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How to evict a flatmate from hell

·Contributor
·4-min read
Side view portrait of two friends arguing and shouting in the night at home
If the situation with your flatmate isn't good, it's important to understand your rights. (Source: Getty)

Unpaid bills, damaged property, skipped rent and in some cases violence, are just some examples of what happens when the wrong person enters your home.

Tim Anderson knows exactly what it’s like when he had his own flatmate from hell experience.

Three years ago, Anderson found a rental property close to his office and to help with the weekly rent he brought in a flatmate who was an acquaintance of a work colleague.

“During the first few months, he was okay, but little by little, I started to notice that he was emptying out his room on the quiet,” Anderson said.

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Anderson later realised the flatmate was slowly emptying his room to make a hasty escape.

“I guess he carried a few things every time I was out. I didn’t want to peek into his room because of privacy and not wanting to invade his space.”

But the warning signs were emerging, particularly when it came to paying his share of the rent and splitting the bills.

Then one evening after coming home from work, Anderson found the tenant had vacated and the door to his bedroom smashed.

“It was horrifying to see he was gone and the door smashed. He never left a note; perhaps it had to do with money? I felt he was kind of sketchy when it came to money. Maybe he was pissed because I asked him to pay his share.”

Anderson’s idea to bring someone in to help with costs had backfired.

Anderson was obligated to complete the six month rental contract, along with bills to repair the broken door and all other outstanding bills.

“In the end it cost me more than $4,000 because I had to pay for the damages. Thankfully, my landlord was really nice and said I didn’t have to pay in full. I had to look for another place where I could live cheaply, which was a hassle; I had to pay for moving costs again.”

Eventually, he found a smaller place and rented the property on his own.

“I did have to spend more, a little more on gas and on transport because it was difficult to find another place near the office.”

As for the missing flatmate? Anderson asked his work colleague about his whereabouts.

“After the incident, I asked my co-worker if he was in touch with him and he said he hadn’t been in contact since the incident. Two years later, according to my co-worker, the guy had moved to another country because he was trying to get away from his family.”

The experience has taught Anderson to always check background first, no matter who recommends the person.

“I should not have trusted him right away. I also learned not to use my money to pay for someone else's due. I actually did seek legal advice, but did not push through because legal fees are expensive, and another cost.”

Help is at hand

Getting help is not always an easy process as co-tenants and sub-tenants effectively have the same rights to continue living in the house. But there are some options that can help resolve the situation.

One website that brings tenants together is flatmates.com.

The site offers plenty of advice on what to do if disputes come up between flatmates.

First and foremost is to talk things through with your flatmate, according to the site. List out your concerns and if an agreement can’t be reached, then it’s important to understand your rights or even seek legal advice.

Legal courts and tribunals

When all else fails, in each Australian state and territory there are the relevant tribunals, commissioners, and courts to contact for help.

If all avenues of negotiations have failed, you can apply to have the matter heard by your state’s tribunal.

It will cost you a small fee and you’ll be required to attend a hearing, where a tribunal member will make an enforceable decision on the tenancy.

Should your housemate still refuse to comply, the tribunal can order the sheriff to forcefully evict them.

You can legally apply to your state’s civil and administrative tribunal.

New South Wales, has NCAT, Victoria, VCAT and so on for other states, meaning Queensland, South Australia, all have a tribunal order for terminating housemate’s tenancy.

These legal entities act as an independent body which deals with certain kinds of disputes between landlords and tenants. It is not a formal court, but its decisions are legally binding.

The tribunal can make orders including forcing tenants to comply with their rental agreement, as well as terminating their tenancy, but you’ll have to prove or convince the tribunal member that the circumstances warrant it.

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