The Guides to Social Policy Law is a collection of publications designed to assist decision makers administering social policy law. The information contained in this publication is intended only as a guide to relevant legislation/policy. The information is accurate as at the date listed at the bottom of the page, but may be subject to change. To discuss individual circumstances please contact Services Australia.

1.1.E.168 Exempt accommodation (RA)


For the purposes of RA, exempt accommodation is accommodation that is considered to be a:

  • boarding house
  • guest house
  • hostel
  • hotel
  • private hotel
  • rooming house
  • lodging house, or
  • similar premises.

Act reference: SSAct section 5A(5A) A person's accommodation is exempt accommodation …

Policy reference: SS Guide RA - verification required, Notification, verification & recipient obligations for RA, Sharers provisions for RA, Examples of assessment - RA sharers provisions

Factors to consider

In deciding whether a person lives in exempt accommodation, a range of factors need to be taken into account. No one factor has weight over another, nor does the accommodation have to satisfy a minimum number of factors. However sufficient evidence needs to be provided to indicate that the accommodation is one of the types listed above. The rest of this topic explains the following factors which may indicate a person is living in exempt accommodation:

  • the name of the accommodation
  • management of premises
  • employment of staff
  • daily management
  • house rules
  • payments for utilities
  • private accommodation
  • lease arrangements
  • bonds, and
  • availability of accommodation.

Name of accommodation

The accommodation must be known as a boarding house, guest house, hostel, hotel, private hotel, rooming house, lodging house or similar. The name must reflect the true nature of the accommodation. Also, the public perception of the premises must be that it is a boarding house or similar.

Example: Bill & Joe's Boarding House or Seaside Private Hotel.

Management of premises

A manager or administrator, other than a real estate agent is employed or retained to manage the premises. This includes live-in managers or administrators as well as those who work on the premises on a regular basis, such as Monday to Friday, and are responsible for the running or operations of the premises. Typically, such managers or administrators have the power to offer accommodation to new tenants or provide a recommendation to evict existing tenants.

Employment of staff

Other staff, such as cleaners, are employed or retained to do work on a regular and frequent basis. The staff must be employed by the manager, administrator or owner, not by the tenant.

Example: Members of a group house or share house employ a cleaner.

If a cleaner is employed to clean infrequently or irregularly such as monthly or only when the tenant leaves, then this guideline is not satisfied. If a cleaner is employed to clean on a daily basis this guideline is satisfied.

Daily management

In exempt accommodation the residents lack control over the day-to-day management of the premises.

Explanation: People living in boarding houses or similar usually do not have any say in how their accommodation is managed. This contrasts with people sharing in a group house where domestic arrangements and responsibilities are usually agreed among the household members.

Example: Residents may lack control over issues such as:

  • how often the premises are cleaned
  • selection of new tenants
  • who they share facilities with, and
  • when and how facilities can be used.

House rules

House rules imposed by management usually exist in exempt accommodation. If these house rules result in the tenant having less rights than a person in rental accommodation would normally enjoy, then this guideline is satisfied. Typically, such rules are written down and provided to residents and/or are openly displayed.

Example: Restrictions on:

  • when a tenant can access the premises or cooking facilities, or
  • whether a tenant is allowed to have a guest in their room.

This provision does not refer to house rules agreed on by recipients living in a group or share house arrangement.

Payments for utilities

Accommodation charges made to residents of exempt accommodation typically include payments for utilities such as water, gas and electricity. Utilities are not metered separately for each resident, nor does the resident have an individual account with the utility provider.

Private accommodation

Private residential accommodation does not constitute exempt accommodation. Whether premises are private residential could be determined by looking at:

  • the number and type of bedrooms and bathrooms, or
  • the number of residents who are not related to one another, living at the premises.

Examples: Individual factors that would satisfy this guideline include:

  • dormitory style bedrooms, or a higher number of bedrooms than would normally exist in a private dwelling
  • bedrooms that contain lounge room, dining and/or cooking facilities as well as sleeping facilities
  • bathrooms that are designed to be used by more than one person at a time, and
  • kitchens with provision for individual food storage in lockable cupboards for each resident.

Lease arrangements

Exempt accommodation is not usually offered on a leasehold basis. The tenant is not required to enter into a formal lease arrangement prior to taking up the accommodation. In line with this, the accommodation is usually only offered on a short term basis.

However, there are some circumstances where parties living in exempt accommodation may voluntarily opt into a lease agreement. For example, in Queensland, parties to a rooming accommodation agreement may agree that is a residential tenancy agreement, in which case it will be treated as such.

Act reference: Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 (Qld) section 18 Opting in as residential tenancy agreement.


In exempt accommodation, there is usually no requirement for the person to pay a bond prior to taking up the accommodation. Although a person in exempt accommodation may be required to pay rent in advance, it is unlikely that they would also be required to pay a bond for security for rent, damage to the property, or both. Key deposits and the like are not considered to be bonds.

Availability of accommodation

Exempt accommodation is available on a daily, or other short-term basis. Typically, this can be daily, weekly or at most, fortnightly. However, the presence of long-term tenants should not exclude a premises from satisfying this guideline.

Act reference: SSAct section 5A(5B) In forming an opinion …

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