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Common scenarios in share housing

Some examples of common scenarios in share house, co-rental or sublet rental arrangements with some options for the renter.

This page has information about the issues and options involved in the following scenarios common in share house, co-tenancy and sublet housing arrangements:

Co-rental, fixed term, all renters named on lease


One renter refuses to pay rent

Caller has lived in the current property for 2 years. Shares with 2 other people, one of whom just moved in a few weeks ago. All renters signed a new 12-month fixed term agreement last week. The new renter has not paid rent since they moved in. The 2 other renters paid the new renter's share to avoid falling into rent arrears.

Issues

Caller wants to know their options if this new renter continues to refuse to pay their share of the rent.

Options

All renters are jointly and severally liable for the rent. The renters who are owed money from the other renter can pursue outstanding rent as a civil debt. They could follow the Consumer Affairs Victoria process for mediation through the Dispute Settlement Centre Victoria.

See:

One renter wants to leave

Where there is a fixed-term agreement, a co-renter will need the rental provider and the other co-renters to agree.

Issues

All parties to the rental agreement are jointly and severally liable for the rent until the end of the fixed term.

Options

The renter who wants to leave should try to find another person willing to take over their share of the rental. If they do this, the rental provider and other co-renters will have to agree.

All other co-renters can try to help find another person to move in.

See:

One renter moves out

One of the renters in a co-rental fixed term lease arrangement loses their job and moves out of the property. The remaining renters find it difficult to find another person to share the rent.

Issues

The other renters want to break the lease because they can no longer afford the rent without another renter.

Options

They cannot unilaterally terminate according to VCAT. The remaining renters can seek an assignment of rental agreement to another person (that is, find a replacement renter), or negotiate leaving with the rental provider.

See Co-rentals and Consumer Affairs Victoria—Ending a co-renting arrangement(opens in a new window)

Shared rental dispute

There is a dispute between co-renters in relation to:

  • leaving the premises
  • disputes over bills

Issues

The Residential Tenancies Act 1997 is largely silent on these kinds of disputes in a shared rental arrangement. It is unclear where co-renters can go to resolve disputes.

Options

The parties in dispute can try to work out a resolution using the Dispute Settlement Centre Victoria.

See:

Periodic rental one renter wants to leave

Issues

One co-renter wants to leave a shared house. The others are not happy. The rental agreement is month-to-month.

Options

Renter can issue a notice of intention to vacate to the rental provider and the other renters, giving 28 days' notice. The remaining renters can try to find another, pay the additional rent themselves, or move out also.

The renter who is leaving should ask for a property inspection and condition report to be done, to ensure they are not held responsible for any damage done after they leave. At very least the should take photos of the state of the place when they leave.

See 'one renter wants to leave' in Co-rentals.

Disputes about bonds

issues

One co-renter leaves, gets bond money paid by the incoming co-renter. They do not let the Rental Bond Authority know about this.

Options

The co-renter whose name is not officially recognised as having paid a share of the bond can apply to VCAT for a decision about bond. This is clearly intended to assist people who are or who have lived in share accommodation. They must apply within 14 days of the rental agreement ending.

See 'Bond owed to someone else' in Residential tenancy—Bond repayments.

Subletting by head renter

The head renter sub-lets the property through social media (Facebook marketplace). They may or may not have permission from their rental provider. Typically, the caller has no idea who the rental provider or agent is. The agreement is like a periodic rental agreement, but the renter will be asked to pay rent in advance (between 1 and 6 months) and rent can also incorporate an amount to cover the cost of utilities. The person sub-letting is usually not asked to pay bond.

Renter wants to leave

The renter wants to leave earlier than planned and wants some of the rent back that they paid in advance. Similar scenario but head-renter threatens the caller and tells them they must pay rent.

Options

This is still a rental agreement.

Parties can apply to VCAT if negotiation does not work.

See:

Property not clean

Where the property is dirty or there are other issues with the property.

Options

Sub-renter can apply to VCAT.

Renter not given exclusive possession

The renter may not have been given exclusive possession.

Options

If the caller does not have exclusive possession, then they are not a renter and not protected by the Residential Tenancies Act 1997. However. the question is complex. For example, exclusive possession may be found where the person has their own room but the door cannot be locked, where despite the lack of a lock, the other renters do not enter the room. It may be possible in this situation to argue that they did have exclusive possession and so are covered by the Act.

The issue of whether or not the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 ('the Act') applies, including grey areas where the Act might apply. The caller can be advised to make an application to VCAT to have that issue determined as a threshold issue, together with their substantive issues.

See:

Renter sexually harassed by head renter

Options

If a renter is sexually harassed by the head renter this is a breach of both the Equal Opportunity Act and the Residential Tenancy Act 1997.

See Residential tenancy—Protections from violence when renting and Discrimination—Sexual harassment.

Boarder

Caller is an elderly woman on a very low income living in a house she owns. She has 2 people living in the house who she describes as 'boarders'. They have rooms with locks and shared access to kitchen, bathroom and laundry.

One of the boarders has been behaving erratically and threateningly in the house and was recently hospitalised for mental health issues.

Issues

Caller feels unsafe and wants to evict the boarder. She wants to know where she can get advice.

Options

VLA cannot assist her. Suggest that she calls Consumer Affairs Victoria.

See Consumer Affairs Victoria—Contact us(opens in a new window).


Unsure whether or not the Residential Tenancy Act 1997 applies?

Sometimes it is not clear whether or not the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 ('the Act') applies. Under these circumstances, the caller can be advised to make an application to VCAT to have that issue determined as a threshold issue, together with their substantive issues in dispute.

See:

More information

Legislation

Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)

See Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic)

See Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

justice connect

This not-for-profit organisation (formerly called PILCH) is committed to improving access to justice and protecting human rights. Their site has information for lawyers and advocates to help people who are homeless. The housing and tenancy section has information divided into starting, during and ending a tenancy. There is also a section about dealing with the Department of Health and Human Services—Office of Housing and a list of housing services.

See Justice connect—Is your client a tenant, resident or licensee?(opens in a new window)

Tenants Victoria

See Tenants Victoria—Contact(opens in a new window).

Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria

See Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria(opens in a new window).

Consumer Affairs Victoria

Consumer Affairs Victoria has information about shared households, forms and rental transfers.

See:

Updated