Shared Rooms: Australians finding new solutions to housing affordability

on 16 July 2015 by Hugh

Australians are increasingly choosing to live in shared rooms as an answer to housing affordability and to find convenient accommodation in desirable areas. Shared rooms are on the rise, so here are some simple tips for landlords and roomers.


Sharing rooms is just one of the ways Australians are meeting the challenge of housing affordability. By sharing rent and common facilities, people are finding a convenient and accessible way to live in the trendy inner city suburbs close to their workplace. Not only are shared rooms a great option for affordable accommodation but they are often a good way to make new friends and become part of the local community.

Although many Australians have been using shared rooms for decades, they are a cultural phenomenon some people may not be familiar with. Throughout Asia, Europe, and North America, living in shared rooms is a common accommodation solution that a majority of people have experienced. This is especially the case for students attending a college or university who will often share rooms for years at a time.

It is only in the last decade that Australians have realised the potential of shared rooms as housing affordability has pushed people to find innovative solutions to inner city living. Unfortunately, different cultural perspectives have meant that the prospect of sharing a room is sometimes stigmatised in Australia. However, like any rental situation, if shared rooms are run in a safe manner they are a legitimate and affordable option for convenient accommodation.

If you are providing or using shared rooms, there are a number of simple steps to follow that should improve the experience:

  • avoid overcrowded accommodation—generally there should not be more than 2 people per room
  • each person renting in a room should have a written agreement with the landlord including basic terms like weekly rent, rights and obligations of both parties, termination period, and any house rules
  • the people sharing a room should meet each other before entering an agreement with the landlord to make sure they get along. It may also be a good idea for room mates to have an informal agreement about which parts of the room they can each use and for what purpose
  • common facilities like bathrooms, kitchens, laundries, and lounge rooms should be provided with the rented room
  • each room should have facilities like a fridge and storage space. The landlord may also provide other facilities like a television or BBQ. It’s also good practice to provide a secure storage space to each resident for valuable items.
  • the rooms should all have smoke alarms and meet all fire or building safety requirements

Many shared rooms are provided by commercial operators. Most of these commercial operators will be considered boarding houses and therefore generally need planning approval from the local council or local government planning authority before they can begin operation. Landlords should consider and research this before setting up accommodation for multiple people on a commercial basis. If you are moving into a shared room run by a commercial operator, it may be worth checking whether it is officially licensed by the local government before moving in. This information can usually be found on your local council’s website.

Landlords should also be aware of any local government regulations or restrictions imposed by strata authorities in apartment buildings. Rules on shared rooms and boarding houses are imposed by governments to prevent overcrowding. strongly condemns landlords who provide illegal, overcrowded accommodation in all circumstances, but especially in shared rooms. These conditions are often unsafe and pose a risk to renters and their neighbours. Anyone operating a commercial boarding house should ensure that they comply with local government regulations.

So remember, if you are using shared rooms, always use a written agreement, avoid overcrowded accommodation, and enjoy the fun experience of meeting new friends and living in a great city location you might not otherwise be able to afford! strongly condemns landlords who provide illegal, overcrowded accommodation in all circumstances. If you suspect an advertiser of promoting an overcrowded home, please use the Report Listing link contained on their advertisement.
  • Hugh
  • Hugh is the legal educator at 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.
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