Factsheet 14: Boarders and lodgers
This factsheet explains the rights of boarders and lodgers under NSW law.
Boarders and lodgers (or ‘marginal renters’) are renters who pay for the right to occupy residential premises but who not covered by the Residential Tenancies Act 2010.
The Act excludes specific types of premises and types of agreement from its coverage. If you rent in one of the following types of premises, or under one of the following types of agreements, you will be excluded from the Act.
Types of premises:
Types of agreement:
Unlike tenants, boarders and lodgers do not have the right to exclusive occupation of the premises – the landlord retains ‘mastery’ over the premises.
Boarders usually get meals as part of their agreement whereas lodgers do not.
If you rent a room in a boarding house, whether you are a boarder/lodger or a tenant will depend on how much control the landlord (or live-in manager or caretaker) has over the premises.
You are likely to be a tenant rather than a boarder/lodger, if you:
The Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal (CTTT) can decide whether you are a tenant or a boarder/lodger:
If the CTTT decides it has jurisdiction to handle the matter then you are a tenant. If not, you may be a boarder/lodger.
Contact your local Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service (TAAS) for advice.
Ask for receipts when you pay rent. If the landlord will not give you receipts, keep a record such as a diary of cash payments. Or, pay by cheque or money order and keep the stubs in a book.
If you pay a bond, be sure to get a receipt.
Encourage the landlord to deposit your bond money with NSW Fair Trading (NSWFT). However, they are not required to by law.
If you live in a boarding house, you may want to contact the local council for help in getting repairs done. Some councils have rules about the minimum size of rooms, fire regulations and ‘registration’ of boarding houses.
If the boarding house does not meet the council’s requirements, the council may order the landlord to do certain repairs. (However, some landlords would close the premises rather than do the repairs.)
If premises are unsafe, the landlord could be held responsible under the law of negligence for any personal injuries caused by them not maintaining the premises.
Write to the landlord/caretaker and tell them that you are concerned for your safety and/or the safety of other residents or guests. Keep a copy of this letter. Get further advice from a Community Legal Centre if you are injured on the premises.
You should give notice to leave in accordance with your agreement. If this is not specified, you should give ‘reasonable notice’ (e.g. if you pay rent weekly, give 7 days notice).
Put the notice in writing and keep a copy. Make sure you take all your belongings with you – if not, it may be hard to get them back.
The landlord should give you notice to leave per your agreement, otherwise ‘reasonable notice’ as described above.
If the landlord is evicting you because they want to change the use of the premises (e.g. from a boarding house to a backpacker hostel), contact the planning section of the local council to see if they have permission. If they do not, ask the council to investigate.
The council can also refuse permission if the change of use will mean less affordable housing in the area.
If you are being evicted, contact your local TAAS.
If your landlord is a carrying on a business (e.g. you rent a room in a hostel or boarding house), you may be able to apply under the Consumer Claims Act 1998 to the General Division of the CTTT to have your dispute heard. Contact your local TAAS for advice about this.
If your landlord is not carrying on a business (e.g. you rent a room in your landlord’s house), only the courts can deal with your dispute. In most cases, you would have to apply to the Local Court.
A landlord or caretaker may be happy to settle a dispute in conciliation at the CTTT without a full hearing to decide your legal status.
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The information in this factsheet:
• is intended as guide to the law and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice
• applies to people who live in, or are affected by, the law as it applies in New South Wales, Australia.
© Tenants' Union of NSW