Rooming houses

Rooming houses or residential accommodation are required to be registered under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 and under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008.

The Residential Tenancies Act 1997 describes a rooming house as a building where:

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

Before commencing a rooming house you need to meet legal requirements associated with the following departments within Council, in the following order:

  1. Statutory Building
  2. Statutory Planning
  3. Environmental Health Department

In addition to permits from Council there are criteria which must be met and are managed by Consumer Affairs Victoria.

Building requirements

  • Shared accommodation with a floor area of no more than 300 square metres and no more than 12 residents is classified as a Class 1b building by the Building Code of Australia (BCA).
  • When an owner changes the use of their home from Class 1a (a single dwelling) to Class 1b, they must obtain a building permit and ensure that essential safety measures are maintained.
  • On the satisfactory completion of the building work an Occupancy permit or Certificate of Final Inspection is issued by the Relevant Building Surveyor.
  • Unauthorized conversion of Buildings (converting a building from Class 1a to Class 1b) may constitute an offence which can be prosecuted by Council. It may also lead to danger to residents due to inadequate fire protection or sub-standard conditions.

Planning requirements

A planning permit may be required for a rooming house depending on:

  • how many habitable rooms are within the building
  • the number of persons accommodated within the building and
  • the total floor area of the building. 

A habitable room is defined as “any room of a residential building other than a bathroom, laundry, toilet, pantry, walk-in-wardrobe, corridor, stair, lobby, photographic darkroom, clothes drying room and other space of a specialised nature occupied neither frequently nor for extended periods”.

View the Rooming House provisions under the Greater Geelong Planning Scheme.

Environmental Health requirements

Under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 a Rooming House must register with us as a 'Prescribed Accommodation' and comply with the Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2009.

The Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2009 aim to prevent overcrowding in prescribed accommodation, ensure reasonable standards of hygiene, sanitation and maintenance, and reduce the risk of spreading communicable diseases.

The Environmental Health Department are unable to process any application until both building and planning requirements are met, including obtaining the appropriate Occupancy permit.

Consumer Affairs Victoria

The Residential Tenancies Act 1997 also sets out a range of rights and responsibilities for rooming house landlords and tenants.

Further information regarding the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 can be obtained from the website or by contacting the Barwon South West Office at Level 5/30A Little Malop Street, Geelong.

What happens next

Registration process

The application form should be submitted with a copy of the floor plans of the premises, so we can assess that they comply with standards. You will be invoiced for the application. 
Our Environmental Health Officer will carry out an inspection to assess compliance with the standards. When we are satisfied that the premise complies and payment has been made, then a certificate of registration will be issued and the rooms can then be rented out.

This form and payment must be returned to us, then a certificate of registration under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act will be issued and the rooms can then be rented out.

Once registered, our Health Department will undertake annual inspections of the property to ensure standards within the rooming house are being appropriately maintained.

General set up requirements

  • Overcrowding - Owners/proprietors must comply with regulations in relation to the maximum number of people permitted to reside in each bedroom. A room must not be permitted to be used as a bedroom if it has a floor area of less than 7.5 square metres.
  • Maintenance - All bedrooms, toilets, bathrooms, laundries, kitchens, living rooms and any common areas provided with the accommodation must be maintained in good working order; in a clean, sanitary and hygienic condition and in a good state of repair.
  • Water supply - A continuous and adequate supply of water must be provided to all toilet, bathing, kitchen, laundry and drinking water facilities and hot water to all bathing, laundry and kitchen facilities.
  • Toilet and bathing facilities - At least one toilet, one bath or shower and one wash basin for every 10 persons must be provided for persons occupying the accommodation.
  • Register of occupants -A register recording names and addresses of persons occupying the accommodation and dates of their arrival and departure must be retained for at least 12 months after the date of the last entry in the register.

Consumer Affairs Victoria Licensing Requirements

The rooming house operators licensing scheme, established under the Rooming House Operators Act 2016, came into effect on 26 April 2017.

All rooming house operators (except those that are registered housing associations or housing providers under the Housing Act 1983) must apply for a licence prior to legally operate their rooming house(s).

The Business Licensing Authority (BLA) within the Department of Justice and Regulation will be responsible for granting licences to applicants who are 'fit and proper persons'. More information can be obtained from the Consumer Affairs Victoria website or by contacting BLA on 1300 135 452.

Failure to register

If we become aware of shared accommodation facilities that breach building, public health and planning laws, we will co ordinate investigation and enforcement activities to achieve compliance. We would initially seek to work with owners/proprietors to achieve compliance.

However, where necessary, we may use a number of enforcement options available. This includes issuing of orders/notices to upgrade safety measures of the building, prohibit occupation and remedy any breaches of standards under the Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations and the Planning Scheme.

We may also serve an infringement notice for offences, including operating an unregistered business.

Page last updated: Tuesday, 8 June 2021