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May 24, 2010 | by  | in Opinion |
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Flat Sharing Agreements

Once a month or so I volunteer at the Wellington Community Law Centre and it seems that every time, without fail, someone comes in with a flatting-related dispute. This is something which particularly affects students, so the following is a little advice which might help.

Do I have a tenancy?

A tenancy is essentially a rental agreement between you and a landlord. A tenancy sets out the bond, cost of the rent, the term of the lease and so on. By signing a residential tenancy agreement the landlord owes you certain obligations and you have certain duties. If you have a dispute with your landlord you can go to the Tenancy Tribunal.
However, an agreement between flatmates is not a tenancy. Instead, you have a ‘flat sharing agreement’. This will usually be the case where there is one ‘head’ flatmate who is on the lease and other flatmates who have come in at a later date. This is a really common arrangement, where flats roll over from year to year and one flatmate stays and a few new people will move in, but don’t go on the lease. It will also be the case where one of the flatmates is the owner of the property. Because you don’t have a tenancy it means you can’t take a dispute to the tenancy tribunal.

What is a flat sharing agreement?

Basically a flat sharing agreement is the arrangement you have come to with your flatmates over the cost of the rent, the power, food, how much notice you need to give when you move out, who will be in charge of finding a new flatmate and so on. These are the nuts and bolts of living in a flat. The problem is that most people just agree these things orally or muddle on through without agreeing anything. This is all well and good until there is a falling out between flatmates when it suddenly becomes a real problem.

What should I do?

One of the best things you can do to avoid drama in the future is to put these things in writing. It doesn’t take long to sit down with the flatmates and note the agreements you have reached. Better yet, you can find a flat sharing agreement template on the Accommodation Office website: www.victoria.ac.nz/accommodation/.

If you have a current dispute, as mentioned above, you can’t go to the Tenancy Tribunal. A flat sharing agreement is just a regular contract which you have to enforce. For the most part you could go to the Disputes Tribunal. The Disputes Tribunal is not like a formal court, there are no lawyers and no judges, just a referee to hear your claim. For disputes under $1000 it will cost you $30 to file your claim. If you think you need some advice you can see a lawyer for free at the Wellington Community Law Centre: Monday to Thursday 5.30-7pm and Wednesday and Friday 12-2pm, Level 2, 82 Willis Street.

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