There are different rules when someone rents a room in a rooming house compared to other types of properties. These rules cover things like how the rental agreements work, and how many people can share a room.
Rooming houses are not the same as share houses.
On this page:
Other pages have information about repairs in a rooming house and when a rooming house operator can enter a room. To find a registered rooming house, use our Public register of rooming houses search.
What is a rooming house
A rooming house is a building where 4 or more people can live in rented rooms, some of which might be shared.
The rooming house is managed by a rooming house operator and individual residents usually have separate agreements with the operator.
The operator can decide who can live in the property without consulting the residents.
In most rooming houses, residents share bathrooms, kitchens, laundries and other common areas. The rooming house operator and their family do not usually live in the property.
A rooming house is different to a share house, boarding house or sub-let.
Agreements in rooming houses
Individual residents usually have separate agreements with the rooming house operator.
The rooming house agreement gives the resident the right to live in the room and use communal facilities.
A rooming house agreement can be any of the following:
- A fixed-term rooming house agreement. This allows a resident to stay for a certain amount of time.
- An open-ended written agreement that does not have an end date. This means the resident and operator are not committed to the resident staying for a certain amount of time.
- A verbal agreement. It can be hard to prove what was in the agreement if it wasn’t written down, so a written agreement is better.
Standard residential rental agreements like those used for houses and flats cannot be used in a rooming house unless someone is renting a self-contained apartment.
Fixed-term rooming house agreements
A fixed-term rooming house agreement must:
- be in writing
- be for five years or less
- state the terms and conditions for the resident to rent the room and use the common areas and facilities.
You must use the ‘prescribed form’ when if you have a fixed term rooming house agreement. A prescribed form is defined by Victorian rental law. We recommend using our official form: Rooming house residency agreement (Word, 98KB).
If there is a fixed-term rooming house agreement, the rooming house operator cannot ask for a bond that is equal to more than 28 days’ rent.
Things the rooming house operator needs to tell you
Rooming house operators are required to provide certain information to all prospective residents. The information that must be provided is listed below:
- if the rooming house operator is licensed under section 16 of the Rooming House Operators Act 2016
- if the rooming house is registered under Division 4 of Part 6 of the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008
- if the rooming house operator is a registered housing association or registered housing provider and is not required to be licenced under section 7(1) of the Rooming House Operators Act 2016
- if there have been issues relating to mould and damp in the rented in the last three years (this is only required after 31 December 2021)
- if there has been a homicide at the rooming house in the last five years
- if the rooming house operator is aware of any drug contamination in the rooming house
- if the rooming house operator is aware of any asbestos in the rooming house
- if the rooming house operator is aware of building or planning in the neighbourhood which might affect your stay
- if the rooming house operator knows of any safety or building issue that might affect the property, and what that is. For example, building defects or safety concerns such as the presence of combustible cladding, water leaks or structural issues affecting the rooming house or common property
- if there is a current domestic building work dispute in the rooming house
- if there a current dispute under Part 10 of the Owners Corporations Act 2006 which applies to or affects the rooming house
- a copy of any owners corporation rules applicable to the rooming house (if any).
Things the rooming house operator can’t ask
A rooming house operator is not allowed to ask for certain information from potential residents. The rooming house operator can’t ask you:
- whether you have previously taken legal action or have had a dispute with a rental provider
- about your bond history
- certain protected attributes outlined in the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (e.g. ethnicity). If they do make such as request, they must provide the reason they are requesting that information in writing
- your income, until they have told you the price of the room. (This does not apply if the rooming house operator is the Director of Housing or a registered housing agency).
Conditions that shouldn’t be in your rooming house agreement
Agreements can include additional conditions if the residents or rooming house operator requests them, but there are some conditions that are not allowed.
If one of these prohibited conditions is included in the agreement, that term is not valid. The rooming house operator may also have to pay penalties for including a prohibited term in the agreement.
Residents cannot be required to:
- take out any form of insurance
- exempt the rooming house operator or their agent from any liability
- pay additional rent or penalties if they break the rules in the agreement
- pay for professional cleaning
- indemnify the rooming house operator
- pay rent in advance by a payment method which requires additional costs (other than bank fees or account fees payable on the resident's bank account)
- use the services of a third party service provider nominated by the rooming house operator, other than an embedded network
- be liable for the rooming house operator's costs of filing an application at the Tribunal.
In addition, the agreement cannot say that:
- rent will be reduced if the resident does not break the rules in the agreement
- the resident will be paid rebates or other payments if they do not break the rules in the agreement
- the resident is bound to a contract that the resident did not agree to in writing
- the resident cannot make a claim for compensation if the room is not available on the commencement date of the agreement
- the resident is liable by default for any insurance excess to be paid under an insurance policy of the rooming house operator
- the resident's use of utilities is limited
- there are fixed fees for terminating a rooming house agreement early, unless the basis for calculating the fixed fees has been set out in the agreement.
Right to information when moving in
When residents move in they must be given:
- the rooming house residents guide
- the operator’s contact details
- a written statement of rights and duties
- a copy of the house rules
- the notice that says whether the resident has a shared or exclusive right to the room
- a notice outlining the costs of any services the operator provides.
Read more about what must be given to residents.
Shared and exclusive room rights
A rooming house resident can have either a shared room right or an exclusive room right:
An ‘exclusive room right’ allows them to occupy the room alone or with people they choose to share it with. The operator may not move new people into the room without their consent.
A ‘shared room right’ allows the rooming house operator to choose other residents to live in the room.
If the resident has a shared room right, the rooming house operator must tell the resident in writing:
- the maximum number of people they can share with
- that the operator has the right to choose the other residents of the room
- that the operator does not have to notify the resident of another person moving into the room
- how much rent the resident will pay
- how much rent the resident would pay if they were not sharing the room.
Read more about what happens if a rooming house operator adds more people to a room.
Before a resident agrees to move into a rooming house, the operator must give them one of the following:
Different rules for rooming houses
Some of the rules that are different in rooming houses include:
Forms you might need
To issue a proposed rooming house resident a notice, use one of these forms:
To start a fixed-term rooming house agreement, use this form:
Renting law reforms
Victoria made significant changes to renting laws in 2021.
Some of the major changes to laws about rooming house agreements include:
- residential rental agreements can no longer be used for rooms in rooming houses
- there are now specific fixed term rooming house agreements
- fixed term agreements cannot be for more than five years.
You can read about these and other changes in a summary of the reforms or in detailed fact sheets and guides.
Sections of the Act
If you want to know what the law says about renting in a rooming house, you can read these sections of the Residential Tenancies Act:
- Section 92A – Exclusive occupancy right
- Section 93A – Rooming house agreement
- Section 92A – Exclusive occupancy right
- Section 92B – Shared room right.