What to look out for in share accommodation

Sydney is a great city, but it’s not always easy to find a place to live.

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If you’re thinking of sharing with others, follow our quick guide to make sure your new home is safe and comfortable.

Finding a room

Rooms are usually advertised:

  • on popular property listing websites
  • on noticeboards in cafes
  • at community centres
  • at universities
  • in newspaper property listings.

Rooms can be advertised by:

  • landlords
  • real estate agents
  • universities
  • existing households looking for a flatmate.

Types of accommodation

Shared accommodation

When you’re looking to share a room or house, it’s helpful to ask:

  • Is there a lease in place?
  • Does the building/room have smoke detectors?
  • Does the bedroom have a window?
  • Does it have basic facilities such as kitchen, bathroom and does the stove, oven and toilet/shower work?
  • Is the property clean and tidy?
  • Are there more than 2 adults living in 1 room?

Boarding houses

When you’re choosing a room in a boarding house, it’s a good idea to check if the property is listed on the NSW Department of Fair Trading accommodation register.

A listed property is more likely to meet basic fire safety and health standards.

Keep in mind that a boarding house resident does not have the same control over the premises as a tenant with a lease/residential tenancy agreement.

Hostels and backpackers:

If you're looking to stay in a hostel or backpackers, it's a good idea to check if they are listed with the NSW Backpacker Operators Association, which will help you choose a reliable company.

Watch out for scams

Be aware that some people may not be truthful when they advertise a property. If the owner makes excuses about why you can’t inspect the property but insists on upfront payment, for example, it could be a scam.

You should always inspect the room or house before you agree to move in.

Privacy

Don’t be afraid to ask how many people live in the house. Overcrowded households can be a sign that the accommodation is unsafe or even illegal.

Try to meet your housemates before you move in. Consider your housemates’ day-to-day activities – cooking, watching TV and going to the bathroom can get pretty noisy. It’s a good idea to consider these things if you’re looking at lofts, attics or any ‘rooms’ without walls and a door.

Contracts and payment

Before signing an agreement:

  • Confirm the weekly rent and what it does and doesn’t cover.
  • Get the landlord (or head tenant’s) full name, address and bank account details.
  • You may be asked to pay a security deposit in a boarding house – this should be no more than 2 weeks rent. As a security deposit for other accommodation types pay no more than 4 weeks rent.
  • Bonds should be lodged by the landlord or agent with the NSW Department of Fair Trading.

Keep in mind:

  • An electronic transfer or cheque is good evidence of your payment in case any disagreements arise.
  • Regardless of how you pay, always ask for a rent receipt.
  • It’s a good idea to sign a written contract with the owner, agent or head tenant, if you’re subletting. If something goes wrong, this will help you enforce your rights.
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