Deb Pippen says people looking to house share in Canberra should ask questions first, and never assume "all you're doing is signing something and everything will be OK".
As the executive officer of Tenants' Union ACT, Ms Pippen has for years fielded calls from confused housemates - some have worried they've signed their rights away, while others have fretted their homes were about to fall apart.
Better Renting's executive director Joel Dignam is no stranger to flatmate conflict either. He's lived in share houses for nearly 10 years, and says there are practical ways to keep things peaceful.
Here are some of Mr Dignam and Ms Pippen's top tips for prospective house-sharers in the ACT.
Find out what your rights are
What rights you have as a house-sharer depends entirely on what type of tenant you are.
Always ask who the landlord of the property is, or who the real estate agent is - are you renting off the owner, or a person who is already a tenant?
If you're a co-tenant - someone renting directly from an owner or through their real estate, whose name appears on a lease along with other people - you have the same rights as any regular renter in the ACT.
But, fair warning, you also have the same responsibilities.
Mr Dignam says: "If you sign onto a lease with a couple of friends as co-tenants, each of you is individually responsible for that entire contract.
"You might rent a place that is $600 a week and you're each paying $200 a week, but actually you're individually liable for your whole rent, and if your housemate stops paying, that's actually a problem for you and not just your housemate."
An amendment to the Residential Tenancies Actwill come into effect at the end of this month, which will make it easier for people to leave a co-tenancy.
It will mean co-tenants can leave a place with the consent of their landlord and housemates, and the existing tenancy agreement with the other co-tenants can continue.
Likewise, if a new co-tenant moves in, they can join the existing tenancy agreement, rather than a whole new one being created.
If you're a legal sub-tenant - meaning, you're renting off someone who is already a tenant - you also have the same rights as any other renter in the ACT, although you don't have a direct relationship with the landlord.
Ms Pippen says problems arise when you become an illegal sub-tenant. That happens when the person you're renting from hasn't been given permission by their landlord for that arrangement, and you end up with "no rights whatsoever".
"If people are looking at share housing, it's really, really important for them to try and establish what the situation is that they're moving into," Ms Pippen says.
Think - what am I signing?
Because regular tenants, co-tenants and legal sub-tenants all have the same rights, their tenancy agreements should look much the same.
Ms Pippen says: "There's standard rules in the tenancy agreement, standard clauses that will apply to everybody, and a landlord or a head tenant can't contract out of that, unless they go through a process at [the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal]."
So, if something seems off or unusual in your tenancy agreement, ask about it.
If you sign a tenancy agreement that includes terms or clauses that end up being void because they haven't been officially endorsed, it doesn't matter.
"It doesn't matter whether you signed seven times, it's not enforceable because they didn't go through that process," Ms Pippen says.
Know your utilities
In the ACT, lessors are allowed to charge renters for utilities like water and electricity, but only when they can prove how much a tenant has used.
That means if you're a sub-tenant renting a room in a share house, your room would have to have separate metering for your lessor to charge you - obviously, a near impossibility.
Ms Pippen says: "The sub-tenant is able to say, 'Well, you can only charge me for what I use and you can only do that if you can show what I use'.
"If you can't show how much is consumed, you as a landlord have to wear that cost."
This rule isn't relevant, though, when co-tenants sign a lease and their landlord leaves it up to them to get their utilities sorted.
If a utility account is in a tenant's name rather than the landlord's, it's the utility company making the charge - not the landlord.
'It's all about give and take'
Mr Dignam says one of the reasons he likes share house living is because it forces people to get good at compromising and to understand "your way isn't the only way".
His advice to new housemates is to have an open mind, work together, and communicate.
"There's no rule that says that 9am is a reasonable time to be making noise or not; it's all about what you can work out with each other," Mr Dignam says.
"It's all about give and take."
He says he's wary of older housemates who think they should have the final say on everything, but - as more people rent for longer - there's plenty of people out there with a wealth of house sharing experience.
"They are a resource for understanding ... what's normal, what can we expect, is this something we can ask to get repaired, is this how landlords tend to behave", Mr Dignam says.
"[House sharing] is a way to try to cope with the cost of the rental market ... [but] I think for a lot of people, too, the positive side of share housing is that [sense of] community."
Mr Dignam says sometimes, though, the best option option for a person living in a share house is to leave.
"You shouldn't leave your housemates in the lurch, but if you're having a bad time, if you've tried talking to your housemates, if your housemates are just not getting better, if you don't feel safe or happy in your home, sometimes you'll actually be much better off if you find another place and move there," he says.
Ms Pippen says the flip-side for illegal sub-tenants who don't have any rights is that they likely don't have responsibilities, either, so can get out of a share house without notice and "no-one can go after you for any amount of money".
Legal tenants have to give notice before vacating a property.