Research Papers

Download details

Research Note Rooming Houses Operators Bill 2015

Executive summary

The Rooming House Operators Bill 2015 establishes a licensing scheme to protect against exploitative practices within the rooming house sector. This licensing scheme is to be administered by the Business Licensing Authority (BLA) and monitored and enforced by the Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV). The Bill responds to recommendation 3 in the Coroner's report, discussed below, which recommended implementing a 'fit and proper' person test for rooming house operators.[footnote 1] As noted in the Explanatory Memorandum:

Currently, there is no law regulating who can and cannot operate a rooming house. Once this Bill comes into operation, in order to operate a rooming house legally in Victoria an individual or eligible corporate entity will need to apply for and be granted a licence to operate rooming houses, as well as meeting other existing legal requirements… Only persons who are "fit and proper persons" within the meaning of this Bill will be eligible to be granted a licence.[footnote 2]

This Research Note examines the rooming house sector in Victoria. It examines how increasingly homelessness, lack of housing affordability and housing shortages have facilitated the growth of the private rooming house sector as a profitable business. This note provides a timeline of recent developments, including the Coroner's investigation, the Rooming House Taskforce report, the Regulatory Impact Statement for the proposed regulations to rooming house standards, and recent legislative changes, such as establishing the state-wide register of rooming houses. It concludes with an overview of rooming house regulations in other jurisdictions and links to media articles and key resources.

Fit and Proper Person

A 'fit and proper person' within the meaning of the Bill means a person who does not meet any of the licence disqualification criteria (cl 3), which is set out in clause 17 (for new licences) or clause 18 (for licence renewals). The criteria includes that the relevant person has not been convicted or found guilty (within the preceding 10 years) of:

(i) an offence involving fraud, dishonesty, drug cultivation or trafficking, sexual slavery or servitude, child pornography or violence that was punishable by a term of imprisonment of 3 months or more at the time of the conviction or finding of guilt or a sexual offence or an offence connected with sex work that was punishable by a term of imprisonment of 3 months or more at the time of the conviction or finding of guilt; or

(ii) an offence that, if committed in Victoria, would constitute an offence referred to in subparagraph (i);

Importantly, a rooming house operator's licence is 'personal to the licensee' (cl 19(1)(b)) and is 'not transferable to any other person' (cl 19(1)(c)). A licensee must also notify the Authority within 14 days if they meet one or more renewal disqualification criteria, hence 'ceasing to be a fit and proper' person (cl 21).

As discussed in the Timeline below, the Bill responds to the Coroner's recommendation, following the death of two people in a rooming house fire, that rooming house operators be licenced and managed by 'such persons to be fit and proper persons having regard to criteria to be established by the Director'.[footnote 3] Stakeholders, such as the Tenants Union of Victoria, have also advocated on their website and in the media for a 'fit and proper' person test for rooming house operators.[footnote 4] Welfare groups, such as Homelessness Action Group and HomeGround Services, have called for police checks, rent caps, 'fit and proper person' tests and for operators to declare any convictions.[footnote 5] The Real Estate Institute of Victoria (REIV) also expressed support for a 'fit and proper person' test for rooming house operators in their government submission to the consultation paper.[footnote 6]

Rooming Houses in Victoria

Section 3 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 defines a rooming house as:

… 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.

The rooming house sector consists primarily of community managed not-for-profit rooming houses and private rooming houses. The focus of this Research Note is on private rooming houses as they are less likely to be registered and are more difficult to regulate. Profit-driven private rooming houses have received more media attention and are difficult to monitor as they 'often appear indistinguishable from other forms of residential or commercial property'.[footnote 7] A 2011 report by The Salvation Army Rooming House Project noted that private rooming houses are often run 'beneath the scrutiny of government and welfare services'.[footnote 8] The Report stated:

A major difficulty in providing services to this group of people is the 'invisibility' of both the rooming houses and their occupants… Many rooming house occupants are unaware of their rights, or of locally available services. Coupled with this is a high degree of fear about speaking up against rooming house proprietors for fear of being evicted.[footnote 9]

Furthermore, the Taskforce Report stated the following:

Complex corporate structures can exist behind lease arrangements, obscuring management responsibilities and making it hard for residents, advocates and enforcement agencies to pursue claims against the operators.[footnote 10]

The number of CAV registered rooming houses in Victoria in 2015 was 1,146.[footnote 11] In 2011, Professor Chris Chamberlain, an expert on homelessness, estimated that the rooming house population in Melbourne increased from between 2,946 and 3,739 in 2006 to 12,568 in 2011.[footnote 12] ABS data presents more conservative estimates as the ABS relies on 'census collectors' identifying boarding houses, rather than council records.[footnote 13] The ABS nation-wide statistics for the 2011 Census counted 17,721 persons staying in 'boarding houses',[footnote 14] constituting 17 per cent of the total for all homeless people (105,237).[footnote 15]

