Boarders and lodgers
Boarders or lodgers rights and responsibilities
Boarders or lodgers are not covered by the Residential Tenancies Act 1987, but they still have rights and responsibilities
Boarders and lodgers are a special group of home-dwellers in terms of the law. as they are not tenants, they are not covered by the Residential Tenancies Act, but instead have rights under common law provisions.
It is not always easy to distinguish whether a person is a tenant, a boarder or a lodger.
A tenant is a person who pays rent and in return is granted a right to occupy a residential premises, whether exclusively or not, as long as they are not a boarder or lodger. A tenant is more likely to have exclusive possession than a boarder or lodger.
A right of exclusive possession means the right to exclude anyone, including the landlord, from the premises. This is different from exclusive occupation or use where you may have your own room in which no one else can stay without your permission.
A boarder generally stays at another person's house paying rent with meals supplied by the landlord.
A lodger generally stays at another person's house and pays rent but is generally not supplied with meals.
The following factors may assist you to determine whether you are a tenant, a boarder or a lodger, however only a Court can make a binding ruling about this.
Depending on the documents that make up the agreement and the circumstances of your situation, you are more likely to be a boarder or lodger if:
The landlord exerts control and authority over the the whole premises, that is the boarder or lodger is entitled to live in the premises but cannot call the place his own.
The landlord provides attendance or services (e.g. cleaning, linen or meals) which require the landlord or his servants to exercise unrestricted access to and use of the premises.
There are house rules.
The landlord/owner/representative lives on site.
The length of time of the agreement / the length of time you are given permission to stay in the house (generally on a short-term basis).
The landlord and yourself only need to give a very short period of notice to leave – see Notice to leave below.
The landlord is the person who provides the room(s) and gives permission to the boarder or lodger to live there. If you are a boarder or lodger, your landlord keeps control and authority over the house, even if you have a key, and can come into the house without giving any notice.
If your room has a lock that physically stops the landlord from entering, this does not automatically mean you have exclusive possession of the room. The 'house rules' may state that the manager, landlord and/or owner is allowed to come into your room without your permission.
It is your responsibility to keep your room clean and tidy and report any damage you have caused other than normal wear and tear.
If you are renting all or part of a house from an existing or head tenant, the head tenant should have obtained approval from the landlord before you moved in. If this is the case, whether you are a sub-tenant or lodger depends upon the agreement reached between you and the head tenant.
If you and the head tenant agreed you could have exclusive possession of all or part of the house (where you have the right to exclude anyone, including the landlord), you are a sub-tenant. This agreement must have been approved by the landlord before you moved in.
If you are staying in a room and paying rent to the head tenant as a lodger, the head tenant still needs the landlord's approval. However, you won't have exclusive possession of any part of the house.
Be aware there are other factors that may impact on whether you are a sub-tenant or lodger. Each case needs to be determined by looking at the particular agreement reached between the parties.
If your employer provides you with a place to live in, you may be a boarder, lodger or tenant, depending on the circumstances.
You are likely to be a boarder or lodger if:
- your employer provides you with a room in his or her home in return for services such as gardening, cleaning or general handiwork, instead of paying rent, or
- you are provided with a room and/or meals as part of your employment.
In both circumstances, your right to live in your employer's home may exist only as long as you continue to be employed.
If you rent a house provided by your employer which is not the employer's own home, you are probably a tenant and will have rights under the Residential Tenancies Act, even if your employment comes to an end. You will need to check your rental tenancy agreement for any special conditions relating to your employment.
Whatever the arrangement, the Department of Commerce recommends you put the agreement in writing and make sure it is signed by you and your landlord.
Your landlord may ask you to leave - without any reason - at any time.
They must give you 'reasonable notice' to leave the premises and take your belongings. This may have been agreed to before you moved in - check any written agreement you may have. You should be able to agree a reasonable time with your landlord, but be aware you may have to move out with short notice. What amounts to 'reasonable notice' depends on the circumstances of each situation, e.g. if you need to make arrangements to move furniture.
As a common courtesy, you should let your landlord know about a week in advance if you want to move out. You should give the landlord time to do a check of your room and arrange for the return of any security bond you may have paid.
If you have a problem with your landlord, you should always check the terms of your agreement and first try to resolve it by discussing it with him or her.
In some instances, you may be able to take civil action in the Magistrate's Court. However, you should seek legal advice first. You should keep in mind that if you have failed to meet your responsibilities as a boarder or lodger, your landlord may be entitled to take civil action against you.
For more details on your rights and responsibilities as a boarder or lodger, call the Department of Commerce advice line on 1300 30 40 54.
Advice can also be sought from:
Legal Aid information line - 1300 65 05 79
Citizens' Advice Bureau - 9221 5711