This website is for use by legal professionals (lawyers and law practices) only. If the information is used incorrectly, you could risk losing money or your legal rights. If you are a member of the public looking for free advice about your legal problems please visit legalaid.vic.gov.au, or contact our Legal Help advice line on 1300 792 387, Monday to Friday from 8 am to 6 pm. 

If you decide to use or rely on the information or make decisions based on the information in this website (which VLA does not recommend) VLA is not liable to you or any third party in any way for any loss, damage, costs or expenses you or they may suffer or incur as a result.

Rights and responsibilities in a rooming house

Information about the responsibilities of both rooming house operators and residents.

Rooming house residents have the right to live in the room they occupy and to use the facilities in the rooming house.

Both the operators and the residents in rooming house accommodation have responsibilities.

See:

Responsibilities of rooming house operators

Rooming house operators are obliged to comply with 2 different kinds of standards:

From 26 April 2017, all rooming house operators must be licensed. To be licensed they and their managers must be fit and proper persons.

See Rooming house operators.

Rooming house standards

The first set of standards are listed in the Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing (Prescribed Accommodation) Regulations 2020. They are concerned with making sure that the rooming house conforms to standards of hygiene and that the are not overcrowded. Together with the minimum rooming house standards and provisions in the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, they require that a rooming house operator:

  • registers their rooming house with the local council
  • maintains prescribed minimum health and wellbeing standards
  • keeps the room and rooming house in good repair (including facilities, fixtures, furniture or equipment)
  • provides 24 hour access to rooms and the toilet and bathroom facilities (see minimum standards below)
  • makes sure that a resident (or a visitor) of a shared room does not do anything that interferes with the privacy, peace and quiet of other residents of the room
  • ensures the security for property residents belonging to the residents
  • provides adequate power points
  • gives to each resident and displays in each room, a written statement that outlines resident rights and duties under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997
  • gives a copy of the house rules to each resident
  • provides a written notice of the rooming house operator's full name and address for the service of documents and an emergency telephone number to be used in the case urgent repairs are needed
  • follows procedure when entering a resident's room.

See Consumer Affairs Victoria—Rooming house minimum standards(opens in a new window).

Making a complaint about a sub-standard rooming house

These public health and wellbeing standards are enforced by local councils. A person who believes that a rooming house does not meet the health and safety standards should contact their local council or Consumer Affairs Victoria.

See Consumer Affairs Victoria—Report your rooming house concerns(opens in a new window).

Building owner or agent responsibility

If the owner of a building or their agent thinks that a building is being used as a rooming house and that the rooming house is unregistered they must notify the local council where the building is located.

There is a public register where people can check to see if a rooming house is registered before they move in.

See CAV—Public register of rooming houses(opens in a new window).

Penalty

The maximum penalty for building owner or agent who fails to notify council of suspected rooming house is 60 penalty units.

Note: This matter can be dealt with by issue of an infringement notice. If this is the case, the penalty will be 12 penalty units.

See:

Prescribed minimum health and wellbeing standards

These standards do not apply to buildings that the Minister has declared to be a rooming house (by publishing in the Government Gazette) until 13 June 2021. The health and wellbeing standards are policed by local councils.

See r. 5—Public Health and Wellbeing (Prescribed Accommodation) Regulations 2020 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and s. 3—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Size of bedrooms

A bedroom in a rooming house must not be smaller than 7.5 square metres. A person cannot live in a room of this size for more than 31 days.

See How many people can share?

Cleaning

The operator of the rooming house has to make sure that rooms are clean and properly maintained before they are occupied. This includes change of clean linen.

If linen is provided by the operator, clean linen must be provided every week.

See r. 14—Public Health and Wellbeing (Prescribed Accommodation) Regulations 2020 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Operators are also responsible for making sure that facilities such as cooking, toilet and bathroom facilities are in good working order.

Water supply

A continuous and adequate supply of water must be available for rooming house residents for laundry, toilet, kitchen and bathing. Drinking water must also be available. Hot water must be supplied continuously for bathing.

There must be proper discharge of sewerage waste.

See rr. 15, 16—Public Health and Wellbeing (Prescribed Accommodation) Regulations 2020 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Garbage removal

The rooming house operator must make sure that there are sufficient vermin proof rubbish bins and these must be regularly removed and disposed of.

See rr. 18, 19—Public Health and Wellbeing (Prescribed Accommodation) Regulations 2020 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Toilets

There must be at least one toilet, shower or bath and one wash basin for every 10 people.

See r. 20—Public Health and Wellbeing (Prescribed Accommodation) Regulations 2020 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Penalties

A rooming house operator may be fined up to 20 penalty units for breaching any of the minimum standards that are set out in the Public Health and Wellbeing (Prescribed Accommodation) Regulations 2020 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Some of the offences may be dealt with by issue of an infringement notice. These penalties are set out in Part 3 of the regulations directly above.

Infringements can be issued for some breaches

An operator could be issued with an infringement penalty of 4 penalty units if they do not provide adequate washing or toilet facilities or if they allow a room that is too small to be used as a bedroom.

See r. 24—Public Health and Wellbeing (Prescribed Accommodation) Regulations 2020 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Does the resident have to share a room with others?

If a person has exclusive occupancy, the rooming house operator cannot introduce another person to share a room unless they give the person a notice and the person gives their written consent.