Rooming House Residents

The ABS noted that the homeless boarding house population is:

… overwhelmingly male (75%), and much older than the rest of the homeless population - 46% of the boarding house homeless population is aged 45 years and over, compared to 22% of the other homeless groups being of that age.[footnote 16]

Those living in rooming houses often have other issues to contend with, such as disability, mental health problems, drug and alcohol abuse and poor health.[footnote 17] They are often vulnerable, socially excluded and economically disadvantaged. Due to fear of being evicted, they are often reluctant to pursue issues with rooming house operators.[footnote 18] Many have reported feeling trapped 'by the lack of affordability of private rental' and saw rooming house living as their 'only option'.[footnote 19]

There has been a recent growth in rooming houses accommodating younger residents (in the 22-34 age range) who may not have complex needs 'but are simply unable to obtain private rental accommodation in Melbourne's tight rental market'.[footnote 20] Another trend is increasing numbers of international students, aged pensioners, young families and single mothers living in rooming houses.[footnote 21]

Changes in living arrangements, housing supply and consumption have been examined in many reports, including the National Housing Supply Council's State of Supply Report: Changes in How We Live and their Housing Supply and Affordability Issues 2012-13report.[footnote 22] The latter report noted that between the 2001 and 2011, there was an increase in the number of people recorded as homeless, in addition to the number of people living in 'severely' overcrowded conditions and 'other marginal housing'.[footnote 23] The report noted:

While a myriad of social issues underlie homelessness and the use of marginal housing, the lack of available suitable low-cost housing contributes to people living in these circumstances.[footnote 24]

History of Rooming Houses

Historically, rooming houses were a common accommodation choice in the early twentieth century, housing between 5-10 per cent of Melbourne's population, with residents being mostly single men.[footnote 25] The following reports provide more information on the history of rooming houses, including the development of community managed not-for-profit rooming houses during the 1980s and the 'new model' of profitable private rooming houses that have emerged more recently in response to a competitive rental market and rising house prices:

§ Proposed Residential Tenancies (Rooming House Standards) Regulations: Regulatory Impact Statement / Department of Human Services, August 2011, pp. 13-23

§ Rooming House Standards Taskforce: Chairperson's Report / Rooming House Standards Taskforce, Victorian Government, September 2009

§ 'Call this a Home?': Private Room Housing Standards in Melbourne, HomeGround Services - Bulletin #3, March 2008

§ No Room to Move? Report of the Outer West Rooming House Project, Salvation Army Adult Services, April 2011

§ Housing with Respect: Rooming Houses Key Issues Paper / City of Casey, March 2012

§ Counting Boarding Houses: Reflections on Homelessness Research in Australia / C. Chamberlain, paper presented at the Homelessness Research Conference, Melbourne 19-20 April 2012

 

Housing Affordability

The following graph, taken from the Tenant Union of Victoria's 2015 Statistics page, shows the increase in rent over the last fifteen years in Melbourne, regional Victoria and Victoria overall.

Graph 1: Change in median weekly rent, Sept Quarter, 1999-2014

Source: Tenants Union of Victoria (2015) Victorian Housing & Tenancy Statistics January 2015, TUV, p. 2.

The proportion of low income households with rents exceeding thirty per cent of gross household income in 2012 was 51.9 per cent in Melbourne and 44.5 per cent in Victoria overall.[footnote 26] The following table from the Tenants Union of Victoria, compiling data from REIV, NHSC and ABS, sets out housing affordability in Australia and Victoria.

Table 2: Housing Affordability

Proportion of median weekly family income needed to pay rent, Sept. 2013:[footnote 27]

VIC: 23.2%

Proportion of households with rents >30% of gross household income, 2011:[footnote 28]

VIC: 9.1%

Proportion of low income households with rents >30% of gross household income, 2012:[footnote 29]

AUS: 40.7%

VIC: 44.5%

(MEL: 51.9%)

Estimated number of low income renter households:[footnote 30]

AUS: 1 232 947

VIC: 267 298

Source: Tenants Union of Victoria (2015) Victorian Housing & Tenancy Statistics January 2015, op. cit, p. 2.[footnote 31]

 

 

Timeline

October 2006 – Christopher Giorgi and Leigh Sinclair died in a fire which was caused by poorly maintained electrical wiring and started in the restaurant on the ground floor of a rooming house on Sydney Road, Brunswick. The house was a two storey Victorian terrace, which was managed in a business that leased 60-70 homes, accommodating 200-300 people.[footnote 32]

2009 – the Council to Homeless People (CHP) and 39 organisations launched the 'Call This a Home? campaign, which called on the Victorian Government to introduce legislation to improve the safety and standards of rooming houses.

