Living Precariously: Understanding International Students' Housing Experiences in Australia

MWJI, 2019

50 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2020

See all articles by Laurie Berg

Laurie Berg

University of Technology Sydney, Faculty of Law

Bassina Farbenblum

University of New South Wales (UNSW)

Date Written: December 4, 2019


In 2019, the authors conducted a landmark survey of more than 5,000 international students in Australia. The Information for Impact survey sought to gather information on exploitative conduct encountered by international students in housing and at work, and identify effective responses including interventions to empower international students. This is the first of three reports on the survey, focused on international students' living conditions. It reveals that a share house is the most common first home for international students in Australia, and that the overwhelming majority organise this themselves online or through personal contacts. International students in share houses most frequently encountered illegal or poor living conditions compared with other housing types (57% experienced these conditions in their first share house alone). These include: overcrowding; accommodation that is unsafe to live in; paying in advance for accommodation that does not exist; intimidation or harassment by a landlord or another tenant; landlords moving extra people into the accommodation without the student’s consent; sudden increases in rent in the middle of a rental period; and unfair eviction.

Exploitation and poor housing were not restricted to students in English language or vocational colleges - most problems were experienced by similar proportions of university students. Deception and poor housing conditions were just as common for international students who organised their housing in Australia, as for those who organised their housing from abroad. Problems were most commonly experienced among respondents who organised their share house through social media or a peer-to-peer sharing website. The report concludes with a range of recommendations to governments, education providers and other key stakeholders for developing systemic responses to prevent exploitation and assist international students to address problems when they arise.

Keywords: international students, international education, right to adequate housing, exploitation, rental market, tenancy, affordable housing, accommodation, access to justice, sharing economy, Australia

JEL Classification: R31, J11, J15, I28, I23

Suggested Citation

Berg, Laurie and Farbenblum, Bassina, Living Precariously: Understanding International Students' Housing Experiences in Australia (December 4, 2019). MWJI, 2019, Available at SSRN: or

Laurie Berg (Contact Author)

University of Technology Sydney, Faculty of Law ( email )


Bassina Farbenblum

University of New South Wales (UNSW) ( email )

High St
Sydney, NSW 2052

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