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Starting a rooming house residency

Information about becoming a resident of a rooming house.

Rooming house operators must be licensed and rooming houses must be registered. It's a good idea to check before agreeing to move in.

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Kinds of living situations

A person living in a rooming house is called a rooming house resident. The person operating the rooming house is called the rooming house operator. A person who lives in a rooming house has a residency right to occupy a room in the rooming house and to use the rooming house facilities. They may have an exclusive right to the room, or they may share the room with others, called a shared right.

Fixed term rooming house agreement

From 29 March 2021, a rooming house resident and rooming house operator may sign a fixed term rooming house agreement for up to 5 years. They cannot enter into a rental agreement. That is, if they are living in a rooming house, they are not permitted to enter an agreement as a renter and rental provider unless that room is a self-contained apartment.

A rooming house resident is not permitted to assign their right to someone else.

The agreement must be in the prescribed form, see Form 7 in the regulations. The rooming house resident and the rooming house operator may include other terms or conditions in this agreement, provided that they are not inconsistent with the Act or with the prescribed form.

Consumer Affairs Vctoria site has copies of the relevant forms.

Penalty for inclusion of prohibited terms

The Act specifically lists some prohibited terms.

It is an offence to include any prohibited terms and any such terms are invalid.

The maximum penalty is 25 penalty units.

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Information that must be provided before moving in

When a person is seeking to live in a rooming house, there are several things that a rooming house operator must tell the prospective resident.

Notice of shared room right

There is a presumption that a person who is to move into a rooming house is to be given an exclusive right to the room, unless the rooming house operator has given a notice before the person moves in stating that they have a shared room right.

Note: Exclusive occupancy can be given to more than one person, for example a couple can share exclusive occupancy of the same room.

This written notice must state whether the right is to be for exclusive occupancy of a room, or a shared room right. If the right is for a shared room, the rooming house operator must also state:

  • the total number of people who can share the room at any one time
  • the rent for the shared room
  • what the rent would be if it were not a shared room.
  • that the person will be notified before another person moves in to the room.

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Penalty

The maximum penalty for failing to do this is 25 penalty units.

This offence may be dealt with by issuing an infringement notice. If the matter proceeds this way, the penalty will be 5 penalty units.

See s. 92C—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window). Item 29, Schedule 5—Residential Tenancies Regulations 2005 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Notice about discrimination

A prescribed form must accompany any rooming house application form. This mandatory form explains what discrimination is and details the rooming house resident's obligation not to discriminate when choosing a resident.

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Other things operator must disclose

Before the resident moves in, the rooming house operator must tell the rooming house resident:

  • a copy of any owners corporation rules
  • if the rooming house property is going to be sold
  • if a mortgagee has commenced proceedings to enforce a mortgage to repossess the property
  • if they are not the building owner, that they have a right to permit occupancy of the room
  • if they are licensed to be a rooming house operator
  • if the rooming house is registered
  • if the operator is a registered housing association or housing provider who is not required to be licensed
  • from 31 December 2021, if the operator has received a repair notice within the last 3 years relating to mould or damp caused by the building structure
  • if there's been a homicide in the last 5 years
  • if the operator knows of any:
    • contamination from prior use for drug trafficking or cultivation of drug of dependence
    • if asbestos has been found
    • if there is a planning or building application on foot
    • notice, recommendation, order or report relating to any building defects or safety concerns
    • current domestic building work or Part 10 owners corporation disputes.

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Information that must not ask prospective resident

The rooming house operator must not ask a prospective rooming house resident:

  • if they have previously taken legal action, has been a respondent in legal action or has had a dispute with a provider of housing
  • to see their rental bond history, including whether the applicant had a claim made against their bond
  • to see a bank statement that includes daily transactions (but bank balance is okay)
  • for any information that relates to a protected attribute under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, for example about ethnicity, sexuality or disability, or marital status
  • about their income (unless the rooming house operator has told them the cost of the room first).