July 2009 – the Rooming House Standards Taskforce was established to 'take action on those predatory operators of intentionally sub-standard rooming houses who prey on some of the most vulnerable members of our community'.[footnote 33]

September 2009 – the Rooming Houses Taskforce released the Chairperson's Reportwhich examined the rooming house sector in Victoria around four key themes: standards, compliance and enforcement, registration and supply.

The report set out 32 recommendations: six of these related to rooming house standards; eight focused on improving the compliance and enforcement of rooming house regulations; five centred on the registration of rooming houses; six related to increasing the supply of affordable housing; and the remainder concerned phasing in the new regulatory requirements.

The Taskforce predicted 'some loss of stock' as an 'inevitable consequence of the reform agenda' outlined through the recommendations. The Taskforce noted that despite the potential for a decline in rooming houses as a result of the reforms, 'government must take action to prevent vulnerable Victorians living in circumstances which do not meet community expectations of decency and amenity'. See the Department of Human Service's Regulatory Impact Statement for a cost benefit analysis of the proposed legislative changes.[footnote 34]

Regarding the growth in the rooming house sector, the Taskforce report noted in the Executive Summary:

There is increasing evidence that in response to Melbourne's tight rental market, a new model of for-profit rooming house provider has emerged. In this model operators convert suburban houses to accommodate larger numbers of people and run multiple premises.

Of particular concern as this model grows is a significant subset of providers in this growth sector who are operating outside the current registration and regulatory regimes and exploiting vulnerable groups in urgent need of affordable or emergency accommodation. Much of the effort of the Taskforce has been focused on developing a better understanding of this "rogue" section of the market, the conditions which have allowed it to blossom and the types of intervention which government could consider to bring poor performing operators to a higher level of professionalism.[footnote 35]

29 September 2009 – Peter White, the Victorian Coroner released the record of investigation into the deaths of Leigh Sinclair and Christopher Giorgi.[footnote 36] The Coroner found that the deaths were preventable had the rooming house operators complied with fire safety measures.[footnote 37] He began by stating:

These two young lives were lost against a backdrop, which included a failure in the administration of applicable building code fire safety, planning and rooming house regulations and a failure to maintain both electrical wiring and electrical components.[footnote 38]

Moreland City Council had previously issued warnings in respect of the property and was aware of the hazardous conditions. The Coroner was critical of the Council for failing to successfully administer inspections for fire safety compliance of the property.

The Coroner made eighteen recommendations to improve the operation and safety of rooming houses, particularly relating to prescribed standards in rooming houses. These recommendations were directed at the Victorian Government, Consumer Affairs Victoria, the Real Estate Institute of Victoria and Municipal Councils. The recommendation that the Bill responds to is Recommendation 3:

That the Director, Consumer Affairs Victoria, implement a licensing system for all rooming house operators with each such business to be managed by a nominee who shall be the person in charge, with such persons to be fit and proper persons having regard to criteria to be established by the Director.[footnote 39]

The Coroner noted that the rooming house operator, Mr George Maatouk, the Director of Northern Suburbs Accommodation Centre, received $40,000 per week in income for the 60-70 houses he leased as part of his business. The Coroner noted that 'it was his practice to keep the number of tenants at five or less to avoid the need to register premises. At the time of the fire in October 2006, none of the properties he operated were registered'. The Coroner further noted that three years later, at the time of his giving of evidence at the inquest, the properties remained unregistered, despite 'several Councils' having since 'approached him about properties under his control'.[footnote 40]

The Coroner also noted that Mr Maatouk testified that he was 'not aware of his statutory responsibilities under the Building Code, the Health Act Prescribed Accommodation Regulations or the Residential Tenancies Act'.[footnote 41]

See also the media articles in the aftermath of the Coroner's report:

§ Calls for tenancy reforms following deaths / P. Gregory, The Age, 30 September 2009

§ 'Just in it for the money' / T. Hoffman, Moreland Leader Northern Edition, 5 October 2009

§ Death traps: the growing problem of substandard rooming houses / C. Hall, ABC Stateline, transcript, 2 October 2009

§ Damning report should open doors to safer rooming houses / J. Farrell & C. Cadd, The Age, 7 October 2009

October 2009 – In the Government response to the Coroner's investigation, the Government stated that it supported Recommendation 3 'in principle' and that:

The Coalition Government is considering establishing a State-wide register of rooming houses and will be consulting in the near future with local councils and other relevant stakeholders.[footnote 42]

August 2011 – the Department of Human Services published their Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) for the proposed regulations to rooming house standards. At the time, rooming house minimum standards such as toilet facilities, water supply, waste disposal, maintenance, privacy, security, overcrowding and fire safety requirements were contained in the Building Act 1993, Building Regulations 2006, Residential Tenancies Act 1997, Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2009 and Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008.