Rights if the room is shared

A rooming house operator cannot increase the room capacity of a room that is already occupied unless:

  • the operator has first given each existing resident of the room a 'Notice to rooming house resident consent to increase in room capacity' (link below), which includes the proposed number of residents for the room and the amended rental amount
  • each existing resident of the room has provided written consent which states the increase in room capacity that they agree to.

Penalty

A rooming house operator can be fined 60 penalty units if they do not give this notice, or make the change without consent.

See ss. 92–92C—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

How many people can share?

Even if a resident agrees, rooms can't be shared unless they are big enough. The maximum number of people who are allowed to share a room depends on the size of the room and the length of time that the rooms are used. If the room is used for more than 31 days and more than one person is to share a room, the area of floor space has to be at least 12 square metres. An additional 4 square metres of space is needed for every extra person in the room. Floor area includes furniture and en suites.

Two people may be accommodated in a room with a minimum area of 10 square metres for up to 31 days. For this short term accommodation, an extra 2 square metres is needed for each extra person.

One child under 3 years old is excluded from the head count. Two children under 3 years old are counted as one person.

See r. 11—Public Health and Wellbeing (Prescribed Accommodation) Regulations 2020 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Penalty

The penalty for overcrowding is 20 penalty units.

This is a matter that may be dealt with by issue of an infringement notice. If the matter proceeds this way, the penalty will be 4 penalty units.

See r. 11, 24—Public Health and Wellbeing (Prescribed Accommodation) Regulations 2020 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Operator must keep a register of occupants

The operator of a rooming house must keep a register of occupants. This must include their names and addresses of any people who occupy the accommodation and the dates of their arrival and departure.

The Register has to be kept for at least 12 months from the date of the last entry.

See r. 21—Public Health and Wellbeing (Prescribed Accommodation) Regulations 2020 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Responsibilities of residents

Residents must use the room for residential purposes only. They must:

  • pay rent as agreed
  • keep the room in clean condition
  • notify the operator of any damage and pay compensation
  • give a key to the operator
  • observe house rules.

Residents should not:

  • use the room for illegal purposes
  • interfere with the privacy, peace and quiet of the other residents
  • install fixtures without consent
  • keep pets without consent from the operator.

More information

Legislation

Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)

  • s. 92—residency right (may be exclusive or shared)
  • s. 92A—exclusive occupancy right may be given to 2 or more residents to have exclusive use of that room (like a couple with a child)
  • s. 92B—shared room right
  • s. 92C—notice to be given of residency right and penalty for failure to do this
  • s. 93—rights cannot be assigned
  • s. 94B—consent required for increase in room capacity
  • s. 110—resident's use of room
  • s. 120—rooming house operator must keep room and house in good repair
  • s. 124—operator has to display the statement of rights
  • s. 125—operator to give additional information before the tenant moves in
  • s. 126—house rules
  • Part 3 Division 7—rules of entry
  • s. 142A—penalty for failing to comply with the law of entering a rooming house resident's room
  • s. 142B—standards for rooming houses
  • s. 142D—obligation to notify if an agent or building owner believes that a rooming house is not registered

See Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Public Health and Wellbeing (Prescribed Accommodation) Regulations 2020 (Vic)

  • rr. 3, 6—includes a rooming house as prescribed class of accommodation under the Act
  • r. 5—refers to Residential Tenancies Act for definition of a rooming house and excludes declared rooming houses until 13 June 2021.
  • Part 2, Division 2—standards and requirements for prescribed accommodation
    • r. 11—overcrowding, minimum floor space needs for rooms used as bedrooms and penalties for breach
    • r. 13—obligation for common areas to be clean, functioning and it good state of repair
    • r. 14—bedrooms (and any adjoining toilet) to be cleaned before re-use, supplied bed linen to be cleaned weekly
    • rr. 15, 16—water provision
    • r. 17—appropriate sewerage
    • rr. 18, 19—garbage and refuse
    • r. 20—requirement for adequate bath, shower and toilet facilities
    • r. 21—register to be kept by operator of rooming house
  • Part 3—infringements for some breaches

See Public Health and Wellbeing (Prescribed Accommodation) Regulations 2020 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Residential Tenancies Regulations 2021 (Vic)

  • item 48—Schedule 5—infringement penalty for failing to notify of unregistered rooming house

See Residential Tenancies Regulations 2021 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Reference

Consumer Affairs Victoria

The Consumer Affairs Victoria website includes a section for rooming house residents and operators. The information provided outlines the responsibilities of both parties.

Their forms section has a list of notices for rooming house residents and operators.

  • Notice to rooming house resident: consent to increase in room capacity
  • Rights and duties of a rooming house resident

See Renting>Rooming house forms in Consumer Affairs Victoria—Forms and publications(opens in a new window).

Complaints can be made online about a rooming house that falls below the health and safety standards.

See Consumer Affairs Victoria—Report your rooming house concerns(opens in a new window).

For an overview of the minimum standards see Consumer Affairs Victoria—Rooming house minimum standards(opens in a new window).

Tenants Victoria

Tenants Victoria produces a booklet, ‘Rooming house resident’s handbook’, which provides information and tips for rooming house residents. They also have a series of advice guides on residential tenancies, including information about starting a tenancy.

See Tenants Victoria—Rooming houses(opens in a new window).

Find a local council

See Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning—Find your local council(opens in a new window).

Updated