Taken from the Tenants Union NSW information sheet

If your landlord (or their agent) lives in your home, it is likely that you are considered a boarder or lodger. There are some “principles” that outline your rights and responsibilities.

1. State of premises

Your home should be clean, in good repair, and be reasonably secure.

2. Rules

There may be rule, e.g., how much notice you have to give to move out, when you can have visitors, or how noisy you’re allowed to be. You should know what the rules are before you move in. Consider these carefully when you decide if you want to live there.

3. Penalties prohibited

You cannot be fined for breaching the rules of the house. This does not mean you do not have to pay to repair something you have broken.

4. Quiet enjoyment of the premises

The landlord cannot stop you from occupying and “enjoying” your room, or using the common areas of the house as long as you do not interfere with the same rights of others. This does not mean that others in the house cannot make noise.

5. Inspections and repairs

The landlord has to maintain the home in good repair, which includes being able to inspect your room. This can only happen at a “reasonable” time. For example, they cannot clean your room at 3am. However, if the landlord thought your room might be on fire, e.g., they could see smoke or feel heat, the landlord can enter your room without notice.

6. Notice of increase of occupancy fee

The landlord can increase the cost of your room if they give you at least four weeks’ notice.

7. Utility charges

The landlord can charge you for utilities (electricity, gas, water and oil), if you were told when you moved in that you would be charged, and the charge is based on the actual cost with a “reasonable” approximation of your share of the bill. For example, if the bill for your four person apartment was $200, you should not be charge $150. Be aware that running an electric fan or bar heater uses a lot more electricity than an oil or gas heater.

8. Payment of security deposit

The landlord can ask for a security deposit, sometimes called a bond, of not more than the equivalent of two weeks occupancy fee (rent). Make sure you get a written receipt, even if you paid by bank transfer. When you move out they must return this deposit, minus the cost of repairing any damage you or your guests caused, within 14 days. To avoid paying for someone else’s damage, make sure that you take photos of any damage present when you move in, and lots of photos of the room in good repair when you move out.

9. Information about termination

You should know how much notice they need to give you to ask you to move out. They must also give you a reason to leave.

10. Notice of eviction

The landlord cannot evict you without “reasonable” notice, in writing. Reasonable notice can be different amounts of time depending on why you are being evicted. For example, if you are a threat to the wellbeing of the other residents you might only get a couple of days notice, but if you are being evicted because the landlord wants to renovate your room, that notice period should be much longer.

11. Use of alternative dispute resolution

If you have a dispute with your landlord you both should use a “reasonable” dispute resolution mechanism, e.g., a Community Justice Centre or the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

12. Written receipts

The landlord must give you written receipts for any money you pay, including occupancy fees (rent), security deposit (bond), or bills. Get this in addition to any record you get from your bank for electronic bank transfers. Take a photo of each receipt and email it to yourself, so you always have a copy.

If you have any questions about your rights and responsibilities as a boarder/lodger or tenant, please contact an SRC Caseworker by emailing help@src.usyd.edu.au.