On most farms when working fulltime you will live on farm in accommodation which is often provided for you.
Farm accommodation can vary immensely. Sometimes you get your own house, other times you could be sharing with others on the farm. You might have the choice to live off farm in accommodation you choose. You need to fully investigate accommodation when looking at a new role.
Accommodation is normally calculated separately and rent is paid as if you were hiring the house from a landlord. Often accommodation on farm is cheaper than normal fair market value and this should be factored into the total pay package.
See remuneration and negotiation and find out about a fair pay rate, job benefits, total packages and budgeting.
When talking about accommodation with a prospective, future or current employer, consider the following:
Take a look
Walk through the accommodation before you agree to live there. Check the house is warm, safe and dry. Check for things like mold inside cupboards, secure window latches and heating for the house. The accommodation should be at a likeable standard, as per the Residential Tenancy Act and the Health and Safety at Work Act.
Ask what maintenance is planned for the house, when will it be done and by who? If the bathroom is old and looks moldy, ask when they plan to upgrade the bathroom. Ask what the system is for reporting issues with the house - who do you tell if there if maintenance required. What bond do you need to pay?
Ask what you are allowed to do
If you want to paint the lounge, ask. Ask if you’re allowed dogs inside, whether the fridge comes with the house, is there Wi-Fi, test the shower pressure – ask questions and find out anything you need to find out. You need to know when mail is delivered, where to put your household rubbish, who pays the landline (if there is one), who pays for firewood, and who pays the gas bill.
Download the below handy checklist for when you’re looking at the farm accommodation here.
Questions to check off
- What is the bond payment (if any)?
- How do you make the bond payment?
- Is the bond going to be lodged with Tenancy Services?
- What is the rent payment (if any)?
- How is the rent to be paid, how often and when would it start?
- When will the accommodation be vacated so that you can move in?
- How many people can live at the property?
- What is included in the rent? Power/landline/firewood/gas?
- Have you signed a service tenancy agreement?
- What are the property rules – are pets ok? Can you smoke inside?
- Have you taken a set of photos of the accommodation including any damage or defects in the walls/doors/windows/carpet/kitchen/bathroom?
- Is the house going to be sufficiently warm and dry in winter? Is there a heating system or fire place? Is there evidence of damp – mould on walls, dampness in the rooms on the south side of the house? Does the house get morning/afternoon sun?
- Is the accommodation safe and secure? Do the windows close and do the window latches work? Are the door locks sufficient? Are the structures safe – check the stairs, decking, front porch, is there anything unsafe on the property?
- Are the kitchen and bathroom in suitable condition?
- What appliances come with the accommodation? Are the appliances in good working condition?
- What maintenance is planned for the accommodation?
- What is the process for reporting maintenance and who fixes things at your house?
- Who is responsible for maintaining the garden and/or lawns? What is the expectation?
- What day does the mail get delivered?
- What do you do with household rubbish?
- What’s the neighbourhood like? Who are the neighbours?
- Is the accommodation near to schools/bus stop etc.?
- How close is the nearest town? How long does it take to get to the city?
- Where is the nearest supermarket/petrol station etc.?
- What local facilities are nearby – golf/gym/tennis court/church/restaurant etc.?
You should also ask about your responsibilities in relation to the house. Are you expected to keep the lawns mown and how often; do you maintain the garden and what expectations are there for the person living in the property?
Accommodation is normally calculated separately and rent is paid as if you were hiring the house from a landlord. Often, accommodation on farm is cheaper than normal fair market value and this should be factored into the total pay package.
It’s worth doing your numbers to work out what you will earn and how your accommodation cost will be deducted. If the rent is paid direct from your pay, you will normally be asked to sign a ‘wage deduction form’ showing you authorise your employer to take the rent direct from your pay.
Damage to the accommodation
If you damage the property, it’s best you offer to pay or to pay back your employer for the costs to repair the damage. There are a number of ways to do this:
- Pay in one lump sum (cash or bank transfer)
- Pay the employer back from your pay in one lump sum, you may be asked to sign a ‘wage deduction form’ authorising your employer to take a one-off amount from your pay
- Pay your employer back over time, you may be asked to sign a ‘wage deduction form’ authorising your employer to take a certain amount from your pay, each pay, for a period of time (e.g. $50 per week for 8 weeks to pay off a $400 cost)
- Pay the cost from your bond when you leave the accommodation, you may be asked to sign something agreeing to this option
If you’re not asked to sign any paperwork, it’s a good idea to send your boss an email so that you’ve got proof that you’ve paid for the damages.
Resolving accommodation disagreements
Talk calmly about the situation with a view to amicably fixing the issue. See problem solving for tips on having effective conversations about tricky subjects.
Service tenancy agreement
If you take the role and agree to live in the provided accommodation on farm, you should be asked to sign a “service tenancy agreement” (this may be part of the employment agreement offered).
A service tenancy is like a normal agreement between a landlord and tenant except for a couple of differences:
- Your rent can be deducted from your pay (if you agree to pay your rent that way).
- Normally you can only live in the house for as long as you are working on farm in that job and you would be given 14 days notice to vacate the accommodation when your employment ends, however it may be more or less than that depending on the circumstances. To find out more about ending the service tenancy agreement, visit Tenancy Services.
Before you sign a service tenancy agreement, it’s a good idea to go to the house with the owner and write down the condition of each room of the house and the grounds, you can also use photos to record the condition of the property, this is to avoid any problems later on.
Once the accommodation is ‘rented’, the owner must give you 48 hours notice before entering the property unless there are extenuating circumstances.
See our legal contracts page for accommodation agreements information including tenancy agreements, service tenancy and verbal agreements.
On farm accommodation can have less obvious perks like no transport costs for getting to work if your accommodation is on or near the farm.