The RIS posed four options including regulating minimum standards, self-regulation or a Code of Conduct, and incentivising Good Practice through subsidies. On the 'rationale for government intervention', the report referred to the Taskforce's recommendation that 'the Government intervene in the rooming house market on grounds of social welfare, in order to afford due protection to these disadvantaged and vulnerable groups'.[footnote 43] The RIS report stated:

a large proportion of residents of rooming houses are disadvantaged and vulnerable members of the community. As such, they are disproportionately at risk from the impacts of substandard conditions of safety, health protection and amenity.

… rooming houses can be difficult places to live. Often numerous residents live in very close quarters, in conditions of high stress and anxiety. Advocacy workers repeatedly described how residents feel unable or unwilling to advocate on their own behalf for improved living conditions. This situation, along with the substantial power imbalance currently inherent in the market between residents and rooming house owners, means that residents of rooming houses are more susceptible to exploitation by unscrupulous owners than other groups in the community.[footnote 44]

The objectives of the proposed regulatory options were that there be a reduction in 'loss of life, injury and trauma caused by inadequate safety and security' and a reduction in the 'detrimental effects on comfort and quality of life' for rooming house residents 'caused by substandard living conditions'.[footnote 45] Secondary objectives included ensuring that the rooming house sector remains 'a viable means of providing affordable accommodation', limiting the number of rooming house closures.

February 2012 – following the RIS, the Residential Tenancies (Rooming House Standards) Regulations 2012 introduced rooming house standards, some of which would apply from 31 March 2013. The objectives of these Regulations, set out in clause 1, was to prescribe 'privacy, safety, security and amenity standards with which a rooming house owner must comply', including prescribed standards in relation to:

§ power outlets, door locks and windows, ventilation, lighting in a resident's room;

§ bathrooms, kitchen, dining, and laundry facilities;

§ emergency plans and evacuation procedures that are prominently displayed in each room;

§ gas safety checks, electrical safety checks, external windows.

The Regulations also established a requirement to keep records of gas and electrical safety checks.[footnote 46]

September 2012 – the Residential Tenancies and Other Consumer Acts Amendment Act 2012 was passed, establishing a state-wide register of rooming houses and introducing 'a new duty on rooming house operators to 'comply with minimum standards for rooming houses'.[footnote 47] In the second reading speech for the Bill, the then Minister for Consumer Affairs, the Hon. Michael O'Brien, noted that the rooming house register would promote better compliance with statutory minimum standards for rooming houses and enable suspected unregistered rooming houses to be checked against the register.[footnote 48] For more information on this legislation, see the Parliamentary Library's Research Brief.[footnote 49]

December 2015 – the Rooming House Operators Bill 2015 was introduced into the Legislative Assembly.

Other Jurisdictions

The other jurisdictions differ in the level of rooming house regulation, with some relying on the common law (Judge-made law) rather than statutory provisions.

New South Wales

Rooming houses in NSW are referred to as 'boarding houses'. The framework for the regulation of boarding houses is contained in the Boarding Houses Act 2012and the Boarding House Regulation 2013. The purpose of the Boarding Houses Act 2012is to provide for a registration system for 'registrable boarding houses', to provide for certain 'occupancy principles', to provide for the licensing and regulation of assisted boarding houses and their staff and to promote 'the sustainability of, and continuous improvements in, the provision of services at registrable boarding houses' (s 3).

The Commissioner for Fair Trading, Department of Finance and Services is to keep a Register of Boarding Houses (s 12). The publicly available Boarding House Register lists all boarding houses (general and assisted) that are registered with NSW Fair Trading. To obtain a licence to operate a boarding house, an application must be made and prior to determining whether an application for a licence is to be approved, the Director General must undertake certain investigations and inquiries in relation to the applicant and any person involved in the control or management of the boarding house. This includes a criminal record check and a check of the financial capacity of the applicant and the applicant's close associates (s 45(2)(e)).

The Director-General of the Department of Family and Community Services may refuse to grant a licence if he or she is of the opinion that the applicant or anyone involved in the operation of the boarding house is not a 'suitable person' to operate an assisted boarding house (s 46(2)). The Director-General must refuse a boarding house licence if an applicant, a proposed staff member or anyone involved in the business has been convicted of a 'serious criminal offence' (such as murder, a prescribed sexual offence or any other assault under Part 3 of the Crimes Act 1900 for which the offender has been sentenced to imprisonment) (s 46(3)).

