22 March 2023

ACT first to ban ‘no cause’ evictions as rental reforms pass Assembly

| Ian Bushnell
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For Lease sign

The rental reforms will give tenants more security, says Attorney‑General Shane Rattenbury. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The ACT has become the first Australian jurisdiction to outlaw no-cause evictions as part of its long-flagged legislation to strengthen renters’ rights.

Welcoming the passage of rental reforms through the ACT Legislative Assembly on Tuesday (21 March), Attorney General Shane Rattenbury said the changes would give tenants greater security and remove the fear of being evicted without a clear reason stated in the legislation.

“It’s important that people who rent feel like their house is a home. Rental conditions in the ACT are already very challenging, with rising rents and limited supply,” Mr Rattenbury said.

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Under the Residential Tenancies Legislation Amendment Bill, no-cause evictions will be removed from the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 from 1 April 2023.

“We have heard from the community that no-cause evictions have a profoundly negative impact on renters, either because of the eviction itself, or because it stops renters being able to raise other legitimate concerns out of fear of eviction,” Mr Rattenbury said.

The Bill also scraps ‘end of fixed term tenancy terminations’, where renters can be evicted without reason when their lease has expired.

Other changes will ban landlords and agents from asking for or encouraging rent bids, allowing tenants greater freedom to grow their own food and to compost, and creating a framework to support the future introduction of minimum housing standards for rental properties.

Landlords will now be required to notify prospective tenants about whether a property meets minimum standards.

If a property doesn’t meet a minimum housing standard, tenants will be allowed to seek a rent reduction, compensation or end the tenancy. The law will also give landlords a right to access the rental property if they need to upgrade it to meet a minimum standard.

Mr Rattenbury said the changes would balance the concerns of renters and landlords.

“These laws remain balanced by still recognising that landlords will at times need to end tenancies for genuine reasons, such as selling the property, or when a tenant breaches the agreement,” he said.

The laws will also extend to Housing ACT, which will now have more power to evict tenants who break the conditions of their lease. The government says this will allow public housing properties to be managed more efficiently.

mark parton

Opposition Housing spokesperson Mark Parton: investors will flee the market. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

Opposition Housing spokesperson Mark Parton told the Assembly that the changes were meant to make life better for renters but would do the exact opposite by driving investors out of the market, worsening the ACT’s tight vacancy rates and rental affordability crisis.

He accused the government of demonising landlords.

“This city actually needs private individuals to take the risk, make the effort, buy a house and rent it out and what we’re seeing play out here in Canberra is a continual narrowing of the private rental market as the population grows,” he said.

Mr Parton said the changes would also result in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal being flooded with cases.

But Mr Rattenbury said there was no evidence that investors would abandon the rental market, citing data from Victoria a year after the state introduced minimum standards and research from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute.

“In the ACT, rental yields and housing investment remains strong, which indicates these rental reforms won’t have a significant impact on the rental and housing market,” he told the Assembly.

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Bernadette Barrett from Better Renting described the ban on no-cause evictions as a significant victory for renters and advocates in the region who have long been calling for these changes.

“Removing the ability of landlords to evict tenants without good reason will provide greater stability and security to renters in their homes,” Ms Barrett said.

“This change will also empower renters to better advocate for their rights without fear of retaliation, giving them more power to negotiate with landlords and push for necessary repairs or changes to their living arrangements and allowing them to create a better sense of home.”

Ms Barrett the introduction of further minimum housing standards for rental properties would provide renters with healthier and safer living conditions.

“The reforms are a welcome step towards ensuring all renters in the ACT have access to stable and healthy homes,” she said.

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In the air tonight—-rental increase imminent

ACT wants to ban landlords and make all housing social housing.
Next up raising the rates to force everyone into a government rental.

Nothing like living in a shoebox to discourage everyone from carbon intensive things like big screen tvs.

All renters have the option to buy. However many don’t

devils_advocate5:07 pm 23 Mar 23

The idea that tenants lack security of leases is a myth. Leases of up to 7 years with multiple options for the tenant to extend are routinely entered into by DHA and others.

These leases are registered against the title so stay with the property even if sold.

devils_advocate5:29 pm 23 Mar 23

The reason tenants don’t take registered long-term leases is the same reason they don’t buy the house themselves – they don’t want to be locked in.

But they have no problem with the landlord being locked into a lease with them indefinitely, so long as the tenant can still terminate on a whim.

