Incalls – Are They Legal?

An ‘incall’ is a sex work appointment where a client visits a self-employed (private) worker at the worker’s home or at a hotel booked in the sex worker’s name. 

Generally incalls are ILLEGAL, but a very small number of sex workers have taken the steps in order to offer incalls LEGALLY. 

For this to happen, a private sex worker must:

  1. Provide a copy of their driver’s licence or other identification document showing  date of birth and current residential address to the Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) in order to register as a small owner operator. This is also known as registering for a SWA number
  2. Obtain a brothel planning permit from the local council. This would generally only be possible if the residence was in a non-residential area and well away from schools or places of worship.
  3. If renting, the sex worker must obtain a copy of the lease agreement and written permission from their landlord to operate a brothel at their premises, and then
  4. Provide Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) with a copy of the council planning permit, a copy of the lease agreement and the landlord’s written permission. 
  5. CAV must then approve the sex worker’s application.


It is exceedingly difficult for sex workers to obtain the above in order to legally provide incall services. Out of the estimated 5,000 private workers, 1,1671 are registered and have a SWA number. Of these 1,167 workers, fewer than 102 are licenced to legally provide incalls.

What are the Penalties for Offering Incalls Illegally?

Under Victorian law, incalls offered by private sex workers are treated as ‘illegal brothel keeping’ and are regulated by criminal laws. When enforced, breaches can lead to an indictable offence. Operating incalls without CAV approval is illegal. Maximum penalties for knowingly or recklessly operating without a licence may be up to 5 years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to $218,088  (1,200 penalty units) or both.

For more information see sections 22(1), 22(1A) and 77(1) of the Sex Work Act 1994 (Vic) and section 126(1) of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 (Vic).

Should Incalls Be Legal?

If Victoria decriminalised sex work, providing incalls without the proper license/permit would no longer be a crimal offence. In New Zealand, which mostly decriminalised sex work in 2003, incalls are legal. As early as 1985, in her ‘Inquiry into Prostitution – Final Report’ legal academic Marcia Neaves recommended some types of incalls be legal. Below is a summary of one of her recommendations:

Recommendation 32 ³ – a house with a single sex worker operating [from] home should not be classified as a brothel

Sex work decriminalisation
In New Zealand incalls are legal (Unsplash: Dan Freeman)

Why Should Incalls Be Legal?

Because sex workers are regular workers like everyone else and should be allowed to carry out their work safely and enjoy the same labour conditions as other workers.

Will the Government Make It Easier to Do Incalls Legally?

In 2018 Victorian Labor unveiled its Platform, which says the following about sex work:

‘Victorian Labor is committed to strengthening human rights and equal opportunity for all Victorians. Labor will recommend that the Victorian Law Reform Commission consider decriminalisation of all sex work in Victoria as per other systems recognised internationally by human rights organisations.’

If this Platform were enacted, the resulting legislation would treat incalls like other types of self -employed home based business services.

  1. Figure sourced from the Department of Justice and Community Safety and dated  30 June 2019.
  2. Figure sourced from the Department of Justice and Community Safety and dated  30 June 2019.
  3. Marcia Neaves, Final report / Inquiry into Prostitution, (1985) Melbourne Government Printer


Recommendation 32 on page 9 reads in full:

‘We recommend that the definition of a brothel appearing in section 3(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1961 should be amended to provide that a brothel does not include a detached dwelling (excluding a flat or home unit) which a single prostitute resides in and uses for the purposes of prostitution.’

© Sex Work Law Reform Victoria 2021

Last updated: 1 July 2021