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Boarding Houses and Shared Accommodation

If you are opening, buying or selling an accommodation business including a bed and breakfast, motel or boarding house you need to register with Council.

Depending on whether you are establishing a new business, or buying or transferring an existing business you will need to apply for permits using the appropriate forms (see below).

Knox Council's Health Services Unit is responsible for ensuring that all rooming houses and shared accommodation premises housing 4 or more people are registered with Council and that they provide a good standard of health for all residents.

The following provides information about the different types of accommodation that must register with Council and information for both owners and residents of boarding houses and shared accommodation facilities.

There are also some basic guidelines for what Council's responsibility is and where you can go for more information.

What is a Rooming House?

A rooming or boarding house is defined under Section 3 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 as being:

"a building in which there is one or more rooms available for occupancy on payment of rent

(a) in which the total number of people who may occupy those rooms is not less than 4; or
(b) in respect of which a declaration under section 19(2) or (3) is in force."

Section 19(2) states:

"The Minister, by notice published in the Government Gazette, may declare that building to be a rooming house for the purposes of this Act."

Section 19(3) states:

"The Minister, at the request of the Director of Housing, may declare a building owned or leased by the Director of Housing and containing one or more self-contained apartments to be a rooming house for the purposes of this Act."

What is Shared Accommodation?

Generally the difference between shared accommodation and a rooming or boarding house is in the leasing arrangement. Residents of a shared accommodation have exclusive possession of the rented premises however residents of a rooming or boarding house only have exclusive possession to their room with shared access to communal facilities such as kitchens, bathrooms, laundries and living areas.

Information for Owners of Rooming or Boarding Houses

If you provide accommodation on a fee paying basis to 4 or more people you are required to register with Council. Payment can either be financial or in kind such as labour. As the owner of a rooming or boarding house you are required to provide a certain standard of health and living conditions to your residents. These include:

  • You must prevent overcrowding. Part 5 of the Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2009 describes the maximum number of people that can be accommodated in a room depending on the size of the room.
  • A minimum room size of 7.5 square metres.
  • You must ensure that all rooms and facilities are kept clean and in good working order.
  • You must provide an adequate hot and cold water supply and a drinking water supply that is of drinking water quality.
  • You must ensure that an adequate sewerage system is in place and is kept in good working order.
  • You must ensure that there are adequate rubbish collection containers that are cleaned and collected regularly.
  • You must provide at least 1 toilet, 1 bath or shower and 1 wash basin for every 10 people accommodated.

Other Accommodation Types

Other than a rooming or boarding house, there are a number of accommodation facilities that are also covered by the Health (Prescribed Accommodation) Regulations 2001 and are also required to register with Council. These include:

  • a hotel or motel
  • a hostel
  • a student dormitory
  • a holiday camp
  • a caravan park

Rooming House Operators Licence

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

The rooming house operator licensing scheme does not change your obligations to register your premises with Council, in accordance with the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008.

For more information about the rooming house operator licence, please visit the Business Licensing Authority (BLA) within the Department of Justice and Regulation.

How to Register a Prescribed Premises with Council

More Information

Download brochures for residents or operators of an accommodation premises and for more information, visit the Consumer Affairs website or call 1300 55 81 81.

You can also contact Knox Council's Health Services Unit on 9298 8165 or email health.services@knox.vic.gov.au

If you live in a caravan park or rooming house you can find out about your rights as a resident by contacting the Peninsula Community Legal Centre on 9783 3600 or visit pclc.org.au.

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