ACT is now the only jurisdiction that have removed this although I hear the others are following suit. As the lead in our agency, the no cause evictions were rarely used but they were very handy when there was a relationship breakdown between the owner and tenant. It was 6 months to move on – not 6 days. NSW were 90 days and some states were just 2 months so 6 months seems very generous. I am also a landlord and its not all roses from where I am sitting. 9 consecutive interest rate rises has increased my mortgage by $260 a week. How many times can you increase tenants rent a year? Once… Further I had to put insulation in my roof as there was none which took a month of saving and done by me to save some cash and god help us if my heater breaks when it cools down and needs replacing this winter; however if it happens to my tenant, I have a legislated timeframe of 4 days for an urgent repair. Sound fair to you? Labour and greens are on the nose and need to go.

Bob the impala5:17 pm 23 Mar 23

Mitch, you seem to be blaming others for your own decisions around financial risk management.

Israel Vaughn7:31 am 24 Mar 23

Mitch, housing should be for living in. I rent here and own a home overseas.

As a property investor, you aren’t entitled to a risk free investment. If it doesn’t make sense for you to hold that property anymore, then sell it.

Australians are entitled to housing, it’s a basic human right. You’re not entitled to a profit.

No, I am well aware of the increase in my weekly budget and managing funds accordingly however my point was surrounding the 26 weeks notice; the other points were specifically directed at just how favourable some aspects of the current legislation is towards the tenant.
I obviously struggle to see how 6 months notice to vacate is not a sufficient period of time to find a new home and move.

No ones arguing that housing shouldn’t be lived in. I have great tenants.
The argument is that 26 weeks notice to vacate was more than sufficient and that’s my dispute.
The misconception that we all own these investments and making these big juicy profits is just incorrect. The rent contributes to the mortgage and with interest rate increases, I am increasing my contribution so yes, well aware I am not entitled nor receiving a profit!

Why be a landlord in ACT to start with? Do the figures it’s a terrible investment. However next door in NSW is a different story

What a great debate this was! That young up and coming Johnathan Davis showed that joker Mark Parton a thing or too! These small reforms go a long way in improving the lives of renters. The only contribution Mr Parton could make in rejecting the bill was to scoff and snicker and shout silly insults across the chamber at his opponents. The changes are minor. They improve the lives, health and wellbeing of renters. There are many landlords who act legitimately but there are also many who are unscrupulous. This bill provides a level playing field between tenants and landlords.

These changes to rental laws will outlaw rent bidding and no cause evictions, allow minor and reversible modifications to rental properties, allow renters to grow their own food and make it easier for them to own pets, within limits. The bill also enshrines in legislation minimum energy efficiency standards on rental properties. The bill enables tenants to apply for reduced rent if certain minimum standards are not being met. Landlords currently receive many benefits from the government to improve the safety and sustainability of their properties including interest free loans.

I found it particularly galling to watch Mr Parton babble on about how hard landlords will find these changes. The changes are trifling but Mr Parton believes that many landlords will be forced to sell their investment properties. A number of Liberal MLA’s, including Mr Parton, previously rented or grew up in public housing. Mr Parton quoted statistics from right wing sources to suit his own neoliberal agenda. He did not consult or quote from tenants in Canberra or his electorate. Many ACT tenants do it extremely tough and are some of our city’s most disadvantaged.

Mr Parton and the Canberra Liberals just don’t get it. Voters deserve better!

devils_advocate2:21 pm 23 Mar 23

If you knew anything about how markets work, you’d understand that this will limit supply and increase rent prices.

Great for those tenants who can afford it, not so great for the disadvantaged.

There are no free lunches here. Increasing costs and risks for landlords, including regulatory risks, only drives supply down and rent prices up.

Unfortunately all the bleeding heart greenies refuse to read a first year economics text so need to learn these lessons the hard way.

I come to this debate devils_advocate with a pretty clear understanding of economics and markets.

I wonder whose interests Mr Parton and the Canberra Liberals are advocating for in rejecting this bill. The Canberra Liberals oppose these new laws and many of them and their families own investment properties in Canberra. Most of these Canberra Liberals were renters in their previous lives. Some of them wouldn’t have had a roof over their heads and grew up in public housing thanks to the social policies of those lefty socialist governments they despise so much.

The changes in this bill are minor and go some way in improving the lives of renters. The changes provide a level playing field against unscrupulous landlords.

What is wrong with that?

devils_advocate5:31 pm 23 Mar 23

What is wrong with it, is that it will reduce affordability and limit supply for those tenants that can least afford it.

I am so glad I do not own a rental property in Canberra. Although I had contemplated this a few years ago, the hefty taxes applying to rentals put me off.

Whenever there is talk about long term rentals, the Australian rental market is compared to Europe.

