Shared households are popular with students because they can provide an opportunity for an independent lifestyle in a shared environment. They are generally also the cheapest housing option.
People in a share household usually lease their property from a real estate agent or landlord. The properties range in size and condition and are organised around the house rules set by the members of the share house. Each person has their own bedroom to furnish, whilst the bathroom, kitchen and living room are 'common areas' for everyone.
Generally, share households share the cost of rent and bills. The purchase of food and cooking arrangements vary from household to household. Some operate communally by everyone contributing to the purchase of food and groceries. Other households operate on an individual basis with an additional shared fund (often called a ‘kitty’) for items such as toilet paper and washing detergent.
If you move into a room in an existing, established share house, you could potentially be moving in with strangers and this can be a great way to meet new people. Alternatively, you can create your own share house by organising a group of friends or acquaintances to rent a vacant property with you.
It is much cheaper to move into an established household as you don’t have to organise reconnection of services and there will usually be furniture and crockery already there. All you may need to provide is your bedroom furniture and some food.
Finding a suitable vacancy in an established share house may take time. If you are considering living in a share house, think about the type of house and social situation you prefer.
How to organise it
- If you want to establish your own share house you will need to start a tenancy with a real estate agent or private landlord. See Vacant Properties page.
- Looking for a room an already established share house you need to access advertisements for vacant rooms. Rooms in share houses are usually advertised online, through the Housing Services at various universities and on real estate websites. On some websites you can place a wanted ad to try and match your needs to what others may have available.
- It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to arrange a room in an established share housing from a distance. You really need to be in Melbourne to inspect properties and meet potential house mates to see if you'll get along.
Our Housing Online Noticeboard provides listings of share house vacancies as well as vacant properties which are available to offered and currently enrolled students.
Share house noticeboards in Carlton
- Union House, Ground Floor near stairwell;
- Readings Bookstore, 309 Lygon Street, Carlton (notices on the laneway window are changed every Thursday evening);
- Many faculties and departments also have notice boards for student use.
Living with other people
Choosing a house and housemates
The people you live with largely influence the atmosphere in your home. It's important to remember this when deciding who will be suitable to live with and whether you will get along well as housemates. Keep in mind that being great friends may not necessarily make great housemates.
Think about who you would like to live with:
- Other undergraduates
- Other postgraduates
- A couple
- A mix of the above
Think about what type of household you’d like to live in:
- Communal where you share cooking, cleaning etc
- Independent where you do your own food shopping and cooking.
- Do you want a quiet studious house or a busy social house?
- Would you like to share with one other person or several others?
- Are you and your future housemates 'house trained' (i.e. do you know how to cook, clean, do laundry, pay bills, pay rent etc)?
Make sure you are clear about what kind of household you want to live in and that you talk about this with your prospective housemates.
Viewing a room and meeting the household
Finding a house or apartment and housemates that suit you and your lifestyle can require work and good judgement. Make a list of all the places you think might be suitable then give them all a call, firstly to see if the room is still available and then to arrange a time to view the property and meet the household.
Use the phone effectively to minimise your run-around time. This initial phone call is a good opportunity to see if it is going to be worth visiting the household for an interview. Ask about the room, the location and how many people live at the house. Find out as much as you can about how the household runs and think about whether this would be a good fit for your lifestyle.
If you like what you hear, then a house interview is the time to find out if it’s the home you’ve been looking for so remember to also inspect the property thoroughly as well as the housemates. It is crucial to know what kind of living arrangements suit you best and be sure of the kind of people you want to live with. Remember, the household will be trying to work out if you will fit in as well, so the decision-making process works both ways.
Finally, be honest.
Your personal preference checklist
Think about all the questions you have to ask and the information you require from the other share house tenants. Here is an example of things you can include in your own checklist:
Questions to ask:
- Communal or independent living?
- Real estate agent/landlord name
- Is your bedroom noisy?
- Contact telephone number
- Type of lease – fixed or periodic?
- Length of lease?
- Workers or students there?
- Monthly bond and rent amount?
- Does the property have storage?
- Furnished or unfurnished?
- Place to park your bike?
- Close to public transport?
- Are utilities mainly gas or electric?
- Size and placing of room
- Good light in the house?
- What date is it available?
- Are there appliances already there?
- Good security?
- Pets allowed?
The Tenants Union of Victoria produces a useful Property Inspection Checklist, which is listed under the Student Housing Information
Tenancy issues – Know your rights
Joining the house
If a new tenant moves into an existing share house, the landlord or agent should be notified in writing. The new tenant’s name should be placed on the lease, and on the bills.
Where a new tenant is replacing a tenant who is leaving, a Tenant Transfer form should be completed and submitted to the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA). This form transfers the bond held by the RTBA into the name of the new tenant. The transfer of the money for the bond is a matter for the incoming and outgoing tenants to arrange between themselves. Before giving any money to the outgoing tenant, the new tenant should check the latest condition report, to ensure that there is no damage to the property not accounted for. Tenant Transfer forms are available from the RTBA, real estate agents or the Tenants Union.
Co-tenancy vs sub-tenancy
Share houses are most commonly co-tenancies where two or more tenants enter into a single tenancy agreement with the landlord. However, a share house may be organised as a sub-tenancy in which the head tenant has a tenancy agreement with the landlord, transfers part of their interest in that agreement to the subtenants, and acts as landlord in relation to the sub-tenants. You should make sure you know what kind of tenancy agreement you are entering into.
Tenancy law: know your rights and duties
Share houses are typically co-tenancies. As co-tenants, you and your housemates are party to a single tenancy agreement with your landlord. Co-tenants are jointly and severally liable under the agreement. This means that you can be held responsible for the wrongdoings of your housemates, even if you have done the right thing.
While this can sound worrying, it just means that you should try to make wise choices about the people you live with. Wise choices are made by having good, clear discussions with potential housemates before moving in together.
The Tenants Union of Victoria (TUV) produces a useful factsheet ‘What Do I Need to Know Before Moving In? (Private Rental and Sharehouses)’ which is listed under Student Housing Information. The TUV also produces many other fact sheets. Read and understand everything before you sign. If you are unsure, get advice. Tenancy agreements are legally binding contracts so don’t assume everything will be OK.
What if things go wrong?
It is important to establish a set of house rules.
Matters which might be covered include:
- Communal cooking/shopping
Leaving the house
Housemates should reach an agreement about how much notice is required if someone is leaving the house, or being asked to leave. You might also agree in advance on who will look for a new tenant, and who will inform the landlord/agent. This is an area in which disputes often arise, so it is important to have a clear agreement in place.
Share House Disputes
Sometimes things don't work out the way you thought they might. You may have thought your best friend would be a great person to live with. This is not always the case and disputes sometimes arise between housemates. However if things are going wrong, the first step is communication!
Refer to our share house disputes page for more advice on this subject.
The Tenants Union of Victoria produces the useful factsheet ‘Keeping the Mates in Housemates’ which is listed under Student Housing Information.