There are now many great websites to help you find share housing such as www.domain.com.au, www.realestate.com.au, flatmate.com, flatmates.com.au, www.flatmatefinders.com.au and www.gumtree.com.au. There are also many local community groups and pages on Facebook which have share housing listings, for example the Inner West Housemates group. You can also get listings of places to rent from real estate agencies. It’s a good idea to check out notice boards in community centres, cafes and shops in the area you want to live in for share housing advertisements.
If you are a young person thinking about moving into a share house for the first time, speak to a counsellor at your school or a youth worker at your local youth centre about your housing options.
If you are a tertiary student, there may be an accommodation officer at your college, university or TAFE campus. They will be able to give you a listing of share houses in the area and other assistance finding accommodation.
Be wary of private accommodation associating itself with a university. With both private and university accommodation, you can seek advice on your rights as a tenant before signing up. Do not accept on face value information from providers of accommodation that you do not have legal protections under the Residential Tenancies Act – seek advice from your local tenants’ advice service (see Contact Points).
More and more universities are offering accommodation that is owned and operated by the university. This is usually self-catered furnished accommodation, often with a shared bathroom, living room, kitchen and laundry. You may be required to vacate the accommodation during university holidays and many of these accommodation arrangements do not give you the rights of a tenant.
If it is your first time living away from home or if you move to another city, living in a residential college offers great opportunities to make friends and live close to campus. Most residential colleges are full-board, meaning that it includes meals and other services such as a cleaning service for the common areas. Some residential colleges also offer additional support for young people living away from home for the first time, including academic and pastoral support.
Living in a residential college requires you to respect the values and principles of the college. For example, you might be required to attend certain sporting, social and cultural events or follow certain rules about having guests over or keeping food in your room.
While living in a residential college offers many advantages for young people, it can be more costly than living in a share house. In addition, most residential colleges require you to move out during the university break, which can be inconvenient if you plan to stay over the holidays. If you are considering residential college as an option, speak to a current resident to get an idea of what it’s like and apply early to avoid disappointment, as places fill quickly.
Some vacancies may be advertised as ‘homestay’, which may include meals and pick-up services. For some international students, this may be an opportunity to stay with a family, improve their English and learn more about Australia. However, homestays can be costly and living with a host family could mean that you don’t have as much freedom – for example, the host family may have set mealtimes or curfews.
If you and a group of friends are eligible for public housing, you can apply for share housing through Housing NSW. Their eligibility guideline can be viewed at www.housing.nsw.gov.au. Generally applicants must be at least 18 years of age, but younger people can apply. Other criteria include residence in NSW, immigration status, financial circumstances and your ability to successfully maintain a tenancy.
The waiting lists for Housing NSW accommodation is very long, so if you are eligible you will have to be prepared to wait some time for a place to come up. Contact Housing NSW for more information about making an application (see Contact Points).
Before you move in with someone already living in public housing, it is necessary that they get the permission from Housing NSW. If they don’t and you move in, they will be in breach of their residential tenancy agreement and could be evicted. They could also be charged with rental rebate fraud, leaving them and/or you with a large debt, as rent is calculated according to the gross income of all adults in a household.
Community housing is a low-income alternative to public housing, providing affordable housing for specific groups of tenants. There are two types of community housing: housing associations and housing co-operatives. Housing associations are generally managed by housing or welfare organisations and sometimes provide additional living support for the tenants. For information on housing associations, call the NSW Federation of Housing Associations (see Contact Points).
Housing co-operatives are managed by the tenants themselves. Co-op tenants are covered by the Residential Tenancies Act. You need to apply to become a member of the co-op and living in a co-op may involve taking up certain responsibilities, for example cleaning or administration. For more information about co-operatives, contact Common Equity NSW (see Contact Points).
Renting a warehouse can be problematic, because it often involves signing a commercial lease rather than a residential tenancy agreement, which means you are not covered by the Residential Tenancies Act.
However, despite what the landlord says, if you are using the premises predominantly as your residence, you have the right to have a residential tenancy agreement regardless of the original function of the building. If the landlord refuses, you should ask to have it recorded on the lease that the premises are being used for residential purposes. This will help your case if you have problems with your landlord and want to apply to the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) to resolve the matter. If the premises are zoned for residential use, this strengthens the argument that you should be given a residential tenancy agreement. You can contact the local council for more information on the zoning.
For more information about signing a commercial lease and problems with warehouse tenancies, contact your local community legal centre or tenants’ advice service (see Contact Points).
You can download a copy of the rental checklist here.