How do share accommodation agreements work?

Before entering a share accommodation agreement, you should understand the nature, advantages, and disadvantages of each situation.

This guide covers landlords (or head-tenants) and tenants (or sub-tenants) in a Residential Tenancy. This applies to the majority of share accommodation and residential property rental situations. To confirm it covers your situation visit What is my share accommodation situation?

Co-Tenancy Agreement

How does the agreement work?

Advantages

  • Certainty and protection of using a Residential Tenancy Agreement.
  • All co-tenants are regarded as equals.
  • Responsibility for paying rent and meeting other obligations is shared between multiple people.
  • Simplicity of one agreement between all the co-tenants and the landlord.

Disadvantages

  • The Tribunal or Court cannot deal with conflicts between co-tenants. Co-tenants must solve problems themselves.
  • All co-tenants are held liable for breaches of the agreement, even if only one co-tenant caused the breach.
  • When one co-tenant wants to leave, the other co-tenants and landlord will generally need to find a new co-tenant to move in. The leaving co-tenant can help in this process.

Sub-Tenancy Agreement

How does the agreement work?

  • Head-tenant holds agreement with sub-tenant. This is separate to the agreement between the landlord and head-tenant.
  • Head-tenant takes on the roles and responsibilities of a landlord in relation to the sub-tenant.
  • In share accommodation, the head-tenant and sub-tenant will usually share the same house, with the sub-tenant having their own room and shared access to facilities like bathrooms.
  • Using a Residential Tenancy Agreement is highly recommended.

Advantages

  • Agreement between head-tenant and sub-tenant means certainty and protection for all flatmates - rights and obligations are mandated by law if using a Residential Tenancy Agreement.
  • If using a Residential Tenancy Agreement, the Tribunal or Court can deal with disputes between the head-tenant and sub-tenant.
  • Head-tenant retains control of who lives at the house - only person who chooses flatmates and can ask sub-tenants to leave.

Disadvantages

  • No direct relationship between sub-tenant and landlord. Any problems the sub-tenant has must be directed to the head-tenant.
  • If head-tenant leaves, the sub-tenant must renegotiate a new agreement with the landlord if they want to stay at the premises.
  • Head-tenant is responsible to landlord for damage to the premises, even if caused by the sub-tenant.

Common Law Agreement

How does the agreement work?

  • All terms of the agreement can be decided between the landlord and resident - no specific rights and obligations are mandated by law. In this case, Flatmates.com.au recommends using the Flatmate Agreement, which sets out some basic terms.
  • Common law agreements are most commonly used for very flexible arrangements where the resident rents a room with access to shared facilities.
  • If more than one resident, each one has a separate agreement with the landlord.

Advantages

  • High flexibility - can agree on house rules, shorter notice periods, and other terms for the specific circumstances.
  • Landlord and residents can give very little notice of moving out if that is important for them - the law only requires that either party give ‘reasonable notice’ depending on the circumstances.

Disadvantages

  • No rights and obligations are mandated by law - this creates uncertainty and a lack of protection for both parties.
  • Agreement is only as effective as it is negotiated to be - this means that unless the landlord and resident thoroughly negotiate and write down terms for all aspects of the agreement, then it will be unclear how to resolve disputes.
  • Tribunal or Court may not be able to decide disputes because of the lack of agreed terms - usually only claims for outstanding debts can be handled by the Court.

Registered Boarding/Rooming House Agreement

How does the agreement work?

  • Most states and territories have special agreements for large, commercial boarding/rooming houses that have at least 3-5 residents (depending on the state or territory.
  • The agreements usually provide for minimum standards and basic rights and obligations.
  • Landlord will have greater control over the running of the premises - will generally have a right to access the resident’s room.

Advantages

  • Tribunal or Court can decide disputes between the landlord and a resident.
  • Minimum rights and obligations provided by law.
  • More flexible for landlord and resident - can make house rules and residents can move in and out very easily.

Disadvantages

  • Large boarding/rooming houses are often designed to specifically cater for very low-income renters and people with special needs. This will not suit many people looking for share accommodation.
  • Shorter notice periods than tenancy agreements.

Back to What is my share accommodation situation?


These legal guides provide a brief summary and introduction of the laws and regulations affecting share accommodation. They do not cover all cases in all legal jurisdictions and might not apply in your specific share accommodation situation. It is important that you use this information as a guide only and seek independent Legal Advice or consult the Relevant Acts for your specific circumstances. We do not accept any liability that may arise from the use of this information.