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This information is a guide and should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice.

Published: November 2020
Last updated: October 2023

International students

International students, who frequently live in rooming houses or share houses, often don’t know their rights as renters or what support is out there for help with food, health, legal advice and other matters. Find out more on this page.

What is a rooming house?

Many international students live in rooming houses and may not realise what rights they have in this type of accommodation, as they have different rights and obligations compared with other types of renting.

A rooming house is a dwelling where 4 or more people live in rented rooms, some of which might be shared. The rooming house is managed by a rooming house operator – residents usually have separate agreements with the operator. The operator can decide who can live in the property without consulting the residents. If you are paying rent for a shared room in a shared house, chances are you are living in a rooming house.

A further explanation on the different types of accommodation is in the first episode of our Know Your Rights webinar series, also on this page.

Know your rights

Our Know Your Rights webinar series goes through the ins and outs of renting in Victoria, from the start to the end of the tenancy cycle.

The series aims to help renters understand their rights and obligations and to provide helpful tips on how to identify and troubleshoot common problems.

Episode 1: What is a tenancy?
Episode 2: Starting a tenancy
Episode 3: Common problems during a tenancy
Episode 4: Ending your tenancy

International student help services

Study Melbourne Hub
International Student Employment and Accommodation Legal Service

Food and finance resources

The services below may be able to help you with food and finances.

‘Ask Izzy’ search tool


Community Food Guide
Darebin Information, Volunteer and Resource Service (DIVRS)
Community Information and Support Merri-bek


Financial help – non-government organisations
Financial help – universities

Utility services

Utility relief grant scheme
Energy and Water Ombudsman

Legal services

Community legal centres

You can seek advice from a community legal centre. You can find the centre closest to you on the Federation of Community Legal Centres website.

Community legal centres

Legal centres with specialist help for international students

Northern Community Legal Centre
Deakin Student Legal Service
Inner Melbourne Community Legal
La Trobe Student Association Legal Service

Health services

Community health centres

Most community health centres provide low cost or free medical services in areas including optometry, podiatry, physiotherapy, counselling and general practitioner services. In extreme cases of poor dental health some dental assistance may also be arranged.

Find your closest centre

Mental health

This Way Up

Community health centres

Most community health centres offer free counselling.

Find your closest centre


Every university has a free student counselling program. Ask your university for more information.


Getting home

If your visa has expired and you are in hardship, there are services that may be able to assist you to go home.

The 2 services listed below can assist with:

  • information and confidential counselling about returning home
  •  arranging travel documents or a passport
  •  help to book your flight home
  •  assistance when you arrive in your home country
International Organization for Migration (IOM)
Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration Program
Homeward Assisted Returns Program

Visa queries

Student visas
Find a lawyer through the Law Institute of Victoria 
Refugee Legal

Find a migration agent

Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (Australian Government)
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