Rooming houses

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

Note – rental laws have recently changed

New laws provide more protections for renters. These changes started on 29 March 2021. Learn more about the changes and new rental laws on the Tenants Victoria website.

As a rooming house resident, you have legal rights and responsibilities. These are covered in Consumer Affairs Victoria’s booklet called Rooming house residents guide. A rooming house operator must give a copy of this guide to you on or before the day you move in.

Shared rooms

Before you move in, the rooming house operator 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 rooming house operator 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 operator 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 a rooming house operator a notice if they fail to carry out their duties. Operators’ 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.

Rooming house operators 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 renter or rental provider (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 operator is making sure that the property is being maintained in good repair (e.g. if the rooming house operator is refusing to carry out repairs after you have asked them to)
  • the operator 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 resident.

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

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

Charges for things other than rent

Sometimes residents are charged separately for services provided by the operator, such as cooking and cleaning. Operators 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 operator must give you an itemised account.

A rooming house operator 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 operator is paying the gas or electricity supplier for them.

Privacy

Generally, a rooming house operator 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
  • if they have a reasonable ground to believe that a resident has not met their duties.

A rooming house operator must give at least 48 hours’ notice to make a general inspection of the room and may only do so once in any four-week period.

A rooming house operator 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 operator can give you a Notice to Vacate your room immediately if you or your visitor have:

  • caused serious damage to the rooming house
  • made other residents unsafe or you have threatened or scared other residents, the rooming house operator, agent or people doing work for them
  • seriously interfered with other residents’ quiet enjoyment of the rooming house.

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

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

If you are late paying your rent, you can try to get your rooming house operator to agree to a payment plan, but you should act quickly.

Do not ignore the notice. If you do not leave by the date in the notice, the rooming house operator may apply to the tribunal for an order for 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 may be evicted.

Before the tribunal can make a possession order, it must also consider whether in all the circumstances it is reasonable and proportionate to make the order.

Eviction without notice for serious violence

If a resident or a visitor is violent or puts anyone in the rooming house in danger, the rooming house operator 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 operator applies to the 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 operator may apply to the tribunal for a possession order.

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.

Before the tribunal can make a possession order, it must also consider whether in all the circumstances it is reasonable and proportionate to make the order.

More information

Consumer Affairs Victoria‘s website has information about your legal rights and responsibilities if you are living in a rooming house.

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

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