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Rooming houses and prescribed accommodation

Before you build, buy or operate a prescribed accommodation business you should be aware of the regulations.

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What is prescribed accommodation?

Any of the following:

  • rooming or boarding houses
  • residential accommodation
  • hotels
  • motels
  • hostels
  • student dormitories
  • holiday camps. 

When do you need to register with us?

You must register a prescribed accommodation business when there are four or more residents (not including the owner's family).

Our role

Our environmental health officers inspect prescribed accommodation businesses to ensure they operate in accordance with the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 and the Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2009

Building a new prescribed accommodation business

Before you start building a new prescribed accommodation businesses, you must:

  • register with us
  • meet Public Health legal requirements
  • meet Building legal requirements
  • meet Planning legal requirements.

This table offers a simple guide for who to contact:

Number of Proposed Occupants Building Department Public Health Department
Building will accommodate less than 4 people Required ✔ Not applicable ✖
Building will accommodate 4 or more people with 10 or less habitable rooms Required ✔ Required ✔
Building will accommodate 4 or more people with 11 or more habitable rooms Required ✔ Required ✔

*Please consult with Urban Planning for the use of the land to determine if planning approval is required prior to commencing the use or carrying out any works.

Buying an existing business

Before you purchase a prescribed accommodation business, you should: 

  • check if the business has current registration with us
  • request a pre-transfer inspection of the business.

If you're buying an existing business, you must transfer its registration into your name or your company's name.

Running your business

Before you can operate a rooming house you must meet the requirements of the Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) rooming house operators licensing scheme, which came into effect on 26th April 2017.

The scheme outlines requirements related to:

  • using the new my CAV online application system
  • new and existing rooming house operators
  • rooming house managers
  • building owners
  • refusal and review of an application
  • fees
  • other relevant areas.

For more information, download our Guidelines for new and transferring prescribed accommodation businesses (PDF, 222KB).

Common neighbourhood concerns

You may not even realise that there is a rooming house operating in your street — the majority of rooming houses are well maintained and do not cause concerns for local residents. However, like any property in a residential area, you may experience some minor concerns relating to noise, rubbish and anti-social behaviour. It is recommended that you have a good relationship with the rooming house operator to be able to communicate any issues that you may experience.

How do I get along with the operator?

Rooming houses are managed either by the operator or a person who is appointed to manage the dwelling. Whilst this person is not required to live at the property, they should visit the rooming house regularly. It is recommended that you introduce yourself to the manager and request their contact details if you need to contact them for any reason. They will be your first point of call to rectify any concern relating to the operation of the rooming house.

How should they be maintained?

It is important that rooming houses, like any dwellings, are in a good condition, well maintained and ensure that rubbish is removed on a regular basis.

Council officers are able to investigate complaints relating to unsightliness, fire hazards, rubbish, waste collection and harbourage of pests.

Common occupant concerns

Rooming house operators must comply with minimum standards set out in the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 and Residential Tenancies (Rooming House Standards) Regulations 2012. These standards relate to privacy, security, safety and amenity in rooming houses. The minimum standards apply to a rooming house and its rooms, irrespective of whether the resident is on a rooming house agreement or individual tenancy agreement.

When moving into a rooming house, an operator must provide a new resident with a copy of the Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) ‘Rooming houses: A guide for residents and operators’ brochure which outlines a residents rights before, during and after residing at a rooming house. To download this brochure, please visit the CAV website or call 1300 55 81 81.

Overcrowding — how many people are allowed in a rooming house?

The size of the dwelling and the size of the rooms dictate the number of residents who are able to stay in a rooming house. Generally speaking, small rooming houses (less than nine bedrooms and total floor area of all buildings less than 300 square metres) can have up to 12 occupants whilst large rooming houses (that have a floor space of more than 300 square metres) can have more than 12 occupants depending on the sizes of the bedrooms.

There are also minimum standards that relate to rooming houses to ensure that they are well maintained to protect the health and hygiene of the residents.

What are the fire safety requirements?

Rooming houses must have adequate and well-maintained hard wired smoke alarms to protect residents in the event of a fire. The Building Regulations also require some operators to install an automatic fire sprinkler system to dwellings that were constructed before 1 July 2003.

In addition, operators need to maintain clear pathways to exits and in some instances fire-fighting services and equipment (eg. portable fire extinguishers, hose reels and hydrants). These requirements are designed to protect the residents in event of an emergency. Concerns relating to fire safety should be referred to Council’s Building Department.

I have concerns for the occupants’ health and wellbeing — who can I contact?

Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) administers laws about all residential tenancies in Victoria, including rooming houses. They give information and advice about disputes between owners and tenants including rental bonds, rent increases, rights and obligations of tenants and operators, notice periods and goods left behind. Any concerns relating to the residents of rooming houses should be directed to CAV.

Rooming House Strategy 

We developed the Rooming House Strategy 2019 in response to the complex regulatory framework for rooming houses, community concerns and the need to house vulnerable groups in our community.  The Strategy outlines major issues with the operation of a rooming house and sets out actions we will take to address these.

The action plan includes improvements we will make to regulation and enforcement of rooming houses and where we will advocate for improvements by other responsible agencies.

Download our Rooming House Strategy 2019 (PDF, 643Kb)

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