"Common lodging-house" is a Victorian era term for a form of cheap accommodation in which inhabitants are lodged together in one or more rooms in common with the rest of the inmates, who are not members of one family, whether for eating or sleeping. The slang term flophouse is roughly the equivalent of common lodging-houses. The nearest modern equivalent is a hostel.
There was no statutory definition of the class of houses in England intended to be included in the expression common lodging-house, but the definition used above was adopted to include those houses which, under the Public Health Act 1875 and other legislation, must be registered and inspected. The provisions of the Public Health Act were that every urban and rural district council must keep registers showing the names and residences of the keepers of all common lodging-houses in their districts, the location of every such house, and the number of lodgers authorized by them.
The scandalous condition of the common lodging houses in London, which were frequently the resort of criminals and prostitutes, prompted the Common Lodging Houses Acts 1851 and 1853. These regulations, however proved ineffectual and the requirement that residents vacate the premises between 10 a.m. and late afternoon hit poor and sick residents hard, as they were obliged to walk the streets in the intervening period in all weathers.
Even tighter control was imposed when regulation of common lodging houses was transferred from the police to the London County Council in 1894, resulting in the imposition of higher standards and regular inspection of the premises by council officials. The new regulations required the landlords to limewash the walls and ceilings twice a year and the mixed sex accommodation, which was frequently a cover for a brothel, was abolished. Proper beds and bedding had also to be provided instead of mattresses on the floor and worse.