Commissioner's Blog: Boarders and lodgers have rights too
Rising rents and a lack of available homes have prompted many Western Australians to seek out share houses as a way of keeping a roof over their heads at a price they can afford.
Before taking on a housemate, or becoming one yourself, it’s crucial that everyone understands the arrangement they have agreed to, as the law applies differently to boarders and lodgers than it does to co-tenants or sub-tenants.
If you pay rent to stay at someone else’s house, then you’re likely to be considered a lodger. If meals are supplied too, you’re probably a boarder. Because neither boarders nor lodgers are technically considered ‘tenants’, they aren’t covered by the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 (which protects co-tenants and sub-tenants), but instead have rights under both common law and the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).
Under the ACL, the property must be fit for purpose, meaning it must be safe, habitable and meet your needs as discussed with the landlord at the beginning.
Should a major problem arise with your boarder or lodger arrangement – such as a serious issue (or a series of smaller issues) that would’ve stopped you moving in – the landlord must fix the issue in a reasonable time.
In rooming or boarding arrangements that continue over a number of years, there may be changes to the services that were initially agreed upon and the landlord must let you know about them as soon as possible. For major changes the landlord must seek your consent to continue with the change, or offer you a new agreement at a lower cost.
The landlord is also not allowed to making false or misleading representations about the property or services, such as claiming there is air-conditioning when there isn’t, or agreeing to provide a wide variety of meals when they don’t.
If you have a problem with the property or the services provided, contact your landlord directly in the first instance to give them the opportunity to fix the problem. If this doesn’t work, we may be able to help negotiate an agreed outcome.
If you are not sure whether you are a boarder, lodger, co-tenant or sub-tenant, contact Consumer Protection email@example.com or 1300 30 40 54 to discuss. In some circumstances it may be necessary for a court to make a binding decision about which one you are.
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