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"Rent Fair" Victorian Rental Law Reforms - Reforms unique to rooming houses (Part 13)

Marcel Dybner

Reforms unique to rooming houses

Reform 106. 

A future inter-governmental project will consider the definition of a rooming house in the context of the modern breadth of rooming house accommodation.

Reform 107.

Under this reform, buildings owned or leased by a registered housing agency will be able to be declared rooming houses by the Minister for Housing. Currently only buildings owned or leased by the Director of Housing can be declared.

Reform 108.

An owner of a building, or that owner’s agent, must notify the relevant local council if they have reason to believe the building is being used as an unregistered rooming house. This reporting obligation will be expanded to include where the building owner or their agent ought to know, in all the circumstances, that the building is being used as an unregistered rooming house. This reform will prevent owners and agents profiting from leasing a building from turning a blind eye where there is evidence it is being used as an unregistered rooming house.

Reform 109.

To improve rooming house residents’ awareness of their rights and responsibilities, the Act will also be amended to explicitly require rooming house operators to give a resident a copy of the ‘Red Book’. A summary of these rights and responsibilities will also need to be displayed in each resident’s room.

Reform 110.

A rooming house operator wishing to give notice to enter a resident’s room to conduct a general inspection will be required to give the resident 48 hours’ notice (rather than the current 24 hours’ notice for this reason for entry).

Reform 111. 

Rooming house operators will be able to charge for separately metered water consumption in the same way that they can already charge for separately metered electricity and gas consumption. Where a room is separately metered for water, this will better reflect the resident’s water use than the current practice of including water consumption in rent.

Reform 112. 

While not in the Bill itself, the prescribed rooming house minimum standards will be updated to clarify that:

  • a resident’s room must have at least two power points that are unoccupied, working and safe
  • the operator must provide laundry facilities in a ratio of one set of facilities for every 12 residents.

Reform 113.

The current practice of some rooming house operators using Part 2 tenancy agreements for rooms in a rooming house will be abolished. Tenancy agreements and the provisions in Part 2 of the Act are ill-suited to the communal living aspects of a rooming house, and vulnerable rooming house residents are disadvantaged by agreements that hold them to a fixed term (liable for lease break fees) in accommodation where conditions can be chaotic and residents have no control over who occupies the other rooms or shares their room

This reform will replace the use of tenancy agreements for rooms in rooming houses with tailored fixed term rooming house agreements. If the parties choose to enter a fixed term rooming house agreement, the operator will be able to request a higher amount of bond (up to 28 days’ rent instead of the usual 14 days’ rent) and a resident will be required to give 14 days’ notice of intention to vacate (instead of the usual two days’ notice) at any time.

Reform 114.

An amendment will clarify that where a building owner or lessee is entitled to terminate the lease of a building in which a rooming house is operating, the rooming house residents will be entitled to be given a notice period when a building lease terminates, whether or not the building owner or person discontinuing the lease was aware that the rooming house was being operated.

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