Accommodation advice for international students affected by travel restrictions

As a result of current coronavirus travel restrictions, RLC is receiving enquiries from international students studying at universities or colleges in NSW who are seeking advice on accommodation issues. 

We are also hearing from international students who have had accommodation contracts terminated. RLC is committed to supporting international students in NSW who are directly or indirectly affected by these events.

RLC's International Student Legal Service NSW provides advice about accommodation and access to health services. International students in NSW affected by these issues (including people who are currently overseas) can obtain legal advice from RLC’s International student Legal Service NSW.

Contact us using our free Check-In app.

Sean Stimson
International Student Legal Service NSW
Redfern Legal Centre

Tenancy (Residential Tenancies Act):

  • If you are a ‘tenant’ covered by the Residential Tenancies Act NSW (RTA) you do not have a clear right to end your tenancy without a financial penalty on the grounds that you are prevented from travelling to Australia by the travel restrictions.
  • If you end your lease early you will usually be liable to pay a break fee of up to 6 weeks rent, or some other amount of compensation to your landlord, no greater than 6 weeks rent.
  • If you pay a holding fee for a property, but are unable to come to Australia to start the tenancy, it is likely that your landlord will be allowed to keep your money if it does not exceed 1 week’s rent.
  • If you pay a bond or rent in advance, you may not be able to get that money back from your landlord if you are unable to move into the property.
  • If you need to break your lease because it’s causing you financial hardship, raise this with your landlord and ask for a discount or for them to waive your break fee. If they do not agree, NCAT may make an order allowing you to break your lease without paying break fee penalties.
  • If you are not a ‘tenant’ covered by the RTA and your landlord is a business, you may be able to claim that your tenancy contract is ‘frustrated’, meaning it cannot be completed as you are prevented from travelling to Australia. You might be able to make an application through NCAT. If your landlord isn’t in business, the same application may be brought in the Local Court. You should seek legal advice about this.
  • Even if you do have a right to have money returned to you, it may be difficult to conduct Australian legal proceedings from overseas.
  • We recommend that you do not pay any money or sign any agreement for a new tenancy until you are in Australia.
  • Always try and view the property before moving in, to ensure that it is as advertised, before you sign any agreement.
  • We suggest that you speak with your landlord and/or real-estate agent if you are experiencing any difficulties with your tenancy, and if you are able to reach an agreement, make sure that you obtain that agreement in writing.
  • As an international student, remember that you can use your Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) to attend the doctor for any health reason, including counselling or psychological support. You may need to pay a gap fee – ask your doctor or health professional.

See also: 
Info for International students affected by travel restrictions
Advice for international students facing hardship