Living in a boarding house

Boarding house residents, called boarders or lodgers, don’t have the same control as a tenant does. Often a boarding house resident only has the right to occupy a room and to share other facilities such as the kitchen and bathroom.

If you are a boarder, you should sign a written contract called an occupancy agreement. This agreement gives you certainty about your legal rights and responsibilities and also contains notice periods for rent increases and eviction notices.

Rights as a boarding house resident

Residents of registrable boarding houses have a set of rights called occupancy principles. These are listed below.

Before you move in you have a right to:

  • have a written occupancy agreement between you and the boarding house proprietor
  • be told how much the occupancy fee (rent) will be
  • know whether there will be additional charges. For example, you may be charged for utilities such as gas, electricity or water. The amount charged for these utilities must be based on the cost of providing the utility and a reasonable estimate of how much you have used
  • be informed of the house rules
  • be told if you have to pay a security deposit and how much it will be. It cannot be more than the equivalent of 2 weeks occupancy fee.
  • know how and why the occupancy agreement can be terminated, including how much notice will be given.

While you live there you have:

  • a right to live in premises that are reasonably clean and secure, and in a reasonable state of repair
  • a right to have quiet enjoyment of the place in which you live
  • a right to be given receipts for any money you pay to the proprietor or manager of the boarding house
  • a right to be given 4 weeks written notice of any increase in the occupancy fee
  • a right to have any charges for utilities limited to the cost of providing the utility plus a reasonable estimate or measure of how much you have used
  • a right to not to be ‘fined’ for a breach of the occupancy agreement or house rules. If you breach the agreement or the house rules you can still be asked to leave.
  • a responsibility to comply with the house rules and the terms of the occupancy agreement, as long as these do not conflict with the occupancy principles outlined here
  • a responsibility to try to resolve any disputes you have with the boarding house proprietor or manager. You can apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) for help if you cannot resolve a dispute.
  • a responsibility to give the proprietor reasonable access to your room for inspections or repairs. You must be given written notice of the need for access, except in an emergency.

When you move out you have a right to:

  • have your deposit refunded within 14 days of moving out minus any deductions allowed under the Boarding Houses Act. Allowable deductions include unpaid occupancy fees (rent), the reasonable cost of repairs for damage caused by you or your guests, the reasonable cost of cleaning areas you occupied and didn’t leave reasonably clean, and the cost of replacing locks you removed or added without permission.
  • be given reasonable written notice of eviction. The notice period should also be set out in the occupancy agreement. In deciding how much notice to give you, the boarding house proprietor or manager can take into account the safety of other people living or working at the boarding house.

Occupancy agreement

An occupancy agreement is a contract between you and the boarding house. Boarding house proprietors are legally required to enter into a written occupancy agreement with you but if the proprietor doesn’t do this, your rights are still protected by law and you can enforce them. It’s a good idea to ask for a written occupancy agreement, as this will make it easier for you to understand your rights and responsibilities. A standard occupancy agreement (PDF, 509.09 KB) has been developed for boarding house proprietors and residents to use if they choose.

If you have a dispute with the boarding house proprietor or their agent about the occupancy principles which cannot be resolved, you can apply to NCAT for a resolution.

Responsibilities to the proprietor

Your responsibilities are usually set out in your occupancy agreement and any house rules for the boarding house.

It’s important to remember that terms in the occupancy agreement cannot be inconsistent with the occupancy principles. For example, the occupancy agreement cannot say that the proprietor can enter your room whenever he/she likes.

House rules

It’s common for boarding houses to have house rules. These are additional rules to the terms in the occupancy agreement. The house rules outline your responsibilities to other residents and you agree to follow them when you move in. For example, you need to clean up after yourself when you use the kitchen. The house rules cannot be inconsistent with the occupancy principles.

Non registrable boarding house

If you live in a boarding house that is not registrable then you are not covered by the Boarding Houses Act 2012.

Accommodation must still be reasonably fit for the purpose, and of a quality and level of safety under the Australian Consumer Law. Go to the consumer guarantees page or call 13 32 20 for more information.

The boarding house must also comply with other laws about hygiene, overcrowding and fire safety. These laws are enforced by the local council. The Local Government Directory provides contact details for all local councils in NSW.

Even if you live in a non-registrable boarding house, you and the boarding house proprietor can voluntarily enter into an agreement which includes some or all of the occupancy principles listed in the Act.

Assisted boarding house

Assisted boarding houses are licensed by Ageing Disability and Home Care (ADHC) to provide accommodation to two or more residents with additional needs. It’s possible that not all residents in assisted boarding houses have additional needs. Visit the Family and Community Services website, email or call your nearest ADHC office.

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