Many international students live in sub-letting arrangements. Problems with sub-letting is a common reason why international students contact the Study Melbourne Student Centre and the International Student Employment and Accommodation Legal Service.

In a sub-letting arrangement, someone (a head-renter) rents the property from the rental provider and then rents out part or all of it to another person (a sub-renter). The head-renter and sub-renter may then have a sub-rental agreement (a sub-lease).

In a sub-rental agreement, the head-renter takes on the legal responsibilities of a rental provider, and the sub-renter has the rights and responsibilities of a renter.

Who is who?

  • A rental provider is usually the owner of the property. They may also be called a landlord.
  • A head-renter is someone who rents the property from the rental provider and then rents out part or all of it to another person or people.
  • A sub-renter is someone who rents from a head-renter.

Tips for sub-letting a room

When sub-letting a room, before you agree to move in and pay money:

  1. Make sure you get the full name and contact details (phone, email and postal address) of your head-renter. Without a correct name, postal address and email, it will be very difficult to take legal action if there is a problem.
  2. Make sure you get the key terms of your agreement in writing (for example, the amount of rent and bond, when you will move in and how long you will stay).
  3. Ask the head-renter to show you they have written permission from their rental provider to sub-let the room.

If you have permission from the rental provider to sub-let the room, you should be protected by rental laws if you have a problem. If you do not have permission, you may not be covered by rental laws. This can mean that common renting problems such as issues getting your bond back, getting repairs done and eviction are more likely to occur and may be harder to fix.

If a renter sub-lets without the rental provider’s written permission, the rental provider might also be able to end the renter’s rental agreement. This means everyone living at the property may be told to move out with just 14 days’ notice.

If you are a head-renter sub-letting a room, you have particular responsibilities. You must seek permission from the rental provider before sub- letting. If you take a bond from the sub-tenant, it is your responsibility to complete the Bond Lodgement form and lodge the bond with the RTBA.

Have you got a problem with your sub-letting arrangement?

If you have a problem with sub-letting, the Study Melbourne Hub can provide advice and support about accommodation issues. We can connect you with the International Student Employment and Accommodation Legal Service. Contact 1800 056 449 for a confidential discussion with a team member about your situation.

Consumer Affairs Victoria can conciliate disputes between a head tenant and sub-tenant. Such disputes may also be taken to VCAT.

Consumer Affairs Victoria have dedicated resources to help international students on their website.

Not sure what type of renting arrangement you have?

Renting arrangements can be complicated. If you are not sure if you have a sub-rental agreement or what type of other renting arrangement you have, it is a good idea to get specific legal advice. You may have rights and responsibilities you do not know about!