Rooming Houses are generally classified as a Class 1b building, these include bed and breakfast, small student accommodation buildings and general rooming houses where people rent a room and share facilities. Larger buildings with 12 or more occupants or more than 300m2 in floor area would be classified as a Class 3 building.

Another form of a Class 1b building is holiday accommodation, where small dwellings, such as cabins, are available for use.

The BCA defines a Class 1b as

  • a boarding house, guest house, hostel or the like
    • with a total area of all floors not exceeding 300m2 measured over the enclosing walls of the Class 1b; and
    • in which not more than 12 persons would ordinarily be resident; or
  • 4 or more single dwellings located on one allotment and used for short-term holiday accommodation,

A rooming house building is not always constructed with a Class 1b rooming house use. It is more common to see investors purchase a standard residential home, as a Class 1a building (i.e. a unit, a house, or a townhouse), and convert the use to a rooming house. When this happens, the building goes through a change of use from Class 1a to Class 1b and triggers compliance with the new use.

In terms of disability access, since 01 May 2011, there have been some significant changes for Class 1b operators. This has particularly impacted on landlords who convert an existing house, that was never designed to be accessible for a wheelchair user.

The BCA, Building Interim Regulations and Premises Standards now prescribe the following:

  • Dwellings located on one allotment and used for short-term holiday accommodation need a ratio of accessible dwellings as soon as 4 or more are available for use.
  • A boarding house, bed and breakfast, guest house, hostel or the like requires access to and within:
    • 1 bedroom and associated sanitary facilities; and
    • not less than 1 of each type of room or space for use in common by the residents or guests, including a cooking facility, sauna, gymnasium, swimming pool, laundry, games room, eating area, or the like; and
    • rooms or spaces for use in common by all residents on a floor to which access by way of a ramp complying with AS 1428.1 or a passenger lift is provided.

This generally equates to being able to provide an accessible car parking space area, accessible path from the Council footpath and car park area to the accessible building entrance, through the entrance and into an accessible bedroom and accessible bathroom/ensuite, and to one of each unique accessible space (such as lounge, dining, kitchen, laundry, terrace etc.).

However, the Building Interim Regulations and Premises Standards also state that “despite anything to the contrary in the BCA Volume One, an access provision does not apply to a new part of a Class 1b building if the Class 1b building has fewer than 4 bedrooms that are used for rental accommodation; and was constructed before 1 May 2011, or in respect of which an application for a building permit for construction was made before 1 May 2011

If in doubt over the Class 1b prescriptive requirements, please contact our office. MAA has experience undertaking due diligence and pre-purchase inspections to determine if a house is suitable for conversion.