What is flatting and what are my rights when I am flatting?
Flatting is a shared rented accommodation but you do not have the rights or responsibilities of a tenant. Someone who is flatting does not fall under the Residential Tenancies Act 1989 or “the Act”, which only focuses on tenants and landlords. A flatmate does not sign a tenancy agreement.
If a number of people sign a tenancy agreement in a rental, they are tenants and can come under the Act. If you are not on the tenancy agreement in a rented household, there should be a head tenant who is responsible for the tenancy while the rest of the individuals in the household are flatmates.
As flatmates do not fall under the Act, your rights are dependent on the agreement that they had with the head tenant. It is important that a flatmate sign an agreed flatmate or house sharing agreement with the head tenant that could detail:
- When the period of house sharing commences;
- Weekly rent;
- Whether a bond is required;
- Period of notice for leaving the flat;
- Cost for amenities such as electricity or gas; and
- Processes for resolving disputes.
What happens if I don’t have a house sharing agreement as a flatmate?
If you do not have a flatmate or house sharing agreement it is very difficult to resolve disputes or find ways to manage complex flatting scenarios. Disagreements between flatmates or between a flatmate and a tenant do not sit under the Tenancy Tribunal as flatting is not under the Residential Tenancies Act. Instead they go to the Disputes Tribunal, which is not a formal court but is run by a referee where you represent yourself.
While you do not have the rights of a tenant, a flatmate still sits under the Human Rights Act 1993 and the Privacy Act 2020.
What happens if my flatmate does not pay their rent, and I am the head tenant on the tenancy agreement?
If you are named on the tenancy agreement when your flatmates are not, this means that you are a tenant or the “head tenant”. The head tenant is responsible for connecting with the landlord or property manager, and therefore is the lead decision-maker in the flat. They can decide on matters including whether you have another flatmate in the flat, or whether adjustments can be made to the flat in accordance with their tenancy agreement.
The head tenant is also responsible for ensuring the rent is paid to the landlord or property manager on time. If you go into rent arrears, it will therefore be the head tenant who is responsible for this with the landlord or property manager, rather than the flatmate.
What is boarding and what are my rights as a boarder?
Boarding houses share many of the same responsibilities of typical tenancies, but instead of renting a house you rent a room in shared accommodation. When boarding, each tenant has an agreement with the landlord to rent a room or a sleeping area that they share with other tenants, specifications for shared spaces such as kitchens or bathrooms, and often has metered electricity.
A boarding house is different from a flatting situation as it has (or intends to have) 6 or more tenants at one time. Typically boarding tenancy lasts for 28 days or more. Boarding facilities come under the Residential Tenancies Act 1989, but have specific requirements on the landlord unlike normal tenancy, such as a room is shared by other tenants or the room number of the space you are renting.
Boarding facilities are similar to student accommodation in that they must legally provide House Rules. House Rules detail the number of tenants, the expectations for tenants in shared spaces, such as cleaning kitchen areas and rules about quiet enjoyment to not disturb other tenants. Some other key characteristics of a boarding house includes:
- The tenancy agreement is not fixed-term;
- The landlord can end the tenancy by giving 28 days notice;
- The landlord can increase the rent with 28 days’ written notice;
- The landlord can enter the property of a boarding house with 24 hours written notice; and,
- The landlord has the right to enter communal areas of the property at any time.
Do I have to pay a bond or rent in advance if I am flatting or boarding?
In flatting it is common to pay “rent in advance”, which is typically up to 2 weeks rent. This should be fully outlined in the flatting/house sharing agreement that you sign when coming into a flatting situation.
In flatting and boarding it is common to pay a bond. The bond can be up to 4 weeks rent to pay for unpaid rent, any damage to the property during the time when you stayed there, or claims relating to the tenancy. The bond must be registered by the landlord, property manager or head tenant with Tenancies Services within 23 working days of the boarding house landlord receiving it. They are also responsible for repaying it to you as is relevant, when you exit your period of staying in the flat or boarding facility.
Do flatting and boarding facilities come under the Healthy Homes Standards?
The Healthy Homes Standards (HHS) detail the legislated standards in housing to ensure warm and dry housing to improve the quality of rental homes. The HHS are for the following areas in rental properties:
- Heating standard;
- Insultation standard;
- Ventilation standard;
- Moisture ingress and drainage standard; and,
- Draught stopping standard.
The HHS came into effect as of 1 July 2019, and require all private rentals which flatmates may be in, to comply within 90 days of a new or renewed tenancy after 1 July 2021, with all private rentals to comply with the standards by 1 July 2024. The head tenant will manage this with their landlord, so flatmates are not required to oversee this relationship.
All boarding housings must comply with the HHS by 1 July 2021.
I am confused. Am I a boarder or a flatmate?
You should be able to tell whether you are a boarder or a flatmate as your original agreement you made with a landlord, property manager, or head tenant should have clearly outlined which you are.
There are two other ways to tell whether you are a boarder or a flatmate, each which is indicated through the interpretation of the Residential Tenancies Act 1989. To be a boarder as stated above, a property must have (or intends to have) 6 or more tenants, so a property with less than 6 tenants and shared facilities is typically considered a flatting arrangement.
Flatting also occurs in several other cases in the Act, as is outlined in Part 1 (5) on Act Excluded in Certain Cases. For example, if a member of the landlord’s family lives on the property, residents who are not family members will automatically be considered flatmates.
If you need further clarity regarding whether you are boarding or flatting, you can contact the Housing Advice Centre.
Where can I find helpful resources on flatting and boarding?