Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Rooming House Definition:

Rented residential premises where an individual shares a kitchen and bathroom with others.

In Foster, Justice Hayes used these words to define rooming house in the context of residential tenancy but in the absence of a statutory definition:

"... a place where a person lives and shares a kitchen and bathroom with others."

In a rooming house, the occupant is typically called a roomer; not a tenant. In many cases, the law treats them as licensees and not tenants pursuant to residential tenancy legislation.

But rooming house premises are nonetheless a principal residence or at least an abode of some permanence.

In Lord Nelson, Canada's Supreme Court noted that:

... the main difference in ordinary understanding between a hotel and a lodging house or a rooming-house is that the former holds itself out as accepting all applying for accommodation while the latter do not."

Often used synonymously with lodging house. Distinguished from a boarding house: the latter is a rooming house plus meals.

As the court wrote in Our House Ottawa:

"The plain meaning of the words 'board or lodging' is 'food and shelter' and 'shelter' respectively."

Legal drafters often define a rooming house so as to ensure that a particular situation is captured, or not, by the statute. For example Ontario's Building Code defines a rooming house as;

"... rooming house means a building that has a building height not exceeding three storeys and a building area not exceeding 600 m², in which lodging is provided for more than four persons in return for remuneration or for the provision of services or for both, and in which the lodging rooms do not have both bathrooms and kitchen facilities for the exclusive use of individual occupants."

The 1970 version of Ontario's Assessment Act defined the term as inclusive of a boarding house:

"Rooming house means any house or building or portion thereof in which the proprietor supplies lodging, for hire or gain, to other persons with or without meals in rooms furnished by the proprietor with necessary furnishings, and does not include a hotel...."

Many jurisdictions exempt rooming houses and boarding houses from the provisions of the applicable residential tenancy statute so as to not impose rigidity upon the personal relationships they usually engender with the sharing of common living space.

For example, British Columbia's Residential Tenancy Act does not use the word rooming house but nonetheless covers most rooming houses by exempting any:

"... living accommodation in which the tenant shares bathroom or kitchen facilities with the owner of that accommodation."

French: maison de chambre.


  • Assessment Act, R.S.O., 1970, Chapter 32, §7
  • Building Code, Ontario Regulation #350/06
  • Foster v Lewkowicz 14 O.R. 3d 339 (1993)
  • Lord Nelson Hotel Ltd. v City of Halifax 1956 SCR 264
  • Ontario Regional Assessment Commissioner v Environ Properties 14 OR (2d) 473 (1976)
  • Our House Ottawa v Ottawa-Carleton 92 DLR 4th 337 (1992)
  • Residential Tenancy Act, S.B.C. 2002, Chapter 78

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