This legislation was driven by community activists.[footnote 50] The exposure draft of the Bill came shortly after the State Coroner released the Inquest into the deaths of six residents at the same boarding house who died between June 2009 and August 2010 in a hostel which had been set up for the disabled and homeless.[footnote 51] The Coroner found that most of the deceased appeared to have been in poor health. The Coroner made several recommendations, including that the NSW Government implement its stated intention to require mandatory registration of all current and future operators of boarding houses who have the capacity to accommodate two or more people.[footnote 52]

For further information, see the following websites, reports and media articles:

§ Boarding houses / New South Wales Fair Trading

§ Operating a Boarding House / New South Wales Fair Trading

§ Boarding Houses Act 2012: Guide for Councils, NSW Government, June 2013

§ Boarding House Reform Discussion Paper, NSW Interdepartmental Committee on Reform of Shared Private Residential Services, NSW Government, August 2011

§ More than Board and Lodging: The Need for Boarding House Reform, Special Report, NSW Ombudsman, August 2011

§ Inquest into the Deaths of Shaneen Batts, Ilona Takacs, Dorothy Hudson, Ian Birks, Donald Mackellar, Mohammed Ramzan, State Coroners Court of New South Wales, May 2012

§ Position Paper: Exposure Draft Boarding Houses Bill 2012, Department of Family and Community Services, NSW Government, June 2012

§ Illegal accommodation: City of Sydney cracks down on black market syndicates / E. Han, Sydney Morning Herald, 16 June 2015

§ Sydney's slum dodge landlords: Inside our city's worst accommodation rentals / M. Godfrey & A. Leeson, The Daily Telegraph, 8 July 2014

§ 'Shocking conditions' in Sydney boarding home / P. Giakoumelos, SBS News, 26 August 2013

§ Slums of Sydney – vulnerable people living in illegal boarding houses / news.com.au, 10 October 2012

§ More protection for boarding house residents / A. Horin, Sydney Morning Herald, 2 July 2012

Western Australia

According to the Government of Western Australia, boarders and lodgers 'have rights under common law provisions' because as 'they are not tenants, they are not covered by the Residential Tenancies Act 1987'.[footnote 53]

See the following media articles:

§ Landlords cash in with unofficial boarding houses for desperate renters / E. Wynne, ABC Perth, 4 September 2012

§ Illegal boarding houses on the rise / P. Hickley, The Sunday Times, 29 May 2010

South Australia

A rooming house is defined in section 3 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1995as a residential premises in which rooms are available for a residential purpose on a commercial basis, and 'accommodation is available for at least three persons on a commercial basis'. Part 7 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1995deals with rooming houses, agreements, house rules, mutual rights and obligations of proprietors and residents, and the termination of an agreement.

The regulation of rooming house operators in this Act is primarily through contractual terms, such as legislating that a proprietor (rooming house operator) must not make unreasonable house rules and residents can apply to the Tribunal for an order that renders the house rule void (s 105C). A proprietor must also not require or receive payment from a resident or prospective resident, other than rent or a bond, under a rooming house agreement (105E(1)). See also the Residential Tenancies Regulations 2010.[footnote 54]

There is no character test for proprietors. Like Western Australia, boarders and lodgers have rights under common law, and as has been noted by the Legal Services Commission of South Australia, boarders and lodges have 'restricted rights':

The protection given by the law to a licensee [footnote border or lodger] is much less than that given to a tenant. For example, a boarder or lodger can rarely take court action to stop the owner from evicting them. In most cases, the only remedy is an action for damages, that is, compensation for breaching the licence agreement.[footnote 55]

See also:

§ Rooming Houses / Government of South Australia

§ It's No Palace: Boarding Houses, the Sector, its Clientele and its Future / P. Anderson, A. Hume, N. Rogers, T. Stephenson, research paper, Department of Human Services, 2003

Queensland

The Residential Services (Accreditation) Act 2002 established minimum standards and living conditions for private sector boarding house residents by requiring boarding house operators to be registered with the Department of Housing and Public Works and accredited in order to operate a boarding house. Registration includes a character test and a criminal history check, which is also applied to any 'associates' of the boarding house operator that will be involved in the management of the boarding house.[footnote 56]

Boarding house operator ('residential service providers') must demonstrate compliance with certain minimum standards regarding the safety and amenity of buildings and fire safety management. The Residential Services (Accreditation) Regulation 2002set out the requirements to obtain the different levels of accreditation for registration of residential services (such as boarding houses), including the expected condition of kitchens, laundries, common rooms and areas, bedrooms, bathrooms, toilets, passages and stairways. Boarding house accommodation in Queensland is also regulated by the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 and the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Regulations 2009.

