Legal Introduction for Share Accommodation
Finding or offering share accommodation is a fun social interaction, however, a few simple steps can make the whole process a lot simpler and safer for everyone.
Discussing rights and responsibilities as a tenant or landlord can be awkward when moving in with someone you barely know - at times it can even feel like a breach of the trust between future flatmates.
However the opposite is more often true, the best new flatmates are those who are comfortable & happy with their new situation because they know all their rights and responsibilities.
Legal documents, contracts and residential tenancy agreements can be daunting but this is not something to be scared of, it’s generally very easy to take a few simple steps to protect yourself. Having a brief understanding of the law and the correct processes will give you protection again loss of rent or bond, damage to the property, protection from misunderstands and will set out the rights and obligations of everyone involved.
Must dos for all flatmates
1. View the property and meet the flatmates
This is not a legal requirement but its a crucial step. This is going to be your future home! Make sure you know as much as possible about the place and the people you are going to share it with. Inspecting a property and meeting the flatmates is the only real way of getting a real gut feel for what it’s going to be like.
If you are out of state or country and are unable to visit in person then make sure you organise a video meeting and tour on Skype or FaceTime. Alternatively, consider booking a hostel or hotel for your first week and take the time to meet your future flatmates in person when you arrive.
If you are uncomfortable going to an inspection alone, organise to meet your fellow flatmates or landlord in a coffeeshop for an informal chat or bring along a friend to the inspection.
2. Discuss the details before the tenancy starts
A majority of issues would not have occurred if details of the tenancy had been discussed upfront.
Use our free Pre-Agreement Checklist to make sure you and your new flatmate have covered all the important points before the tenancy starts including:
- Rent including when it is due and how it is paid
- Deposit and how its being held
- Who is responsible for bills and how they are split
- Notice period at the end the tenancy
- House rules and any other relevant details
3. Secure your tenancy
Turning up to find your room has been given to someone else or finding our that your new flatmate has changed their mind (which could mean lost rent!) is a terribly frustrating experience.
Once the tenancy has been agreed both parties deserve to have the security of know that it is going to go ahead. Use our Pre-Agreement Checklist to discuss the basic details including move in date and consider using a Holding Deposit.
4. Have a written agreement
Even sharing with best friends can go wrong and many disagreements occur because flatmates cannot remember what was agreed when the tenancy started. Most states offer a standard tenancy agreement form, which can be downloaded for free from our Tenancy Agreement guide.
5. Register the bond
In most states you must register the bond by law. Tenants are generally entitled to receive the Bond back at the end of the tenancy unless there has been a breach of the agreement. Common breaches include damage to the property or unpaid rent. For full details read our Bonds guide.
6. Payment and collection of rent
Rent in share accommodation is most commonly paid via bank transfer or in cash. If you pay via cash make sure you get a receipt every time (This can be as simple as an email or an SMS from your flatmates/landlord confirming they have received the money and what it is for).
As a tenant is is your obligation to pay your rent on time and in full otherwise your bond and occupation of the property will be in jeopardy. Read more about in our Rent guide.
Make sure to agree how many weeks in advance rent will be collected - many states do not allow more than four weeks rent in advance, unless mutually agreed.
7. Give the correct notice when ending the agreement
Before any tenancy starts you should agree on the notice period that either party must give to terminate the tenancy. Its not OK to leave without notice or to kick someone out of a property without the correct notice. Many states have specific rules on notice periods and termination.
Transferring money safely
When paying your deposit, bond or rent by cash make sure you get a receipt. With modern phones this can be as simple as an SMS or email confirming the amount, date and what it is for. Keep a copy of this incase you need it later.
Never ever transfer money to a bank account outside of Australia or use a untraceable money transfer system such as WESTERN UNION. If anyone asks you to do this on any website it is likely to be a scam and you are almost guaranteed to lose your money.
If this ever happens on Flatmates.com.au, cease all contact and report the member immediately so we can investigate and take the appropriate action.
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. We do not accept any liability that may arise from the use of this information.