4 common questions about boarding houses answered, plus a new resource for residents and training opportunities for community workers.
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New card for boarding house residents

We recently printed this great new business-card-sized resource for boarding house residents. If you haven’t received any, please let me know and I will post some out to you.

The card contains basic information on residents' rights, and the hotline number – 1800 767 126 – for residents or workers to call for legal advice and information on the Boarding Houses Act.

You might have a newsletter, staff bulletin, interagency newsletter or website where the card and details of the free call number can be advertised.

Wide distribution of the cards has been successful and they are proving to be very popular. Not only are boarding house residents themselves using the free call number advertised on the card, but staff from a variety of different organisations are also calling the Tenants’ Union for assistance on behalf of clients.

Further boarding houses resources in production

Thanks to the efforts of boarding house residents from Newtown, the Tenants’ Union is developing a poster and brochure advertising the boarding houses hotline number. Both brochure and poster will be ideal for community venues – community centres, cafes, charities and services where people mingle. Stay tuned.


As advertised in the last issue of Onboard, training sessions on the Boarding Houses Act were offered during June and over 50 people participated. It is heartening to see the interest in this training coming from a wide variety of organisations, from government and legal centres to homeless services and charities. As discussed at the training sessions, a small action, such as a simple phone call, can make a great deal of difference to a person in need of accommodation.  

Please let me know if you would like me to attend a staff meeting or interagency meeting to talk about the Boarding Houses Act.

Questions and answers

Let's look at four common questions raised in the training sessions.

1. What is the difference between a boarder and a lodger?

A boarder is a person who lives in a boarding house and receives meals as well as a room. A lodger is a person who lives in a boarding house but does not receive meals.

There are very few boarders living in a boarding house now. Most residents of boarding houses, particularly those in the inner city areas, would be lodgers.

2. What is the difference between living in a share house and living in a boarding house?

In general, share houses are usually more informal and flexible. Boarding houses are usually a business, share houses are usually not a business. Boarding houses usually have house rules and someone retaining control or 'mastery' of the whole as proprietor, manager or caretaker.

In a share house, you usually provide your own bed. In a boarding house, a bed is provided for you.

If a client's share house sounds more like a boarding house, consider getting advice about their situation!

Possible relevant legislation that you can use to resolve disputes in boarding houses and share houses may include the Residential Tenancies Act, Boarding Houses Act and Consumer Claims Act.

3. What is the difference between a new generation boarding house and a traditional boarding house?

A new generation boarding house, which is one part of the government’s housing affordability program, usually has bathroom and cooking facilities in individual rooms, making them small self-contained flats. As residents in new generation boarding houses are more likely to have exclusive access to their own room, they may be regarded as tenants and covered by the Residential Tenancies Act, rather than boarders covered by the Boarding Houses Act.

New generation boarding houses are targeted towards lower income workers, students, retirees and couples.

A traditional, or older style boarding house, offers a bedroom only with communal bathroom, kitchen and living areas. They are usually cheaper to rent, found in the inner city suburbs and accommodate those on limited income such as Newstart.

4. Why are the Occupancy Principles so broad?

The Boarding Houses Act is a big step forward for boarding house residents. Broad principles allow for a variety of circumstances. There is also a model agreement which could be given legislative authority and which would be the preferred position of the Tenants’ Union.

An occupancy agreement gives both the owner and resident the opportunity to put in writing issues such as how often rent will be paid, reasons for an increase in rent, reasons for eviction and for termination, as well as a list of house rules.  An agreement that includes these basic issues should result in greater understanding and security for both owner and resident.
What questions do you have about boarding houses? Please let me know and in each Onboard e-bulletin we will do our best to answer your questions. Also, if you have any news you would like included in Onboard please let me know.

Do you know anyone else who might be interested in this e-bulletin? Please forward it or send their details to me at margaret_dinicola@clc.net.au
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You're receiving this email because you are on the Tenants' Union Boarding Houses Project Email Bulletin list. We send out regular updates to educate community workers about boarding houses and the rights of residents.

For tenancy advice, contact your local Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service. See tenants.org.au

Legal information in this email is intended as a guide to the law and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice. It applies to people who live in or are affected by, the law as it applies in New South Wales, Australia.

Tenants' Union of NSW, Suite 201, 55 Holt St, Surry Hills, 2010, NSW. (02) 8117 3700

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