Section 9 of the Residential Services (Accreditation) Act 2002 requires a person conducting a residential service to be registered as a service provider of residential services and to register the premises (s 9(1)(c)). Subdivision 2 sets out the bases for the chief executive in deciding the suitability of the person applying for registration, including age (person must be an adult, s 20), qualifications (person must have 'qualifications prescribed under a regulation', s 21), financial matters (person cannot be bankrupt, s 22) and the following in s 23 regarding criminal history:

(1) In deciding if a person is a suitable person, the chief executive may have regard to the person's criminal history including, in particular, any convictions of the person for an offence against a residential services Act or a similar law of another jurisdiction.

(2) If an individual has been convicted within the previous 5 years of a disqualifying offence, the chief executive must decide the individual is not a suitable person unless the chief executive is satisfied it would be reasonable to decide otherwise because of the exceptional circumstances of the case.

(3) If an individual refuses a request by the chief executive for a signed consent to a criminal history check of the individual, the chief executive must decide the individual is not a suitable person.

See also:

§ Rooming accommodation coverage fact sheet / Residential Tenancies Authority

§ Boarding houses come at high price for Brisbane battlers / T. Moore, Brisbane Times, 26 March 2014

§ Boarding houses and Government supply side intervention: Final Report / E. Greenhalgh, A. Miller, J. Minnery, N. Gurran, K. Jacobs & P. Phibbs, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, March 2004

Media

The following section lists media releases and news articles relevant to the Rooming House Operators Bill 2015. See also the Reading Pack of the Bill.

Media releases

§ Labor's Plan for Fairer, Safer Housing / D. Andrews, media release, 26 November 2014

§ Protecting Victoria's Vulnerable Residents / J. Garrett, media release, 10 December 2015

News articles

§ Spencer Street apartment fire: CBD building known to have illegal rooming houses / B. Hall, A. Dow & A. Schetzer, The Age, 31 December 2015

§ Andrews to crack down on shonky rooming house operators / F. Tomazin, The Age, 5 July 2015

§ Council crackdown on illegal housing / A. Dow, The Age, 29 June 2015

§ High-rise 'slums' /A. Dow, The Sunday Age, 21 June 2015

§ Melbourne's illegal high-rise rooming houses profit from foreign students / A. Dow, The Age, 21 June 2015

§ Public urged to report illegal rentals, as complaints dip / A. Capone, Brimbank Leader, 8 December 2015

§ Crammed and crowded/ A. Simonis & G. Westgarth, Pakenham Gazette, 21 October 2015

§ Poverty hitting home / G. Westgarth, Journal News, 19 October 2015

§ Poverty hits closer home / G. Westgarth, Berwick News, 15 October 2015

§ War on slums: Rooming house crisis / C. Gillett, Herald Sun, 19 January 2015

§ Landlords under pressure to improve rooming house conditions for vulnerable tenants / C. Rawlinson, ABC News, 2 February 2015

§ Investigator to probe Melbourne's 'sophisticated' illegal rooming networks / A. Dow, The Age, 28 June 2015

§ Call for police checks, licences and rent caps for rooming house operators / K. Adoranti & R. David, South East and Peninsula Leader, 1 August 2013

§ Rental as anything: landlords prey on the poor / M. Griffin, The Age, 19 August 2011

§ Rogue landlord told to pay / M. Griffin, The Age, 28 September 2011

§ New rules on rooming houses key in on safety / F. Tomazin, The Age, 14 August 2011

Legislative Resources:

§ Rooming House Operators Bill 2015

o Explanatory Memorandum

o Second Reading

o Statement of Compatibility

o Reading Pack: Rooming House Operators Bill 2015

§ Residential Tenancies Act 1997

§ Residential Tenancies and Other Consumer Acts Amendment Act 2012

§ Australian Consumer Law and Fair Trading Act 2012

§ Business Licensing Authority Act 1998

§ Estate Agents Act 1980

Reports and Journal Articles:

§ Proposed Residential Tenancies (Rooming House Standards) Regulations: Regulatory Impact Statement / Department of Human Services, Victorian Government, August 2011

§ Rooming House Futures: Governing for Growth, Transparency and Fairness: Final Report / T. Dalton, H. Pawson & K. Hulse for the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, August 2015

§ Rooming House Futures: Governing for Growth, Transparency and Fairness: Victorian Discussion Paper / T. Dalton, K. Hulse & H. Pawson for the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, February 2015

§ How can we improve rooming house regulation?/ T. Dalton, K. Hulse & H. Pawson for the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, February 2015

§ Rooming House Standards Taskforce – Chairperson's Report/ Rooming House Standards Taskforce, Victorian Government, Melbourne, September 2009

§ Record of investigation into the death of Leigh Sinclair and Christopher Giorgi / State Coroner of Victoria, Melbourne, September 2009

