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Shared housing requirements

Owners of private shared accommodation (or rooming houses) must comply with legal requirements, to ensure the health and safety of the occupants. Rooming houses are common in the City of Whittlesea and provide alternative accommodation, especially for students.

Our role in monitoring rooming houses

We are responsible for:

  • providing building advice about proposed rooming houses
  • issuing building permits for proposed rooming houses
  • investigating and applying enforcement notices and orders on illegal rooming houses
  • actively pursuing any houses or buildings allegedly being used for illegal shared accommodation
  • ordering the evacuation of those buildings that pose a danger to occupants
  • ordering building work be undertaken to protect occupants
  • taking legal action against owners and operators of illegal rooming houses

How we define a rooming house

A rooming house (a Class 1b building) is temporary or permanent accommodation that:

  • is used as a boarding house, guest house or hostel, and
  • has a total floor area of less than 300m2, measured over the enclosing walls, and
  • has no parts located above or below another class of building except a private garage, and
  • accommodates, on payment of rent, between 2 and 12 people, who are not in a family or other close relationship
  • accommodates individual or joint residents in a room, on payment of rent, to the exclusion of any other occupier(s)

It is important to properly define a rooming house to:

  • ensure occupants are provided with emergency warning equipment and evacuation assistance
  • protect occupants from risk related to being unfamiliar with the building
  • control the number of people accommodated
  • confirm the amenity of the building, health and safety of occupants, and that appropriate measures exist to prevent the spread of fire to or from any adjoining building

Building and occupancy permits

If you are constructing a new building for the purpose of shared accommodation, you must ensure it is built to fully satisfy the Class 1b statutory requirements, including the provisions of the Building Code of Australia, and health and planning legislation.

 If you plan to convert a building, which was built to accommodate a family (Class 1a), into a rooming house, you should contact a Registered Building Surveyor (RBS). They will assess the building and determine what work is required to comply with the regulations for the new use (Class 1b).

You will need a building permit, and then an occupancy permit at the end of the work. You will also need to Register a prescribed accommodation premises.

You cannot simply install smoke alarms to convert a Class 1a building to Class 1b.

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