Operating a boarding house

If you run a general or assisted boarding house in NSW, you need to register with Fair Trading. To register, complete the boarding house registration form (PDF, 122.27 KB) and forward it to the address on the form along with the $100 registration fee.

The details on the form will be recorded on the boarding house register but only the following information is publicly available:

  • the name and address of the boarding house
  • the name of each proprietor of the boarding house
  • whether the boarding house is a general boarding house or an assisted boarding house
  • the local council area where the boarding house is located.

What is an occupancy agreement?

An occupancy agreement is a contract between you and the boarding house resident that sets out the terms and conditions during their stay. You must have a written occupancy agreement with each resident. If you don’t, the occupancy principles still apply and can be enforced by the resident in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT)

A standard occupancy agreement (PDF, 509.09 KB) has been developed for boarding house proprietors and residents. You don’t have to use this agreement and can create your own. From 1 October 2013, the occupancy principles automatically became part of all occupancy agreements if they were written into the agreement or not.

If there is a dispute with a resident about the occupancy principles, which you cannot resolve, you can make an application to the NCAT for a resolution.

What are the occupancy principles?

The occupancy principles are a set of basic rights and responsibilities for residents of boarding houses from the Boarding Houses Act 2012. These are listed below.

Before residents move in, they have a right to:

  • have a written occupancy agreement with the boarding house proprietor
  • be informed of how much the occupancy fee will be
  • know whether they will be charged for utilities such as gas, electricity or water. The amount charged for these utilities must be based on the cost of providing the utility and a reasonable measure or estimate of how much the resident has used
  • be informed of the house rules
  • be advised if they have to pay a security deposit and how much it will be. A security deposit cannot be more than the equivalent of 2 weeks occupancy fee.
  • know how and why the occupancy agreement can be terminated, including how much notice will be given.

While a resident is living in the boarding house, they have:

  • a right to live in a house that is reasonably clean and secure, and in a reasonable state of repair
  • a right to have quiet enjoyment of the place in which they live
  • a right to be given receipts for any money they pay the proprietor or manager of the boarding house
  • a right to be given 4 weeks written notice of any increase in the occupancy fee
  • a right to have any charges for utilities limited to the cost of providing the utility plus a reasonable estimate or measure of their usage
  • a right to not to be ‘fined’ for a breach of the occupancy agreement and house rules. If a resident breaches the agreement or the house rules they can be asked to leave, consistent with notice periods contained in the occupancy agreement
  • a responsibility to try to resolve any disputes they have with the boarding house proprietor or manager. Either party can apply to the NCAT for help if a dispute cannot be resolved.
  • a responsibility to give reasonable access to their room for inspections or repairs. A resident must be given written notice that access is required, except in an emergency.

When a resident moves out they have a right to:

  • have their security deposit refunded within 14 days of moving out minus any deductions allowed under the Boarding Houses Act. Allowable deductions include unpaid rent, the reasonable cost of repairs for damage caused by the resident or their guests, the reasonable cost of cleaning areas they occupied and didn’t leave reasonably clean, and the cost of replacing locks they removed or added without permission.
  • be given reasonable written notice of eviction. In deciding how much notice to give a resident, the boarding house proprietor or manager can take into account the safety of other people living or working in the boarding house.

What are boarding house inspections?

It’s the local council's responsibility to inspect boarding houses within 12 months of the date of registration. The only exception is if the boarding house was inspected in the 12 months prior to registration.

The inspection determines whether the boarding house complies with the Local Government Act 1993 and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment Act 1979 which includes:

  • the use of the boarding house, and the fire safety requirements, and
  • the overcrowding and hygiene requirements for shared accommodation.

Councils are allowed to charge a fee for the inspection.

Children living in boarding houses

If you provide residential accommodation to someone who could be a child aged under 16 years living away from home without parental permission, you must immediately inform Community Services. Call the Child Protection Helpline on 132 111 to make a report or go to the NSW Family & Community Services website.

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