.  It was a nasty episode - but the only bad one we have had in rental.

Many things have changed since those days - and the experiences of myself and friends give some indication as to some of the issues that tenants face.

There are official bodies which take care of the bond these days - though I believe that the real estate company that "looks after" the property I am in, did not send my bond when I moved in.  It appears to have taken a year for them to do it - which I understand is not what they are supposed to do.

But that is not the main issue.  A real estate agent with a "Rental Section" has two clients.  Obviously the house owner - who "pays" for his services is the key client.  I have no idea how these clients are treated - I can only speak of the experience I have as a tenant - but judging by the poor service we get, I wonder how the owners are treated.

I do not intend to give the name of the company that "looks after" this property, but relate some of my experiences.  The owner was the one that showed me two properties in the new estate, and I happily chose the one I am in now - it was a mirror image of the other one, but a much better outlook - as it happens onto a park and a lake at the back.  I happily moved in to the brand new duplex with things that I had never had in previous homes.  A walk-in robe, an ensuite, and a garage with a remote so that I just drive up the driveway, press the "button" in my car, and hey presto the door opens and I drive in.  If it is raining I don't get wet.  (Please send rain this way - it has been very dry!)

One of the first issues was that on the brand new brick letter box, one of the bricks was not properly cemented into place.  It "sat" on the top - despite my many written and verbal requests, it took 15 months to repair!!!!

I know there are often issues with new buildings and I have had more than my fair share here.  I think the first major issue was the fire alarm.  Every time I turned on a light, the alarm would shriek briefly.  Annoying.   But worse was to come.  One Friday morning around 3 am, the alarm went off.  As it turns out I had two grandchildren staying and it woke us up.  I couldn't turn it off.  We hunted inside and outside the house for any source of smoke which would set it off.  There was none.  I contacted the agent when their office opened, but they could not get anyone to inspect it until the Monday.  It screamed its head off on several occasions until the repairman arrived.  I did use a broom stick in a futile effort to turn it off at times, but it had a mind of its own.    The repairman came and "interefered with" both alarms, and left telling me it was fixed.  For several weeks nothing other than the shrieking when I turned on a light happened, until again it started screaming at all hours of the day and night.

This time they sent an electrician.  It was he that found some anomolies and replaces some parts - apparently a dodgy  (cheap) system.  However, he did fix it and since then it has not gone off. I hope it is functional.  I've had had a smoke issue so I don't know.

At the side of the house are two power points - one connected to the water pump on the tank.   I use an electric mower - so having an outside power point is helpful.  If it worked.  The one for the tank was ok, but the other never worked.  So, an other request to the agent, which eventually resulted in an electrician coming.  Apparently the power point was not installed correctly.  Luckily it was fixed on that day.

Then at the height of summer, when the temperature was at its highest my son who was staying with me, turned on the air conditioner.  While it made a noise and puffed air, it was incapable of cooling.  Back to the agent.  It took them 6 weeks to "repair" and I learned that during the building of the duplex, thieves arrived and took items - including the air conditioning motor at the back of the house and a new one had to be installed.  However, it was never done properly.  6 weeks of wrangling with the agent, lots of false promises - including waiting for a repairman who never came, and I learned later had never asked to come.  Six weeks it took - and of course by then the worst of summer was over.

I did go to the RTA - Residential Tenancies Agency and submitted a formal complaint to the real estate agent - but I think they laughed at me.  They didn't bother with anything!!!

The the water tank emptied.  Eventually a man came to fix it - and apparently there was a problem that he felt related to the installation.  I guess it is no surprise to learn that some property investors get things done at the cheapest rate possible, and no one checks that things are done properly.  Clearly that is evident at this property.  I am not sure it is working properly yet.  We have had little rain and I can't easily gauge the level of water in the tank.  I keep my fingers crossed.

There have been a stack of minor issues.  When I returned from China and my mother's funeral the place was full of spiders, and ants had eaten away the grout between the tiles in two places and the ants had made a mess of debris.  The spiders were sprayed after a few days, and it took 3 months for the grout to be fixed.

One of the things that I have been "negotiating" with the agent over, is the security.  There were no security screens on the windows, or the back door.  It has been a concern for me and my next door neighbours that we cannot leave a window open, and anyone can easily get in the back door.  The front door did have a security screen.  It means that in summer we sleep with the windows locked - leaving no fresh air.  If we go out - we lock all the windows - why make it easy for thieves to access your home?  The issue of security screens has been an ongoing issue with we tenants and the agent.

The agent or his staff seldom contact us - the handyman, repair man is the one that lets us know that something is being done.  It was a surprise a few months ago when the handyman phoned - he was getting measurements for security screens on our windows and back door.  Whoopeeee!  He promised to be back the following week.  The only communication we had from the agent was (a) the agency boss telling us that he was waiting to hear from the house owner, and another (b) on the same day saying that the handman had been given instructions a few weeks earlier to instal the screens.

I saw the handyman one day and he told me that he had not been given instructions to install the screens.  Mmmm.

Then a week ago, he phones - he has been given authority to install a screen on one window (the main bedroom) and the back door and he duly arrived and installed them.  My neighbour and I were talking and I said, I would have been prepared to pay for one more - the loungeroom window screen, and he said he had already asked the agent if he could too.  Around $100 - but worth it in that we could leave the window open when we went out, or at night.  Again we have communicated with the agent.  We are prepared to pay for the screen and installation.  No response so far.

It is not just we tenants that have issues with real estate agents.  It seems universal.  And the avenues for complaint or conflict resolution are limited.  The RTA seems to be a toothless tiger.

A few days later.  Nothing has changed. Am still waiting to hear from the agent.

 Postscript: I received a phone call - the owner is happy for us to pay for the extra screen. Why not? It's ok - it only took a week for a response.    And I asked again for the house numbers to be replaced.






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