The Dark Clouds sometimes have a Silver Lining

Room with a ViewThere is a dark side to Tasmania and I’m not referring to the mid-winter, Dark MOFO festival or to the “dark stain” of the island’s convict history. There are no longer bushrangers roaming here – they have been replaced by the real estate industry and a disturbing lack of consumer protection.

If you are thinking of moving down here, then really do your homework before you buy real estate or even rent a place. It is very much a case of Buyer Beware. There are not the safeguards in place that you take for granted in other states. There is no cooling off period when you sign a contract and there are no vendor disclosure laws for starters – and there is no limit to the commissions that agents can charge if you are a seller. Make sure you have your own solicitor draw up the contract. The agents prefer to do it for you (“trust me, I’m an agent”) but they are working for the vendor – or themselves – and not necessarily in your best interests. Government stamp duties on house purchases also make your eyes water here in Tasmania.

We recently discovered that there are few protections in place for renters either. We took a six month lease on a house when we arrived and thought that we would find a home to purchase during that time. We were assured by our property manager that we could rent the property for as long as we needed to and the lease would just be rolled over at the end of six months. However, the owner decided to reclaim his house and we were given just 28 days notice to vacate. Four weeks is not very long to reorganise your life and the timing was awful – end of financial year and business tax time for him and end of semester assignments due for her.

Then the fun and games really began. We’d find something suitable to rent on line and call to find that “inspections” would only be conducted by the property manager “next Tuesday at 2 pm”. Time was of the essence and they seemed to have no sense of urgency. We took a completed application form along to a viewing of a house we wanted and a ton of photocopied (at their request) ID, a list of referees, bank statements and even offered to pay six months rent in advance. That still wasn’t good enough and the property manager insisted we get a credit reference check which cost $70 and delayed approval of our application by 48 hours. It’s reportedly quite a common request here in Tasmania.

We had to find four weeks rent for the bond and then another two for rent in advance which is pretty standard but in Tasmania, you are not allowed to transfer your bond from one property to another so there is a gap between paying out for the new bond and reclaiming the old one – tough if you are on a tight budget with few savings.

The good news is that you can pay your bond money at Service Tasmania by credit card and collect all the Frequent Flyer points!

We’re still haggling with the property manager over the fact that the carpets weren’t professionally cleaned before we moved in to our new home and that the attached garage was quite grotty – acknowledged by her on the Entry Condition report but not acted upon. We protested. She stonewalled. I don’t think she likes her authority being challenged.

Red Fire Wood HeaterBut finally, I can unpack everything that came down from Queensland with us. This is a bigger house with more storage and has the space for everything. Only I don’t want it all anymore. The clearing of clutter and the lightening up of life has begun – which wouldn’t have happened if we had stayed where we were. We also have delightful views over water, a cosy wood heater and a spa bath. Definitely a silver lining to the very dark clouds we experienced in being “kicked out” of our previous home.

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