Living in a Rooming House

Know your rights

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A rooming or boarding house is a building where four or more people, who are not related to the landlord, have separate agreements to pay rent.
If you have a valid Tenancy Agreement you are a tenant and not a resident. This affects the length of Notice you or the rooming house operator must give. You do not need a tenancy agreement to live in a rooming house.
By law, rooming houses must meet health and safety standards and be registered with the local council. Everyone has the right to live in clean and safe accommodation.

Sharing in a rooming house

To have a room by yourself, or with people you choose to live with, the owner must give you an ‘Exclusive Occupancy Right’. If the owner wants to change this (put more people in your room) they must give you a ‘Consent to Increase in Room Capacity’ form. If you decide to agree, your rent must reduce from date of the change.

A ‘Shared Room Right’ agreement must state:

  • Maximum number of people who can share
  • Amount of rent you will pay
  • The rent payable if it was not shared.

In a Shared Room the owner has the right to choose the other residents and does not have to notify you of another person moving in.

Your room

  • Rooms with a floor area less than 7.5 square metres cannot be used as a bedroom.
  • Your door must be fitted with a lock opened by key from outside and unlocked from the inside without a key.
  • Room has at least two working power points
  • Your window(s) can be opened and closed by you and have covers for privacy.
  • You have the right to privacy and the security of your belongings.

Your right to privacy

Shared bathrooms and toilets must be fitted with a strong privacy latch that can be secured from the inside without using a key.

Shared kitchens
Everyone must have access to a kitchen with:

  • Sink and food preparation area
  • One oven and four burner cook-top in good working order every 12 residents
  • Refrigerator (min 400 litres capacity)
  • Lockable cupboard for each resident (minimum 100 litres of storage).

Shared laundry

  • Washing trough with a drainage outlet
  • Continuous and adequate supply of hot and cold water
  • Hot and cold water taps that are able to be fitted to a washing machine
  • Clothes line or clothes drying facility.

General standards

  • Emergency exit routes on display
  • Rooms must be ventilated
  • All power outlets and electrical circuits must be connected to circuit breakers
  • Entrance has a key operated lock from outside, but does not need a key to exit
  • Main entry door must have a window, peep-hole or intercom system to screen visitors.

Some minimum standards

  • 24 hour access to a shared bathroom, toilet and kitchen
  • At least one working toilet, bath or shower and wash basin for every 10 people
  • Working smoke alarms
  • No blocked doorways and pathways to exits
  • Portable fire extinguishers

Urgent repairs
Faults or damage which make the rooming house unsafe or insecure include

  • 24 hour access to a shared bathroom, toilet and kitchen
  • At least one working toilet, bath or shower and wash basin for every 10 people
  • Working smoke alarms
  • No blocked doorways and pathways to exits
  • Portable fire extinguishers
  • Dangerous electrical fault or gas leak
  • Failure of the gas, electricity or water supply
  • Burst water service or faulty appliance, fitting or fixture resulting in water wastage
  • Blocked or broken toilet system
  • Serious roof leak
  • Serious storm, flooding or flood damage
  • Fire damage
  • Breakdown of any essential water, cooking, heating or washing appliance
  • Safety issue with a lift or staircase

You must pay your rent when it becomes due. If it is seven or more days behind, you can be given a minimum two day ‘Notice to Vacate’.
The rooming house operator cannot keep your goods or documents (including passports, licences and other forms of personal identification) to cover any rent owed.
The operator can be fined if they ask for more than 14 days’ rent in advance

Rent receipts
The person who accepts your payment must give you a receipt immediately.

Bond payments
The person whom accepts a bond payment must deposit to the RTBA.

Who pays utility bills?
The operator is responsible for paying water, gas and electricity bills. If your room has a separate meter, and you have exclusive rights to that room, you can be charged but the operator cannot give you a bill for an amount higher than the utility provider charges.

If you decide to leave
ou must give at least 2 days’ notice. You can do this by talking to the operator but, if they request, you must give them written notice. When giving written notice, you should use the ‘Notice to Owner of Rooming House’ form. If the rooming house becomes unsafe to live in you have the right to leave immediately but you will need to collect evidence to prove this.
You must pay rent plus any other charges until the day you told the operator you are leaving. If you leave without notice, you may have to pay for 2 extra days unless someone moves into your room immediately.

You can legally be asked to leave the rooming house immediately if you:

  • Deliberately or recklessly cause or allow serious damage
  • Put people or property in danger
  • Seriously disrupt residents.

Facing eviction?
If you are facing eviction and do not know what to do, contact Consumer Affairs Victoria immediately. They can provide information, or direct you to other organisations that can help.

Consumer Affairs Victoria
Phone: 1300 55 81 81

Tenants Union of Victoria ia
Advice line: 9416 2577

Peninsula Community Legal Centre (PCLC)
Phone: 9783 3600

Entry rights by the operator
Unless you grant permission or it is an emergency, you should get 24 hours’ notice in writing. This Notice must state the reason for entry, be given to you personally or sent by registered post. The operator may only enter your room between 8am — 6pm (not on public holidays).

Need assistance?
Peninsula Community Legal Centre (PCLC)
PCLC offers Tenancy Assistance and Advocacy services at numerous locations in the South East including Frankston.
PCLC also offers rooming house outreach and support services in the South East.
Phone: 9783 3600


Consumer Affairs Victoria:
Rooming Houses — A Guide for Residents and Operators;

Department of Human Services:
Standards — Rooming Houses;

Tenants Union of Victoria:
Tenants Handbook

Call the Consumer Affairs Hotline on
1300 365 814 to help identify unregistered
and sub-standard rooming houses.
You do not need to leave your name.

Links to other websites:

Melbourne Homeless Services
Website with information about organisations able to help people in crisis compiled and maintained by people who are or have been in crisis themselves.
News, stories, service directories, statistics and forums written by and for Australian Homeless people.

Missing Persons
Details, information, websites and memorials dedicated to people missing from Victoria. You can read the circumstances of their disappearance, make a missing person sighting, provide information about a missing person or add a missing person to this list. This is a free service.

Homeless Persons Legal Clinic
If you are homeless or at risk of being homeless in Victoria and you need legal assistance call:

(03) 8636 4408 or
TOLL FREE: 1800 606 313 to make an appointment.

This is a specialist legal service providing free legal assistance and advocacy to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Legal assistance is provided by pro bono lawyers at 13 homelessness assistance services around metropolitan Melbourne and in Bendigo to facilitate direct access by clients and to provide a service that works closely and collaboratively with other homeless service providers. It is a project of Justice Connect.