§ Government response to Coroner's report into the deaths of Leigh Sinclair and Christopher Giorgi, Victorian Government, Melbourne, October 2009

Websites:

§ Public register of rooming houses / Consumer Affairs Victoria

§ Tenants Union of Victoria

§ Council to Homeless Persons (CHP)

§ Business Licensing Authority / Consumer Affairs Victoria

§ Rooming Houses / Victorian Legal Aid

§ Australians for Affordable Housing

§ Dodgy rooming house operators / Tenants Union of Victoria

§ Registered Accommodation Association of Victoria (RAAV)

§ Community Housing Federation of Victoria (CHFV)

§ Homeless Law in Practice / Justice Connect

§ Rooming Houses and Homelessness / Justice Connect


Key resources

Research & Inquiries Service

Research Notes are produced by the Parliamentary Library's Research & Inquiries service. They provide analysis on selected components of new Bills and topical issues in response to, and in anticipation of, the needs of Members of the Victorian Parliament.

This research publication is current as at the time of printing. It should not be considered a complete guide to the particular subject or legislation covered. While it is intended that all information provided is accurate, it does not represent professional legal opinion. Any views expressed are those of the author(s).

Some hyperlinks may only be accessible on the Parliament of Victoria's intranet. All links are current and available as at the time of publication.

Author

Rachel Macreadie

Research & Inquiries Officer

Victorian Parliamentary Library & Information Service

Department of Parliamentary Services

 


[footnote 1] State Coroner of Victoria (2009) Record of investigation into the death of Leigh Sinclair and Christopher Giorgi, Melbourne, State Coroner of Victoria, September.

[footnote 2] Explanatory Memorandum, Rooming House Operators Bill 2015, p. 1.

[footnote 3] ibid., p. 32.

[footnote 4] Tenants Union of Victoria, Dodgy rooming house operators, TUV website. See also: F. Tomazin (2011) New rules on rooming houses key in on safety, The Age, 14 August.

[footnote 5] K. Adoranti & R. David (2013) Call for police checks, licences and rent caps for rooming house operators, South East and Peninsula Leader, 1 August.

[footnote 6] Real Estate Institute of Victoria (2015) Submission: Licensing Rooming House Operators, April, REIV.

[footnote 7] Rooming House Standards Taskforce (2009) Chairperson's Report, Victorian Government, Melbourne, p. 6.

[footnote 8] The Salvation Army Adult Services (2011) No Room to Move? Report of the Outer West Rooming House Project, Kensington, Salvation Army, p. i.

[footnote 9] ibid.

[footnote 10] Rooming House Standards Taskforce (2009) Chairperson's Report, op. cit., p. 7.

[footnote 11] Tenants Union of Victoria (2015) Victorian Housing & Tenancy Statistics January 2015, TUV, p. 1. Members interested in locating registered rooming houses in their region (through council supplied data) can search by postcode, suburb, address or local council area on the CAV Public Register of Rooming Houses.

[footnote 12] C. Chamberlain (2012) Counting Boarding Houses: Reflections on Homelessness Research in Australia, paper presented at the Homelessness Research Conference Melbourne, 19-20 April 2012, p. 3.

[footnote 13] ibid.

[footnote 14] 'Rooming houses' are often referred to as 'boarding houses' in other jurisdictions and ABS statistics. This paper primarily uses the word 'rooming houses' which is the term most commonly used in Victoria.

[footnote 15] Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013) Census of Population and Housing: Estimating Homelessness, 2011, Appendix 2: Estimation Methodology, Canberra, ABS. The ABS include people in boarding houses in their definition and 'operational group' of homelessness as they state that these people are '"assumed to lack 'control of, and access to social relations", and their staying in boarding houses is assumed to reflect a lack of accommodation alternatives which together indicate homelessness'.

[footnote 16] Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013) Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2011: Summary of Findings, Canberra, ABS.

[footnote 17] ibid., p. 9.

[footnote 18] ibid., p. 12.

[footnote 19] The Salvation Army Adult Services (2011) No Room to Move?, op. cit., p. i.

[footnote 20] Rooming House Standards Taskforce (2009) Chairperson's Report, op. cit., p. 9.

[footnote 21] RMIT University (2012) 'Research unveils Melbourne's rooming house boom', RMIT Newsroom, 20 April.

[footnote 22] National Housing Supply Council (2014) State of Supply Report: Changes in How We Live, Canberra, NHSC, February (in particular, see Chapter Three); National Housing Supply Council (2013) Housing Supply and Affordability Issues 2012-13, Canberra, NHSC, March.

[footnote 23] National Housing Supply Council (2013) Housing Supply and Affordability Issues 2012-13, op. cit., p. xi.

[footnote 24] ibid.

