Sharehousing: When things go wrong

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When there's more than one person sharing the same space, conflict is bound to happen. It's normal to get annoyed when your housemates don't always respect the rules and your boundaries.

Hopefully you'll be able to sort these small problems out without too much trouble. For larger problems, like disputes over unpaid rent and bills, here are some further options.

Mediation and dispute settlement

Most household conflict can be avoided through mutual respect, tolerance and clear communication. Sometimes things can escalate, though, and can't be sorted out easily. When this happens you might need professional advice from a dispute settlement or mediation service like the free Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria (new window).

For mediation to work properly, both parties have to agree to mediation, but choosing to get help from an independent mediator could really help you resolve difficult problems.

Money problems

If a housemate refuses to pay a bill or the rent (or their share of it) and the bill or lease is in your name, unfortunately you have limited options. The Residential Tenancies Act doesn't cover share houses - mediation may be the best approach (see above).

Taking a housemate to court to make them pay what they owe is a possibility, but court can be very expensive. If you want to pursue this line, though, your local community legal centre (new window) can advise you on how best to go about it.

Landlord problems

There are rules about what landlords and real estate agents are and aren't allowed to do. For example:

  • They have to give you notice before visiting
  • They have to keep the property "in good repair"
  • They have to give you notice before putting up your rent

It's important to know your rights as a tenant, and not to be afraid to be assertive if a landlord is not respecting the law, for example, by refusing your requests for repairs.

The Tenants Union of Victoria (new window) provides heaps of information and legal advice for tenants. You can also call them for advice on (03) 9416 2577.

There's more information on both yours and your landlord's rights and responsibilities on our Tenants rights page.

Household violence

If you're experiencing violence, threats of violence or harassment by a housemate, you don't have to put up with it. You can apply for an Intervention Order (new window) at your local Magistrates' Court (NOTE: you don't have to be experiencing conflict with a family member to request an Intervention Order).

You should also ask your network of friends and family for support or temporary accommodation.

The Domestic Violence Liaison Officer at your local police station can help by applying for an Intervention Order on your behalf if you are genuinely afraid for your safety.

More information about what you can do to stop household violence can be found at the Love: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly website (new window) - this website is mostly about relationships, but the advice applies to violence between housemates too.

Links

Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria
The DSCV offers all Victorians a free dispute resolution service for common disputes.

Love - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - Should I Call the Cops?
This info is about relationships, but it can also apply to trouble within a share house.

Tenants Union Victoria
TUV can't help with sharehouse disputes, but they can help if you have problems with your landlord.

Consumer Affairs Victoria - Renting
CAV has a heap of advice about renting, including fact sheets targeting specific issues like paying a bond, making the decision to rent, rental payments and tenancy problems.

Reach Out! - All About Managing Money
Advice on managing money and bills in a share house, and more general advice on planning to move out and balance work, education and moving out of home.

Federation of Community Legal Centres Victoria
Use the interactive map or postcode search tool to find a Community Legal Centre near you.