Class 1b Building Conversions

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Convert house into student accommodation

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This information has been prepared by Equal Access Pty Ltd to provide guidance on access requirements to Class 1b boarding houses (or rooming houses).

Class-1b-rampsEqual Access Pty Ltd are the only disability access consultants with staff qualified in building surveying and with a vast experience in assessing Class 1b’s for compliance, not only from an access perspective, but also from Council enforcement and building permit perspective. This experience sees our consultancy perfectly positioned to assist clients with accessibility advice when converting properties to a boarding house or a rooming house. We have intimate and practical experience and can assist in all stages of a Class 1b housing project. We know the building laws, disability laws and how Council will assess any Class 1b building.

The Need

According to a 2009 survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics there are four million people in Australia with a disability, which equates to 18.5% of the population who could require accessible rental accommodation within the community.

Firstly, what is a Class 1b Building?

A Class 1b building can be defined as one with a total floor area less than 300 m2 (measured over the enclosed or outer wall of the whole Class 1b building) and where not more than 12 people would ordinarily be resident. Any accommodation larger than this would usually be defined as a Class 3 building, such as a hotel, motel, backpackers etc.

Relevant Legislation

On the 1 May 2011 the Commonwealth Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010 (Premises Standards) was introduced and adopted into the Building Code of Australia (BCA) as well as state based legislation, including the Victorian Building Regulations 2006. The objectives of the Premises Standards are to ensure that “dignified, equitable, cost-effective and reasonably achievable access to buildings, and facilities and services within buildings, is provided for people with a disability“. The Premises Standards apply to new buildings and existing buildings being altered, including certain ‘specified’ Class 1b buildings, and sets out clear parameters for access requirements. Prior to 1 May 2011, there were no prescriptive requirements within the building regulations (including previous versions of the BCA) for Class 1b buildings, but lack of access to these buildings was (and still is) subject to complaints under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA).

When do the Access Requirements Apply?

The application of the access provisions of the Premises Standards and BCA apply to ‘specified’ types of Class 1b buildings:

  • A newly constructed Class 1b building where one of more rooms is made available for rent.
  • An existing residence (i.e. Class 1a house, unit, townhouse or the like) is converted to a Class 1b building where four or more rooms are made available for rent.
  • An existing Class 1b building is being altered. In this case the new works and pathway from the new works to the principal entrance should comply, as well as an upgrade of the principal entrance if required.
  • It also applies to short-term holiday accommodation such as cabins in caravan parks, tourist parks, farm stay, holiday resorts and similar tourist accommodation where there are four or more dwellings used for short-term holiday accommodation on the same allotment. In this case a proportion of the dwellings would need to be accessible.
  • There are many variations in short-term accommodation that could be made available and landlords would need to carefully consider the implications of any scenario to ensure the correct application of the Premises Standards and BCA.

The Risk

It is important to note that Class 1 b buildings that are not included in the above definition of a ‘specified’ Class 1 b building (i.e. with less than four dwellings on the same allotment or less than four bedrooms in a converted existing house) would continue to be subject to possible ODA complaints. But compliance with the Premises Standards and BCA would grant the landlord immunity under the provisions of both documents. If a landlord fails to acknowledge the accessibility requirements of the building and operates the building without considering the needs for accessible accommodation, it will present a risk to the landlord under the DDA. A person with a disability could make a complaint to the Human Rights Commission under Section 23: Access to Premises, or Section 25: Accommodation. Furthermore, if a landlord operates any kind of boarding or rooming house without the necessary Building (or Planning) permits, the local Council could take action on the landlord including serving Notices and Orders that could see the landlord in the Magistrates Court where penalties, legal costs and criminal convictions could be imposed. It is therefore important for all parties involved in the rooming house industry to consider accessibility in the early stages of planning for any rooming house. Taking accessibility into account during the design stage or feasibility stage has the potential of saving time and money.

AccessibilityConsiderations for a Class 1b Building

The following are the typical access provisions required for a Class 1b building:

  • Continuous accessible paths from the main pedestrian entries into the site
  • An accessible car parking space (where on-site parking is provided)
  • A continuous accessible path from the car park to the entrance
  • An accessible entrance into the building via the principal entrance doorway
  • Access to and within at least one bedroom and associated accessible bathroom facilities
  • Access to at least one of each type of common room/facility (e.g. kitchen, laundry, lounge, dining room, gym, swimming pool, patio area, games room, etc.)

Where to Get Help

Equal Access Pty Ltd are perfectly positioned to assist with providing access advice at all stages of all types of building projects. We are one of Australia’s leading Accredited Disability Access Consultancies and are registered with the Association of Consultants in Access Australia. For a number of years we have provided a specialist consulting service to enhance the built environment and to provide ‘Equal Access’ for members of the community with a disability.

Download the factsheet

Download the Class 1B Fact Sheet for more information on establishing a 1B property such as student accommodation, rooming houses, bed & breakfasts B&B and refuges.

How do I build a Disabled or Accessible Bathroom?

One of the most common questions we get in our office relating to Class 1B developments is “How do I build a Disabled (or accessible) Bathroom.


To assist you we have created a series of accessible bathroom plans that can be purchased from our website via the the following link.

Build a disabled bathroom

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