ACT proposes reforms to create a fairer rental system

By Gerv Tacadena | 08 Aug 2021

The ACT government has launched a consultation on the four proposed revisions to the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 that would provide tenants with more rights and protection.

ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury encouraged tenants, investors, property groups, and other tenant holders to have their say on the proposed changes to tenancy laws.

"Almost a third of Canberrans rent, so we want to turn rental properties from a house into a real home,” Mr Rattenbury said.

“We are exploring four reforms to help create a fairer, safer rental system for all Canberrans.”

The ACT government proposed the following changes:

  1. Ending no cause evictions
  2. Placing restrictions on rent bidding
  3. Setting clear minimum standards for rental properties
  4. Allowing tenants greater freedom to grow their own food and to compost

Ceasing no-cause evictions stems from the tenant's need for certainty. Under the current law, landlords are given the freedom to evict a tenant on a month-to-month lease with six months’ notice without cause

"This proposal will give them greater confidence that they will be able to assert their rights under the agreement without fear that this may lead to their eviction. This will create security of tenure for renters and stop retaliatory evictions," Mr Rattenbury said.

The government also plans on regulating rent bidding.

The current law doesn’t prevent a landlord or agent from telling a prospective tenant that someone else has made a better offer. It also doesn’t prohibit them from asking tenants if they want to outbid other bidders.

Mr Rattenbury said bidding could turn problematic especially in tight markets as it could result in surging rents.

"It is also not transparent and can waste potential renters’ time,” he said.

“While there has not been obvious evidence of this practice occurring regularly in the ACT, we want to hear from Canberrans about why and if rent bidding needs to be regulated.”

The proposals also include a revisit of the minimum standards for rental properties. These standards include factors relating to accessibility, amenity, security, and sanitation. The government has already started introducing minimum standards in terms of energy efficiency.

"At this time, we’d like to hear from both landlords and tenants about any minimum standards they believe should be introduced in the ACT and how should they be implemented," Mr Rattenbury said.

Another issue the government currently looks at is whether there is a need to add a provision in the law that would allow tenants to grow their food and make compost in their rental properties.

“We are looking at how we can strengthen renters’ rights to create vegetable gardens and composts, provided they agree to restore the property to its original condition when the lease ends,” Mr Rattenbury said.

"We want to know whether Canberrans think the law should be amended to introduce more rights for tenants to grow food and to compost.”

Stakeholders are encouraged to submit their suggestions and comments by visiting Your Say Conversations ACT.

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