Your rights and obligations can change based on your share-housing arrangement.
If you are on the lease with other tenants, you are a co-tenant or joint tenant. This means if one co-tenant “breaches” the agreement, you are also liable to the landlord and can be held accountable for the conduct of your housemates.
Alternatively, you may be a sub-tenant if you are renting a room from one of the tenants on the lease. As a sub-tenant you have no legal relationship with the landlord, which means you are not responsible for your housemates’ conduct. You should make sure the landlord has consented in writing to you as a sub-tenant, otherwise they can kick you out if you don’t have their permission to be in the premises.
How can I leave a co-tenancy?
You must get consent to leave your lease in writing from your landlord and all other co-tenants at least 21 days before you want to move out. If they don’t reply within 21 days, they are taken to have consented to you leaving. If you follow this procedure and gain consent, you can leave your lease agreement and the co-tenancy will continue for the remaining tenants.
During a fixed term agreement, the co-tenants or the landlord can refuse your request for any reason. If they refuse, you can apply to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) for an order allowing you to leave the agreement.
You can also move out anyway but you will still be required to pay rent and will still be bound by the agreement.
In periodic tenancies, co-tenants and landlords can refuse consent only if it is reasonable and they get an order from ACAT. They have to apply to ACAT within 21 days of you notifying them you want to leave.
If ACAT grants the order or the other parties challenge you leaving the co-tenancy, you can still move out by providing a “notice of intention to vacate” with 21 days’ notice. This would bring the entire tenancy agreement to an end (i.e. end it for all the parties).
How should I join a co-tenancy?
To join a co-tenancy, an existing tenant must seek consent in writing from the other tenants and the landlord at least 14 days before you want to move in. If they don’t respond within 14 days, they are taken to have consented to you moving in. The existing tenancy agreement continues, with you joining on to the agreement.
Co-tenants can refuse consent for any reason. The landlord can only refuse if it is objectively reasonable. If the other co-tenants have consented, but the landlord has not, the existing co-tenant seeking consent can apply to ACAT for an order. You become a co-tenant and can move in from the day they make the application to ACAT. If ACAT decides against you, you will have to move out within 21 days.
If you don’t follow this process and move in, you will have no legal rights as a tenant and the landlord and other tenants can kick you out.
How does a bond work in a co-tenancy?
When you leave or join as a co-tenant, the bond remains with the ACT Revenue Office as the original tenancy agreement continues. The incoming, and existing co-tenants need to arrange the bond between themselves.
When you join a co-tenancy, you need to pay your share of the bond within 14 days of moving in.
When you leave a co-tenancy, the remaining tenants must pay you your share of the bond within 14 days. They could arrange for the incoming co-tenant to pay you directly. However, they can deduct any money that you would be liable for (like damage or unpaid rent).
The incoming and remaining tenants are responsible for notifying the ACT Revenue Office of the changes by completing a ‘co-tenant change form’ which can be accessed here
Responsibility for damage before you enter a co-tenancy
As a tenant joining a co-tenancy, it is important you ask for a copy of the last inspection report and check the current condition of the premises. This is because you are assuming liability for any damage to the property or unpaid rent during the entire co-tenancy, even if it has predated when you moved in. If there is any damage from when the tenancy began it would be an issue in terms of adjusting the bond and also reaching agreement with the continuing co-tenants.
From 3 March 2021 onwards, you can apply to ACAT to resolve issues between co-tenants, as long as it is related to your tenancy agreement (eg. bond arrangements).
For more information about your rights and obligations as a tenant, please read the ACT Renting Book. You can also access share-housing information sheets here.
NOTICE: This is legal information and is for general informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. These materials have been prepared for ANU Students by the ANUSA Legal Service. If you would like legal advice please book in for an appointment with the ANUSA Legal Service.
[The legal information on this page was last reviewed on: 6 January 2022]