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Other agreements that can be made

A rooming house operator and a resident may make an agreement (not being a tenancy agreement) which specifies the terms and conditions of the resident's use of the rooming house. This agreement has to comply with the relevant sections of the Residential Tenancy Act 1997. Any part that does not comply with the Act will be invalid.

A resident may seek an order from the tribunal for any terms ion the agreement that it considers to be harsh or unconscionable.

If the resident is exclusive right to occupy a room, the rooming house operator and resident may choose to enter into a tenancy agreement instead of a rooming house residency agreement.

If this happens the ordinary rules for tenancy agreements apply to their situation and not the rooming house laws.

See Residential tenancy.

Bond

Some rooming house operators may ask residents to pay a bond. The rooming house operator can not ask for more than 14 days rent in advance as a bond unless the agreement is for a fixed term. If this is the case, the rooming house operator may ask for the equivalent of 28 days' rent as a bond.

If the rooming house operator has requested a bond, they must provide the resident with a bond lodgement form and two signed condition reports.

See Bonds for rooming house residents

Condition report

If the rooming house operator as requested a bond, they must provide the resident with two signed condition reports. The condition report should outline the general condition of the room and the date of the report.

The resident should go through the items listed on the condition report, ticking boxes if they agree with the operator's report or writing their own comments next to any item if they disagree. They must sign and return one copy of the condition report to the rooming house operator within 3 business days after occupation.

Penalty

A rooming house operator can be fined 25 penalty units if the resident is not given the condition report.

Note this offence may be dealt with as an infringement. Where this is the case, the penalty will be 5 penalty units.

See s. 97—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window), item 29, Schedule 5—Residential Tenancies Regulations 2021 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

More information

Legislation

Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)

  • s. 18—self-contained apartments
  • s. 26—tenancy agreements to be in standard form
  • s. 29—copy of agreement to be made available to tenant
  • s. 92—residency right
  • s. 92A—exclusive occupancy right
  • s. 92B—shared room right
  • s. 92C—notice to resident of residency right
  • s. 93—rights cannot be assigned
  • s. 93A—fixed term rooming house agreement
  • s. 94—power to enter tenancy agreement or other agreement
  • s. 94A—conditions that are harsh and unconscionable
  • ss. 94B-94D—consent is needed before the capacity of a room can be increased
  • s. 94G—restriction on use of personal information provided by prospective residents
  • s. 94H—prohibits asking for prescribed information
  • s. 94I—information that operators must disclose before occupancy begins
  • ss. 94-94AF—terms in a fixed term rooming house agreement
  • s. 95—power to request a bond
  • s. 96—what is the maximum bond?
  • s. 97—condition report
  • s. 99—an operator can not require rent in advance of more than 14 days

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

Residential Tenancies Regulations 2005 (Vic)

  • r. 38—fixed term rooming house agreement is form 7
  • r. 39—prohibited terms
  • r. 40—statement of information for occupancy application forms
  • r. 41—information that must not be sought by rooming house operator
  • r. 42—information that must be disclosed to prospective rooming house resident
  • r. 43—form 9—condition report
  • Schedule 1—lists the prescribed forms such as condition report, notice informing about discrimination, rooming house agreement
  • Schedule 5—lists the offences under the Act that can be dealt with by issuing an infringement notice.

See Residential Tenancies Regulations 2005 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Related websites

Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV)

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

See Consumer Affairs Victoria—Rooming hours rental agreements(opens in a new window).

The relevant forms are available from the CAV site:

  • Notice to proposed rooming house resident - exclusive occupance
  • Notice to proposed rooming house resident - shared room right
  • Rooming house residency agreement
  • Rights and duties of a rooming house resident
  • Condition report

See Renting>Rooming house forms in Consumer Affairs Victoria—Forms and publications(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, eviction, breach in duties, shared room rights

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

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