Do You Need a Flatmate Agreement?

March 2023

Reading Time: 3 Minutes

If you are a tenant who has flatmates it's important you have a flatmate agreement in place. An agreement helps ensure you are protected and avoids disputes. Although you may feel you know your flatmates, living together can result in unexpected issues. Your flatmates will also benefit from having a written agreement.

What is the Difference Between Tenants and Flatmates?

If you've signed a tenancy agreement with a landlord then you are a tenant and benefit from the legal protection provided under the Residential Tenancies Act (1986). However, any flatmates that you bring into the house who have not signed the tenancy agreement are not considered tenants and will not be covered under the Act. As the tenant who has signed the tenancy agreement, you are the head tenant, and you are legally responsible for the entirety of the tenancy.

What is a Flatmate Agreement?

Put simply, a flatmate/house-sharing agreement is a contract between the tenant/s – that is, the person who has signed the Tenancy Agreement and holds the legal relationship with the landlord - and any flatmates – that is, anyone else living in the same property who hasn’t also signed the Tenancy Agreement.

Why Do You Need a Flatmate Agreement?

Flatmate agreements are of benefit to both tenants and flatmates. Having an agreement in place will help ensure flatmates pay their share of rent on time. The agreement may also cover sharing bond payments, rules around pets and notice period requirements. A written agreement can give peace of mind to your flatmates, as they will know they cannot be evicted without any notice.

You may also choose to include any important flat rules in the agreement. This is up to you, but may include the splitting of bill payments, rules around cleaning and expectations around visitors to the flat. It’s also helpful to detail the processes for resolving disputes.

How Do You Put a Flatmate Agreement Together?

Most importantly, a flatmate agreement must be in writing. Tenancy Services provides a simple flatmate agreement template that can be used as a basis for a flat/house sharing agreement.

It is important your flatmate agreement is in writing in case a dispute arises that needs to be settled by the Disputes Tribunal.

What Can Go Wrong if You Don’t Have a Flatmate Agreement?

If you and your flatmates do not have an agreement in place and a dispute arises it may be difficult to resolve your issues. While smaller disagreements may be resolved by a simple flat meeting, more complicated disputes may need to be taken to the Disputes Tribunal.  An important point to note is that the Tenancy Tribunal doesn’t have any power to hear disputes between flatmates, because flatmates who are not tenants are not covered by the Residential Tenancies Act.

The Disputes Tribunal is a quick and inexpensive way to settle disputes and is less formal than a court. If you don’t have a formal agreement in place, however, the Disputes Tribunal will have limited ability to help with your issue.

The Importance of Thinking Ahead

When flatmates first live together they may be relaxed about the future of the arrangement, but in time issues can arise. Try to think ahead what might happen if a flatmate wants to bring in a new partner, for example, or if one person wants to leave the flat before the tenancy is complete.  Although it may feel uncomfortable to raise the idea of a formal agreement when everything seems to be going well, it makes sense for all parties. Don’t worry if you haven’t made an agreement at the outset of a tenancy – a flatmate agreement can be made at any time.


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