Rooming houses

Rooming houses

A rooming house, or boarding house, is where one or more rooms are for rent and residents share facilities like kitchens and bathrooms. 

There are rules and regulations about rooming houses, including:

  • duties of the owner and resident
  • licencing requirements for owners and managers.
  • maintaining the property to minimum standards
  • how many people in a room
  • rent receipts
  • house rules
  • eviction.

As a rooming house resident, you have legal rights and responsibilities. These are covered in Consumer Affairs Victoria’s booklet called Rooming houses: a guide for residents and operators (PDF, 1.19MB). Rooming house owners must give a copy of this guide to residents on or before the day they move in.

Shared rooms

Before you move in, the rooming house owner must give you a notice saying whether your occupancy right is ‘exclusive’ (meaning only you or you and people you want to live with, like a domestic partner, will live in the room) or ‘shared’.

If it is shared, the notice must tell you:

  • the maximum number of occupants there could be
  • that the owner has the right to choose the other occupants
  • that you will not be told before another occupant moves in
  • the rent you will pay and also what the rent would have been if it was an ‘exclusive’ occupancy.

If a rooming house owner wants to increase the number of residents living in a room they must get the written consent of the existing resident/s. This written consent is made on a Notice to rooming house resident – consent to increase in room capacity.

If there is an increase in the number of people in the room there must be a reduction in the rent each person pays. The amount of rent that will be reduced will be set out in the notice. Before you sign the notice, make sure that the amount your rent is being reduced by is worth it.

Breach of Duty Notice

If someone breaks the rules and they fail to carry out their duties you can give a Breach of Duty Notice.

Rooming house residents can give the owner a notice if they fail to carry out their duties. Owners’ duties include:

  • keeping the room, property and any furniture or other facilities in good condition
  • respecting residents’ right to privacy, peace and quiet and enjoyment of the room and facilities
  • providing residents with 24 hours' access to their room, bathroom and toilet facilities
  • keeping residents’ belongings safe.

See the Consumer Affairs Victoria website for the minimum standards in rooming houses.

Owners can also give residents a notice if they fail to carry out their duties. Residents’ duties include observing the house rules, keeping their room clean, and not damaging the room or rooming house.

For a copy of the notice and more information about when and how to serve a notice see Consumer Affairs Victoria‘s When a tenant or landlord breaks the rules.

Rooming house inspections

A resident can request Consumer Affairs Victoria inspect a rooming house to look at whether:

  • a planned increase in rent is too much
  • the rooming house owner is making sure that the property is being maintained in good repair (e.g. if the rooming house owner is refusing to carry out repairs after you have asked them to)
  • the owner is complying with any minimum standards that are set for privacy, safety and security.

Consumer Affairs Victoria may also carry out inspections without a complaint being made by a tenant.

After the inspection, the inspector will write a report and send it to the residents and the rooming house owner. The inspector will speak to the owner and direct them to make the changes that are suggested.

If the owner does not make the changes, the rooming house resident can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal using the report as evidence.

Charges for things other than rent

Sometimes residents are charged separately for services provided by the owner, such as cooking and cleaning. Owners must give residents a list of services and their cost before they move in.

If you agree to use and pay for extra services, the owner must give you an itemised account.

A rooming house owner can only charge separately for electricity and gas if the room has a separate meter and is an ‘exclusive’ occupancy, not a shared room. The charges can't be more than the owner is paying the gas or electricity supplier for them.

Privacy

Generally, an owner must give a resident 24 hours’ notice in writing if they intend to go into their room. This includes:

  • when they want to show a possible new resident through
  • to make a general inspection once in any four-week period
  • if they have a 'reasonable suspicion' that a resident has not met their duties.

A rooming house owner can only enter your room without prior notice:

  • if you agree at the time
  • to provide a service during the hours stated in the house rules
  • in an emergency, to save life or valuable property.

Grounds for eviction

The rooming house owner can give you a Notice to Vacate your room within two days if any of these situations apply:

  • if your rent is seven days late
  • if you have done something illegal in your room (like selling or growing drugs)
  • if you do not follow an order from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

If you are late paying your rent, you can try to get your landlord to agree to a payment plan, but you have to act quickly.

Do not ignore the notice. If you do not vacate in accordance with the notice, the rooming house owner may apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for an order of possession. It is very important that you attend that hearing, as there may be a basis to dispute the notice or get more time to stay. If you do nothing, you will be evicted.

Eviction without notice

If a resident or a visitor is violent or puts anyone in the rooming house in danger, the owner can give the resident one of two official notices.

A Notice to Leave means you must leave the rooming house immediately and can't return for two business days. If during those two days the owner applies to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to permanently evict you, you can't return until the tribunal deals with the application. You must pay rent and any other charges for the days you are suspended, unless the tribunal decides otherwise.

A Notice to Vacate means you are being evicted because of a violent situation. It can take effect immediately or at a date in the future. If you don't leave by the given date you can't be forced to leave, but the owner may apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for an order for your eviction.

You can challenge a Notice to Vacate if you think it was not given properly or you disagree with the reason it was given. You can also ask for more time before you move out.

More information

The Tenants Union of Victoria has information for rooming house residents in Victoria, including fact sheets on eviction and Notice to Vacate and a residents’ handbook.