[footnote 25] Department of Human Services (2011) Proposed Residential Tenancies (Rooming House Standards) Regulations: Regulatory Impact Statement, Melbourne, DHS, p. 16. See also Rooming House Standards Taskforce (2009) Chairperson's Report, op. cit.

[footnote 26] Tenants Union of Victoria (2015) Victorian Housing & Tenancy Statistics January 2015, op. cit., p. 2.

[footnote 27] Real Estate Institute of Australia (2013) Adelaide Bank Housing Affordability Report, September Quarter, 2013, REIA, p. 8.

[footnote 28] National Housing Supply Council (2013) Housing Supply and Affordability Issues 2012-13, op. cit., p. 11.

[footnote 29] Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013) 'Housing Occupancy and Costs 2011-12', Canberra, ABS. Data cube: 'Proportion of low income rental households paying more than 30 percent of their gross income on housing costs, 2007-08 to 2011-12'.

[footnote 30] ibid.

[footnote 31] The TUV table extracts data from REIV, NHSC and ABS (see footnotes in table above for links to the original data).

[footnote 32] State Coroner of Victoria (2009) Record of investigation into the death of Leigh Sinclair and Christopher Giorgi, op. cit., p. 12.

[footnote 33] J. Brumby, New Blitz on Sub-Standard Rooming Houses, media release, 15 July 2009.

[footnote 34] Department of Human Services (2011) Proposed Residential Tenancies (Rooming House Standards) Regulations: Regulatory Impact Statement, op. cit.

[footnote 35] Rooming House Standards Taskforce (2009) Chairperson's Report, op. cit.

[footnote 36] State Coroner of Victoria (2009) Record of investigation into the death of Leigh Sinclair and Christopher Giorgi, op. cit.

[footnote 37] Such as working smoke detectors, sprinkler systems and doors that unlock from the inside.

[footnote 38] State Coroner of Victoria (2009) Record of investigation into the death of Leigh Sinclair and Christopher Giorgi, op. cit., p. 1.

[footnote 39] ibid., p. 32.

[footnote 40] ibid.

[footnote 41] ibid., 12.

[footnote 42] Victorian Government (2009) Victorian Government Response to Coroner's Report into the death of Leigh Sinclair and Christopher Giorgi, October, Melbourne, Victorian Government.

[footnote 43] DHS (2011) Proposed Residential Tenancies (Rooming House Standards) Regulations: Regulatory Impact Statement, op. cit., p. 34.

[footnote 44] ibid.

[footnote 45] ibid., p. 42.

[footnote 46] See also: Consumer Affairs Victoria, Minimum standards in rooming houses, CAV website, last updated 14 January 2016.

[footnote 47] M. O'Brien, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Second reading speech: Residential Tenancies and Other Consumer Acts Amendment Bill 2012, Debates, Victoria, Legislative Assembly, 15 August, Book 10, p. 3143.

[footnote 48] ibid., p. 3144.

[footnote 49] R. Macreadie, et al (2012) Residential Tenancies and Other Consumer Acts Amendment Bill 2012, Research Brief, no. 6, Parliamentary Library, Parliament of Victoria, August.

[footnote 50] A. Horin (2012) More protection for boarding house residents, Sydney Morning Herald, 2 July.

[footnote 51] NSW State Coroner, Magistrate M. Jerram (2012) Inquest into the Deaths of Shaneen Batts, Ilona Takacs, Dorothy Hudson, Ian Birks, Donald Mackellar and Mohammed Ramzan, State Coroner's Court, Glebe, 11 May.

[footnote 52] ibid.

[footnote 53] Western Australian Government, Department of Commence (2014) 'Boarders and Lodgers', 28 May, WA Government website. The website describes the distinction between the categories:

§ A tenant is a person who pays rent and in return is granted a right to occupy a residential premises, whether exclusively or not … A right of exclusive possession means the right to exclude anyone, including the landlord, from the premises. This is different from exclusive occupation or use where you may have your own room in which no one else can stay without your permission.

§ A boarder generally stays at another person's house paying rent with meals supplied by the landlord.

§ A lodger generally stays at another person's house and pays rent but is generally not supplied with meals'.

[footnote 54] Residential facilities that provide personal care services in addition to accommodation are regulated by the Supported Residential Facilities Act 1992which provides minimum standards and a licensing scheme. There are also prescribed general standards for 'houses' (including rooming houses) in the Housing Improvement (Standards) Regulations 2007. These standards must be met in order to avoid the house being declared unfit for human habitation under the Housing Improvement Act 1940.

[footnote 55] Legal Services Commission of South Australia (2014) 'Law Handbook: Boarders and Lodgers', Legal Services Commission of South Australia website, 28 February.

[footnote 56] See Parts 2 and 3 of the Residential Services (Accreditation) Act 2002.