Rooming and boarding houses

What is a rooming or boarding house?

A rooming house is the same as a boarding house. Rooming houses are classified as prescribed accommodation in the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008.

Under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, a rooming house is a building where:

  • one or more rooms is available for rent, and
  • the total number of people who may occupy those rooms is four or more.

Also, in most rooming houses:

  • residents share bathrooms, kitchens, laundries and other common areas
  • the owner and their family generally do not live on the premises
  • separate rental agreements may exist for residents.

The establishment and ongoing management of rooming houses is covered by the following legislation:

  • Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008
  • Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2009 
  • Building Regulations 2018
  • Building Act 1993
  • Building Code of Australia (BCA)
  • Planning and Environment Act, and  
  • Residential Tenancies Act 1997.

Requirements for rooming houses

Starting a rooming house or converting a building into a rooming house is not a simple process and can involve multiple services within Council. 

Before you can start a rooming house, you need to meet legal requirements associated with Council’s Planning, Building and Environmental Health areas. This may include obtaining a planning permit, building permit, occupancy permit and registering as prescribed accommodation.

The process generally starts with Planning, followed by Building and concluding with Environmental Health.

For more information about the requirements for rooming houses and proprietors, see Consumer Affairs Victoria and the Registered Accommodation Association of Victoria (RAAV). For rooming house tenants, see Tenants Union of Victoria.

Planning requirements

Land use and development is controlled and regulated under the various provisions of the Moreland Planning Scheme.

A rooming house is a land use that is defined as 'accommodation' under the definitions contained in the Merri-bek Planning Scheme. A rooming house is a land use that does not meet the requirements specified for 'shared housing'. See planning permits for more information.

Building requirements

The Building Code of Australia classifies a rooming house into one of two classes of building:

Class 1B – a boarding house

  • Total floor area not exceeding 300sqm when measured over the enclosing walls of the building
  • No more than 12 persons would ordinarily be resident
  • Cannot be located above or below another dwelling or another class of building other than a private garage.

Class 3 – a residential building

  • Any other building other than a building of Class 1 or 2, which is a common place of long term or transient living for a number of unrelated persons, including a boarding house, guest house, hostel, lodging house or backpackers accommodation

You need to obtain a building permit from a registered building surveyor to convert an existing building to either a Class 1B or Class 3 building.

To allow for the lawful use of the building as a rooming or boarding house, the owner of the building must have an occupancy permit suitable for the use of the building.

See building, renovations and extensions for more information.

Health requirements

Under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008, an operator must register a rooming house with the Council if they want to rent out more or one rooms to four or more people.

Rooming houses must also comply with the Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2009, including having:

  • at least 1 toilet for every 10 people in the building
  • at least one fixed bath or shower and washbasin for every 10 people in the building
  • continuous and adequate supply of hot and cold water to all bathing, laundry and kitchen facilities
  • working smoke alarms fitted throughout the premises
  • rooms and communal areas in clean condition and well maintained, and
  • minimum room sizes.

Rooms must be well maintained, structurally sound, contain lighting, be ventilated and have floor coverings that are free of major rips and raised edges and are appropriately fixed.

To be registered, the building must comply with the health reuglations, as well building and planning requirements, including obtaining the appropriate occupancy permit.

Once registered, Council’s will inspect the property annually to ensure standards are maintained.

See register a new health-related business for more information.