Shared housing: Am I a boarder, lodger, sub-tenant, or co-tenant?

Date: May 02, 2013
Document Type: Newsletter

It’s challenging enough for anyone to share a rental property with a stranger without also having to consider the legal ramifications of living in a shared household. However with that being said, having an understanding of the type of tenant you are is essential due to the fact that if a problem does arise with your housemate, the rights and remedies available will be dependent on whether you are a boarder, lodger, sub-tenant or co-tenant.

How do I determine my tenancy status?

After scouring through many property law books and trying to work out what exactly is the definition of a boarder or lodger, the general conclusion seemed to be that defining the status of a boarder or lodger is a legal grey area. Generally speaking, a boarder or lodger receives meals from the landlord – with the landlord still retaining a position of authority over the premises.
Meanwhile, a sub-tenant is classified as someone who lives with a head-tenant – the person whose name is on the lease – with permission from the landlord. A sub-tenant has to pay rent to the head-tenant. Furthermore, the landlord exercises no legal control over a sub-tenant, and it is the head-tenant who is seen to be the landlord in such a scenario.

To complicate matters further, if a head-tenant sublets the property without permission from the landlord, the action may be a breach of the tenancy agreement and the landlord can potentially terminate the lease. However, if a tenant takes in a boarder or lodger, they don’t require the permission from the landlord as long as the number of people staying on the property does not exceed the maximum number outlined in the tenancy agreement.

What are the rights of tenants in a shared household?

Having an awareness of your status in a shared household is important when trying to understand your rights and responsibilities. For instance, if you are a co-tenant, this means that your name is on the lease with another person and you cannot be forced to leave by the other tenant. In contrast, if you’re a sub-tenant, the head-tenant can evict you but must still follow the proper legal procedures required from a landlord under the law. On the other hand, if you are a boarder or lodger, the only right you have is one of reasonable notice when being evicted.

We began the article posing the question: what type of tenant am I? So naturally, we should end the piece with some sort of answer. The short answer is that the law is unfortunately murky when it comes to shared housing, and there are no actual laws that clearly define what is a sub-tenant, boarder or lodger. The best course of action that you can take if you are experiencing a problem is to contact a lawyer for any difficulties you may be experiencing.

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