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A co-tenancy is when two or more generally unrelated people rent together on the same tenancy agreement, such as a share house.
Co-tenancy is different from sub-letting and rooming arrangements, which are two other common arrangements that occur in shared living.
Sub-letting: A rental agreement where a tenant rents out all or part of a premises to another person.
Rooming arrangement: Tenants live in the same property but are on separate tenancy agreements. Each tenancy agreement should designate which part of the premises the tenant is renting and therefore liable for.
Rooming arrangements are ideal for shared tenancies because they improve protections for tenants and can make it easier for lessors/agents and tenants to agree on issues such as bonds and who is responsible for damages.
If you are in a co-tenancy, you and your co-tenants are recognised as one party, so you share responsibility for things like paying rent and looking after the premises.
Co-tenants must decide who is responsible for paying rent and bills and how much is payable by each party. It is a good idea to put this in writing. You will also need to organise for that payment to be made to the lessor/agent on time. It is likely the tenancy agreement will make each co‑tenant personally liable for the whole rent amount, and so if one co-tenant does not pay their share, the others will need to cover the difference, regardless of the agreement between the co-tenants.
If a security bond has been charged, it must be lodged with the Bond Administrator for the tenancy. Each contributor must be listed against the bond as a tenant of the property. Costs for damage caused by your co-tenants can be recovered from your bond contribution, due to your joint liability for the condition of the property.
Sometimes in shared tenancies, co-tenants will change during the term of the current tenancy agreement. In these cases, you might agree with the lessor/agent to terminate the tenancy agreement and put a new one in place. Otherwise the lessor/agent can vary the tenancy agreement to remove the vacating tenant and/or add the incoming tenant.
A lessor/agent can disagree to ending or varying a tenancy before the end of the agreed term, except under certain circumstances.
When one co-tenant moves out during the term of a tenancy agreement, they must negotiate to have their name removed from the tenancy agreement. If your co-tenant moves out but their name remains on the tenancy agreement, they can still be held responsible for payment of rent and other obligations.
If your lessor/agent has agreed to remove a co-tenant from a lease they will have to provide an outgoing property condition report to the vacating tenant. If there is need for maintenance, repairs or cleaning that is deemed the responsibility of the vacating tenant, the cost can be recovered from their contribution to the bond.
You should settle bond monies privately, then sign a Variation of Security Bond form to be lodged by the lessor/agent.
When a co-tenant moves in or replaces an outgoing tenant, the lessor/agent should provide an up-to-date property condition report to the new co-tenant. An incoming tenant cannot be held liable for the condition of the property before they moved in.
The lessor/agent must vary the tenancy agreement to list the new co-tenant, and lodge a Variation of Security Bond form to add their name to the bond. You should settle bond monies privately before signing the form.
Co-tenants can be held jointly responsible for any breaches of the tenancy agreement because they are recognised as one party. If a co-tenant is unable to pay rent, causes damage to the property by negligence or is a nuisance to neighbours, it could compromise your tenancy at the property too.
Consumer Protection is not able to assist with disputes between co-tenants because they are private matters. It is a good idea to have certain arrangements with your co-tenants in writing, such as payment of rent and property maintenance. This helps avoid major disputes.
One way to avoid common complications is to enter into separate tenancy agreements, or rooming arrangements, with the lessor/agent. Call Consumer Protection on 1300 304 054 for further information or advice.
When all co-tenants move out, it should be similar to when a typical lease ends. However, there may be some private matters to settle between co-tenants, such as cleaning the property, transferring bond monies and ownership of shared belongings.
For more information, you can call Consumer Protection on 1300 304 054.