Five myths of share accommodation law debunked

on 19 October 2015 by Hugh

There are a lot of myths and misunderstandings about how share accommodation law works. To settle this, we have debunked 5 of the biggest.

image

Note: the following legal information applies only to residential tenancy agreements covered by the residential tenancy legislation in each state and territory. Your specific agreement may not be covered by this law. Further, the information here is generalised for all of Australia—you should check the specific laws and regulations in your state and territory.

Myth 1: The landlord can increase the rent at any time

image

This is a really common myth. Contrary to common belief, there are actually a number of restrictions on when and how landlords can increase the rent. During a fixed term tenancy, the landlord can only increase the rent if the agreement actually says so. There are also some other restrictions on when and how the rent can be increased:

  • the tenant must be given written notice of the increase
  • there is a minimum notice period—usually around 60 days—for a rent increase
  • in some states and territories, the rent cannot be increased in the first 6 or 12 months of the tenancy
  • there are also often limits on how often rent can be increased, usually once every 6-12 months

Read more about rent increases here.

Myth 2: The tenancy agreement doesn’t apply after the end of the fixed term

image

Many people believe that if a tenancy agreement is for a fixed term of, for instance, 6 months, then the terms of that agreement no longer apply after the 6 months. This is not true. If the tenant keeps paying rent and neither the landlord or tenant terminate, then the agreement continues under the same conditions as before. Legally speaking, the agreement becomes a ‘periodic tenancy’ rather than a ‘fixed term tenancy’. In other words, even if the fixed term has ended, the tenancy agreement continues to apply in the same way.

Read more about tenancy agreements here.

Myth 3: The landlord keeps the bond during the agreement

image

In every state and territory (except the Northern Territory), the landlord is not allowed to hold the bond (or security deposit) during the tenancy. Instead, the landlord is required by law to deposit the bond with a special authority administered by your state or territory government. These systems exist to make sure the tenant’s bond money is kept safely and securely. At the end of the tenancy, the tenant should generally receive all of the bond back, unless the landlord claims for expenses caused by the tenant like overdue rent or damage to the property.

Read more about bonds here.

Myth 4: Tenants can’t access part of the rented property

image

A common problem is whether the tenant is allowed to access all of the rented property. If your agreement is for an entire premises, such as a whole house or apartment, then this usually is not a problem. In share accommodation, especially when the landlord and tenant both live at the same premises, this can be tricky because the tenant will have their own room and shared use of the house. The best way to avoid problems is for the landlord and tenant to negotiate which parts of the house the tenant can and can’t use, and to then note the agreement in writing.

Read more about tenancy agreements here.

Myth 5: The landlord can evict a tenant at any time without notice

image

This is probably the worst myth about share accommodation. The law actually provides good protection by limiting the reasons and circumstances under which a landlord can terminate the agreement and evict a tenant. If the agreement is for a fixed term, the landlord can generally only terminate if the property becomes dangerous or the tenant has seriously breached a term of the agreement. Even after the end of a fixed term, unless there is a specific reason otherwise, the landlord can only terminate if they give the tenant sufficient notice. This is usually around 2-4 weeks.

Read more about ending a tenancy agreement here.

Person
  • Hugh
  • media@flatmates.com.au
  • Hugh is the legal educator at Flatmates.com.au and a law student at Sydney University. Living in Sydney's Inner West, he can usually be found reading about American history, watching Cricket, or not looking hip enough for the cafes he frequents.