I grew up in Europe (Austria) and my parents rented their home for over 60 years. Their landlord was a limited company that owns rental properties in numerous cities. Throughout my parents’ occupation, it was their responsibility to maintain the interior of the property as if it was their own. If they wanted a new paint job, they did it, if the hot water system needed to be replaced, it was up to them to do so, floor coverings too came out of their own pockets, as did new kitchen cabinets, cooking appliances, etc. They even upgraded the windows! The owner company was responsible for the upkeep of the building. It also provided lawn mowing and chimney cleaning, however, but this was an added expense when rental amounts were reviewed and increased each year!

When my mother vacated the property a few months prior to her death, she had to give 2 MONTHS notice and completely empty the property, including window and floor coverings, kitchen and other cabinetry!

I would LOVE to see Australian tenancy laws match those in Europe as far as tenant responsibility regarding the maintenance and upkeep of the rental property they occupy!

Actually, as far as I know, it’s only in germany an Austria that tennants bring their own kitchens to rentals. Most other countries have kitchens included.
In Denmark, where I’m from people do long term rentals, often their entire life. Upgrades to the apartment are normally negotiated between tennants and the landlord, who often owns the entire complex. The costs are then typically covered by the land lord and paid off by the tennant through temporary rent increases. The tennant has to restore the plase with reasonable wear and tear to the conditions the place was received in. This is normally a new cover of paint and a sanding of the floor. But you have complete freedom of what you want to do in the place, including colour scheme, decorations, curtains and lights.
Also the maximum rent increases on ongoing leases are indexed to cpi, which hurt this year, but generally keeps rents in check while a place is occupied.
For new tennants, a landlord has more freedom in determining asking price.

GrumpyGrandpa5:39 pm 22 Mar 23

I am NOT a landlord, but to me, these changes appear to shift the balance towards the tenant.
I’d think most landlords probably do the right thing by their tenants and maybe all landlords are being tarred with the same brush as the occasional “slum” landlords.
If I was a landlord, I’d want good reliable long-term tenants and be more than happy to keep the property I’m good order.
All of that said, our son lives in Sydney and every 12-18 months is forced to find somewhere else to live; in most cases, the landlord has sought vacant possession to sell the property. Renting can he hard life.
I’d assume that these new laws in the ACT wouldn’t prevent the landlord from seeking vacancy to enable a sale either and unless the new purchaser is a landlord, there becomes one less rental available.

yeah but one more owner occupier, who probably previously rented.

“I’d assume that these new laws in the ACT wouldn’t prevent the landlord from seeking vacancy to enable a sale either and unless the new purchaser is a landlord, there becomes one less rental available.”

Yet if it isn’t being rented out, it must be an owner occupier. Which either opens up another property elsewhere, or sees someone move from renting into ownership. For all the arguments put out there about rental matters, this one is a pure folly.

There are plenty of landlords that do the right thing. There are plenty that also treat their tenants as cash cows as well, and between them and their agents, do little to maintain a property, are horrendously slow to respond when things do need fixing/replacing, and yet they hold the balance of power to some degree.

If there is zero basis for eviction, beyond the end of a fixed term, or for a property to be sold, then I don’t see what is unreasonable in these reforms overall.

devils_advocate6:44 pm 23 Mar 23

@ areaman

“ yeah but one more owner occupier, who probably previously rented.”

Sure, assuming there is absolutely zero new builds driven by investor demans

This Government allows developers to ban buyers from bringing their own experts when doing the final building inspection prior to settlement.

They seem to have total contempt for building owners. They only care about renters and Developers.

“The Bill also scraps ‘end of fixed term tenancy terminations’, where renters can be evicted without reason when their lease has expired.”
Why would a landlord want to evict a tenant ‘without reason’?
Obviously wanting to gouge on rent is an issue. So, I can see a case for limiting the %ge rent increase that would be allowable in a new lease but otherwise this bill seems to be a disincentive to investors. Then again, it is a Rattenbury initiative, so trying to find logic is probably a lost cause.

devils_advocate5:37 pm 23 Mar 23

Regulating rental increases simply incentivises landlords to “find” a reason to terminate the lease so they can sign a new lease at market rent.

You can never regulate prices, you can only ever create a shortage.

devils_advocate12:34 pm 22 Mar 23


Remove the ability of landlords to regulate pets, terminate leases and introduce new energy efficiency requirements, on top of punitive land tax charges for rental properties…

…and then wring your hands in public crying crocodile tears for the rental affordability crisis.

What’s the point in criticising the government’s policy, I figure just let it play out to it’s obvious conclusion at the point

Rattenbury has got his head stuck up his backside, if he thinks investors won’t exit the ACT market. I for one am looking to offload my investment property as the laws are too heavily geared towards the tenants.

Good, it’ll increase the number of houses for sale. The ACT has a shortage of all types of housing, not just rentals so selling your rental to someone else who will either live in it or rent it out won’t meaningfully affect the housing market.

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