Living with a flatmate can be a cost-effective way to live in your own space, as it allows you to split bills while enjoying each other’s company. But what happens when one of your flatmates fails to pay rent or vanishes altogether?

In Queensland, all co-tenants are legally bound to the same lease, so navigating such a situation can be a confusing and stressful experience.

If you want to understand your options and what you need to do if co-tenants are not paying rent in QLD, this guide will have you covered with everything you need to know!

What Are the Legal Responsibilities of Co-Tenants in QLD?

All tenancy agreements within Queensland are governed by the 2008 Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act, also known as the “RTA”.

According to this act, not everyone who lives within a rental property is considered a co-tenant or shares the same legal footing. However, everyone whose name is on the residential tenancy agreement is considered a co-tenant.

Queensland co-tenants have joint and several liability to the property they’re renting. In other words, every co-tenant is equally liable, both individually and collectively, and they’re all responsible for fulfilling the terms of the agreement and caring for the property.

It doesn’t matter if you pay a different share of the rent or use different parts of the rental property. So, if rent goes unpaid or damage occurs, the landlord can pursue legal action against any or all co-tenants for full compensation.

What Is the Legal Way to Terminate Co-Tenancy?

Terminating a co-tenancy contract can only be done through the methods outlined in the RTA. This means that a co-tenant can’t just end their obligation towards a rent agreement from their end alone, nor will it remove their name from the lease.

However, there are several ways to officially end co-tenancy while other parties are staying, depending on the situation. Here’s a quick look at them.

Mutual Agreement Between Co-Tenants

In a single rental agreement where you’re the only individual responsible for paying rent, you can end your tenancy by providing your agent, landlord, or lessor with a letter or Notice of Intention to Leave or a signed letter declaring your intention to leave.

However, when you’re bound to a contract with other co-tenants, this isn’t an option anymore. Since the RTA regards all the co-tenants as a collective, the smoothest way to end co-tenancy is by getting written consent from all parties involved.

Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Order

If you can’t reach an agreement with other parties, you can apply to terminate your contract for “Excessive Hardship” through the Tribunal. This is a more complex route, but it may be necessary if all else fails. 

You’ll need to clarify your situation and specify the section you’re applying under (Form 310 for excessive hardship) and the desired outcome (termination order).

You’ll also need to attach a copy of the tenancy agreement along with compelling evidence demonstrating your hardship.

While not legally defined, the reasons and concerns you may express for such an order can be:

  • Personal
  • Professional
  • Financial 
  • Health-related

Domestic Violence Exception

Scene of Domestic Violence Due to Co-tenant Not Paying Rent

If you’ve experienced domestic or family violence during your co-tenancy, you can apply to end your tenancy using the RTA Notice Form 20 Ending Tenancy Interest.

This offers legal protection and a quicker exit, but you’ll still need to provide supporting evidence of domestic abuse.

What Are Your Options If Your Co-Tenant Isn’t Paying Rent?

In the unfortunate situation of a co-tenant neglecting their rent in Queensland, your first point of reference should be the residential tenancy agreement you all signed. 

This document outlines the rights and responsibilities of each tenant and serves as a crucial roadmap for handling this issue. Here’s a quick look at your options and what you can do in that case:

1. Get a Written Agreement from All Parties Involved

As previously established, your co-tenant will remain bound and liable as long as their name is on the tenancy agreement.

However, they can still terminate their co-tenancy if all parties involved in the lease (including co-tenant(s), landlord, lessor, or agents) agree to have this in writing.

This is known as a Transfer of Interest where the responsibilities of tenancy are simply transferred to other co-tenants remaining in the rental property until the end of the lease period.

This is typically the smoothest route to take in the case that other co-tenants still want to remain in the property. The tricky part here is that all parties must agree to this transfer in writing.

2. Covering the Rent and Notifying The Lessor

In some cases, your co-tenant might leave and stop paying rent altogether without a previous agreement or arrangement, which leaves you in a tight spot.

Unfortunately, if you want to stay in the property, your only solution is to fulfil all obligations stipulated within the lease/rent agreement. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Assuming full responsibility for paying the rent
  • Taking care of any owed money or arrears related to the rental property, such as missed payments and overdue bills.

Keep in mind that this situation mitigates the problem temporarily but doesn’t change the legal status of the rental agreement.

This means that if the rent stays overdue even after you’ve been notified and asked to catch up, your lessor or agent could take you to court to get you evicted. In some cases, they may even try to claim compensation. 

3. Look for a New Replacement Co-Tenant and Document Your Efforts

To keep your legal issues to a minimum, it’s essential to keep your landlord or letting agent informed when your co-tenant leaves without paying rent.

However, your responsibilities don’t stop there, as you need to stay proactive to protect yourself from potential disputes and financial repercussions.

To avoid bearing the burden of rent on your own, consider finding a replacement co-tenant, but make sure that this aligns with your tenancy agreement.

4. Take Action Against the Leaving Co-Tenant

As you now know, one co-tenant can’t unilaterally end the tenancy agreement, even for themselves. 

If this happens, you can inform the landlord that the notice is invalid because it lacks all co-tenants’ signatures.

You can also file a Form 16 Dispute Resolution Request with the RTA for further protection. You may also take legal action against your co-tenant to recover the financial losses you suffered for paying their part of the rent.

5. Terminate the Contract

If your co-tenant isn’t paying rent and you can cover it financially on your own, one option you have is to apply for the Tribunal to get a termination of the contract. 

In that case, previous documentation of your trials to mitigate the problem can work in your favour and get you a termination based on Excessive Hardship, which was explained in the previous section.

Important Notes to Keep in Mind If Co-Tenants Aren’t Paying Rent

Lastly, here are some important points to consider if your tenant isn’t paying rent to help you stay in the clear.

Seek the Help of Professionals

Co-tenant Consulting Lawyer

While open communication and attempts to resolve the issue directly are always advisable, you must understand the legal requirements and potential consequences involved. 

This is where seeking the guidance of real estate professionals and property managers becomes invaluable.

Rent360 Property Management is a highly reliable agency that can connect you with professionals to seek legal advice. Additionally, the company’s expertise in tenant relations and dispute resolution can offer mediation and advice services to reach a fair and amicable solution for all parties involved.

Documentation is Essential

Remember to keep your lessor and other legal parties of the contract in the loop and document your efforts to mitigate the problem and/or search for a new flatmate, including any online ads to find new co-tenants, emails related to trying to solve the situation, etc.

While it doesn’t legally waive your responsibility for the co-tenant’s part, the documentation can serve as proof of your proactive approach if you need to terminate your contract through the Tribunal.

Red more here on whether you can not renew your tenants lease.

Understand Who Is Liable for Damage by Tenants

A lot of people are confused about damage by tenants and who pays for it. In the case of accidental damage, the landlord may hold the responsible tenant(s) accountable for repairs.

On the other hand, damage caused by wear and tear as well as damage that happens over time is the landlord’s responsibility.

If the co-tenant who isn’t paying rent also caused damage to the property, you may need to pay for its repairs if you decide to cover the rent for the remainder of the contract.

Wrap Up

This wraps it up for today’s guide about the situation where a co-tenant isn’t paying rent in Queensland.

As you can see, even if your co-tenant skips rent and moves out, their financial responsibility remains tied to the lease if their name is still on it, but all co-tenants remain collectively liable for responsibilities towards rent.