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Tuesday, 4 October 2011


I totally object to LIBERAL PARTY government proposals to require real estate agents to be used like KGB Spies to locate unregistered rooming houses who dare to provide housing for people. 

If an agent observes evidence consistent with occupation of the building by a number of people, rather than the individual, couple or family otherwise identified as lessees, this may provide grounds for a reasonable belief. Examples of this kind of evidence are set out below.

What constitutes evidence of rooming house activity?

There are certain physical signs that may indicate that the building is being used as a rooming house. These may include:
  • a large number of residents using the building
  • the interior of the building has been changed in a manner consistent with multiple occupation and not envisaged by the lease (e.g. informal, ad hoc building works such as plywood dividing a room into two)
  • locks or numbers on bedroom doors
  • evidence of a high level of usage of facilities such as kitchens and toilets supported by high water, electricity and gas bills for the building
  • a high level of usage of facilities that seem to be inconsistent with the usage envisaged by the lease
  • high levels of rubbish and recyclables
  • multiple vehicles parked on or off the street
  • lots of mail addressed to different people
  • multiple individual toiletries stored in bedrooms rather than bathroom
  • lessee not living on site
  • no communal area
  • cooking appliances and fridges in bedrooms
  • televisions, kettles, games consoles etc. in bedrooms but not in communal areas
  • advertisements of rooms to let
  • notices on display (e.g. of where to pay rent, to keep areas clean, etc.)
  • caravans or sheds converted into bedrooms
  • many mattresses on the premises.

Excessive compliance costs and the constant media announcements of threats of heavy fines for ‘rogue’ or ‘unscrupulous’ landlords will only have the effect of reducing the number of operators prepared to offer such accommodation and result in the responsibility falling totally on the State Government to provide such facilities. Regulators sometimes forget who is at the coalface at keeping most of the homeless people from sleeping under bridges. 
Operators are just not renting out rooms and collecting the rent like a normal rental property; they need to deal with the various personalities and dynamics of the group living under the one roof.  Good operators are not offering or qualified to be social workers or mental health professionals which however invariably they become involved in providing are holistic services not originally factored into the rental return equation. For this very reason, many banks will not fund such investments resulting in higher funding costs. When one factors the higher responsibility, outgoing expenses and excessive time required to manage these group accommodation facilities; the high profits claims are not just correct. Even some of the operators themselves may be looking for a getting out opportunity which some Council actions actually helps to give them an excuse to close down.
Though some Council staff claim that many owners are just using the homes as Rooming Houses temporarily for when they can go ahead and re-develop the land into a higher use value; unfortunately the councils appear to be speeding up the closure process by annoying the operators?
Politicians and their policy makers have all the answers when they are trying to get votes, but some of their statements of solutions are just not sound economics. I will touch on some economic realities and welcome debate from students and politicians too in my future blog.
Being a rooming house operator is a tough business because everyone views the operator as greedy, unprofessional or often viewed on TV tabloid news and current affairs as offering unhealthy accommodation with tenants constantly complaining about the mess or mould.
Most operators are vilified without any real reason except it makes good tabloid media. How would you like to be named as greedy, unscrupulous, rogue landlord taking advantage of the desperate, disadvantaged, vulnerable and disenfranchised poor homeless? All words devised to belittle the endeavour of those who for whatever reason are in the commercial business of managing accommodation for customers who most have many choices where they choose to reside, if only they could learn to live with others harmoniously with their family and friends  or pay their rent elsewhere,.

Now put yourself in the shoes of an operator...well most of you would not bother ...and if you would not...who would bother to house the homeless when everyone in the media, the charities complain about record numbers of people sleeping in the streets, on park benches, in cardboard boxes, under trees etc.

Will you consider making your spare room available for other families rejects? What are the real risks of renting out a room to a stranger? [Remember recent case of a serious assault of a female Good Samaritan who provided a bungalow free of charge to a homeless guy]  Is it a good financial decision to rent out a spare room or bungalow? What are some of the solutions and options avail now to increase the number of rooms for the homeless fast? These and many more questions will be attempted to be answered in my future blog. I won’t be pulling any punches, I might protect the not so innocent by not using their real names, but my blog will tell it as it is in my several years experience. But most of the diplomatic comments will be reserved for this submission.
I had the benefit of 10 years experience as a Trust Officer/Manager with the Public/State Trustees, so dealing with such clients was an easier fit for me personally when I started in the crisis accommodation business by accident some years ago in Dandenong when contacted by Hanover Welfare Services seeking Crisis accommodation for homeless families. Now I deal with most of Melbourne's Welfare agencies and ANCHOR COMMUNITY WELFARE & COMMUNITY HOUSING of Box Hill on a daily basis and try to assist when we can. Maroondah Hospital is also having problems placing Psychiatric ward patients in suitably supervised accommodation, so they can free up their beds for other emergency mental health in-patients. 

Thank you for reading this part of a lengthy 20 page expose of life as a Rooming House operator from the point of view of an operator who cares and I hope the readers are mindful of the various issues I have raised in their deliberations when framing legislation designed to protect stakeholders.
Kind Regards
Gilbert - Director
C/- 97 Napier Street,
St Arnaud Vic 3478
Guardian Estates Pty Ltd has many year experience in the management of Rooming Houses using best practice techniques and we are now offering to share our expertise with new rooming house property stakeholders, government departments and agencies or others experiencing difficulties in management. We are able to prepare reports on how to improve management of both public and private group accommodation facilities. Email:  

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