Residential Tenancies Act reforms long overdue: ACT Greens

Caroline Le Couteur, MLA

The ACT Greens today urged the Government to deliver on a range of Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) reforms that have yet to be enacted, some two years on since recommendations were first made.

In June 2016 the Justice and Community Safety Directorate published a review of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997. Consultation for this review began in July 2014.

While some progress has been made on a first tranche of reforms, the community is still waiting for the second tranche to implement the outstanding recommendations.

These include a number of recommendations that, if implemented, will improve access to rental properties for low income earners and better balance the rights of tenants and landlords, such as:

  • reducing the maximum rent payable in advance to two weeks, instead of the current four weeks, consistent with NSW;
  • allowing tenants to give 14 days notice to leave a rental property if they have been offered social housing;
  • developing occupancy agreements for those who are boarding or lodging or in caravan parks;
  • giving tenants the power to terminate a lease if the terms are inconsistent with the RTA;
  • placing greater focus on sustainability and energy efficiency;
  • implementing minimum standards for safety and security.

“The process of reviewing the Residential Tenancies Act began four years ago, and for the past two years, the Government has been sitting on this review.

“The Government must act urgently to support low-income renters in a time of housing crisis. Implementing these long overdue reforms would be a major step in the right direction,” Ms Le Couteur said.

The Greens today also welcomed assurances from the Government that:

  • Breaches of a payment plan for unpaid rent will no longer automatically end a tenancy;
  • If a renter still has trouble meeting the payment plan, they will still be able to have their circumstances brought before the ACAT before any steps towards eviction take place
  • The rental bond guarantee will be further deferred until more work is done on appropriate regulation.

“While the Greens welcome today’s announcements, there remain important outstanding issues for renters that need to be addressed if we’re to provide for a fairer housing system in the ACT,” Ms Le Couteur added.