Understanding shared tenancies

WA Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety

As WA’s rental market tightens and living costs rise, more renters may be considering taking on a house-mate to relieve some of the pressure.

Before heading into a shared tenancy, it is important for everyone to understand the arrangement they have signed up to, as the law applies differently depending on whether it’s a co-tenancy or a rooming arrangement, and also if you are sub-letting.

In co-tenancies, there is a single tenancy agreement, meaning all tenants are jointly responsible for the full rent amount, bond and condition of the entire property. This means that if your co-tenant misses a payment, for example, the whole household could be at risk of breaching the tenancy agreement unless they can cover the outstanding amount.

Consumer Protection is generally unable to help resolve disagreements between co-tenants, as they are private matters, so that’s why we recommend putting everything of importance into writing to protect yourself. This may include agreements about how and when rent and bills are paid, bond contributions, responsibility for every day cleaning and maintenance of the property, ownership of any shared belongings and use of common areas.

A rooming arrangement is different, as each tenant has their own tenancy agreement, meaning they are only responsible for paying their own share of the rent and bills, and are not responsible if another tenant doesn’t meet their obligations. Rooming arrangements are common in student accommodation and purpose-built living complexes, however it can work in share houses as well.

In sub-letting arrangements, an existing tenant rents out some or all of the property, making them the ‘head tenant’ and effectively the landlord. This means they are responsible for lodging a bond, collecting money for rent and bills, conducting property condition reports and inspections, as well as organising repairs and maintenance through their own landlord or agent. In sub-letting arrangements, your tenancy depends on the head tenant’s right to sub-let, and your tenancy will lapse when their tenancy agreement ends.

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