South Australia Tenant's Rights and Obligations

During the agreement, the tenant has a number of general rights and obligations. It is important for both landlords and tenants to read this section to understand their roles.

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?

What rights does the tenant have?

Right to Vacant Possession at beginning of tenancy
The tenant has the right to have vacant possession of the premises from the day they move in. Vacant possession means that no one apart from the tenant, including the landlord, is occupying or has the right to occupy the rented premises. When the landlord intends to also use parts of the premises, it is therefore very important that the tenancy agreement states which parts of the property are exclusively for use by the tenant and which parts are for shared use.

In shared accommodation, vacant possession is particularly important. If a person is renting a room in a shared house, they will have exclusive possession over their room, and shared use of the other facilities and rooms of the house, such as the bathroom or kitchen. In this situation, the tenant is therefore entitled to vacant possession of their room. The tenancy agreement should clearly state which parts of the property are for exclusive use by the tenant, and which parts are for shared use.

Right to Quiet Enjoyment of the rented premises
The tenant has the right to quiet enjoyment of the rented premises without interruption by the landlord. This means that the landlord is under an obligation not to do anything or to allow anything to happen which may interfere with the reasonable peace, comfort or privacy of the tenant during the tenancy.

There is no set list of things that are interferences or interruptions of quiet enjoyment. However, there are a number of common examples where the landlord is infringing on the rights of the tenant:

  • attempting to evict a tenant when not allowed to do so
  • the landlord entering the premises when not allowed to do so
  • the landlord retaining or using part of the premises contrary to the tenancy agreement
  • excessive noise
  • excessive dust
  • interference by the landlord with facilities provided with the tenancy
  • failing to carry out repairs when required to do so
  • interfering with the tenant’s access to the rented premises
  • overcrowding of the rented premises caused by the landlord

In share accommodation where the landlord lives in the same property, respecting the tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment is particularly important. The landlord should understand that the tenant has the right to use rented premises without unreasonable or unnecessary disturbances. The best way to avoid any problems arising is for the landlord and tenant to discuss at the beginning of the tenancy how the share accommodation will work in practice.

The landlord must also take reasonable steps to prevent any neighbouring tenants of the landlord from interfering with the tenant’s quiet enjoyment of the property. This means that if the landlord is aware that their neighbouring tenants are interfering with the quiet enjoyment of the rented premises by the affected tenant, then they must take action to stop or prevent the neighbouring tenants from doing so. What amounts to ‘reasonable steps’ will depend on how serious the interference is by the neighbours.

In share accommodation where the landlord has multiple tenants under separate agreements in one property, it is very important that the landlord ensures that the tenants do not interfere with each other’s quiet enjoyment of the premises. The best way to avoid any problems from arising is to introduce the tenants to each other and discuss how the share accommodation will work in practice.

The landlord does not have responsibility for neighbours of the tenant who are not also tenants of the landlord.

What obligations does the tenant have?

What the tenant must do

Obligation to keep premises clean
The tenant must keep the premises reasonably clean during the tenancy. This generally means that the tenant should aim to keep the rented premises in the same or a better state of cleanliness than it was at the start of the tenancy.

Obligation to return premises clean
At the end of the tenancy, the tenant must return the premises in a reasonable condition and reasonably clean. Generally, this means that the tenant should thoroughly clean the premises before leaving and make sure it is in at least as good a condition as it was when they moved in. A good way to ensure that the premises is in a reasonable condition is to think about what the next tenant would expect when they move in.

Obligation to notify landlord of damage to premises
The tenant must notify the landlord of any damage to the premises or other property that comes with the agreement. As soon as the tenant becomes aware of any damage, they should inform the landlord as soon as possible regardless of whether the tenant caused the damage. Even if the tenant did not cause the damage, they may be liable for some of the costs of repairing the damage if those costs increase because they did not notify the landlord earlier.

Obligation to replace or compensate for lost/destroyed property
If any property leased with the premises, e.g. fridge, is damaged or lost while in the tenant’s care, then the tenant must either replace the property or compensate the landlord for it. If replacing the property, the tenant should ensure that the replacement is of the same standard as the original.

What the tenant must NOT do

Obligation to not damage the premises
The tenant must not intentionally or negligently cause or allow damage to the rented premises. Damage can be to any part of the premises. It is for the landlord to prove that the tenant actually caused the damage.

Obligation to not use premises illegally
The tenant must not use the rented premises for an illegal purpose. Examples of an illegal purpose include: cultivating, storing or hiding illegal drugs, storing or hiding stolen goods, or operating as an illegal brothel or casino.

Obligation to not cause a nuisance
The tenant must not cause or allow nuisance. Examples of nuisances can include excessive noise, violence, unpleasant smells, rubbish, car parking, criminal activity, harassing neighbours, or other offensive behaviour.

Obligation to not interfere with peace, comfort, privacy of neighbours
The tenant must not interfere with the reasonable peace, comfort, or privacy of any neighbours. This basically means that the tenant must not engage in any antisocial behaviour towards the people living around them. A neighbour is any person who the tenant would reasonably consider to be affected by the anti-social behaviour, and can extend beyond people just living next door.

Liability of the tenant for other people at rented premises 

Tenants will be held liable for any breach of the above obligations that are made by people who are lawfully on the rented premises. For example, the tenant will be liable for damage to the premises caused by their family members, visitors, sub-tenants / boarders, or trades persons hired by the tenant. The tenant will generally not be liable for the actions of people who are not lawfully on the premises, e.g. trespassers like burglars or people whose permission to be at the premises has been revoked by the tenant.

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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.