Landlords will no longer be able to evict tenants without cause, and their properties will have to meet set standards under ACT Government proposals to improve conditions for renters in the Territory.
The government is also proposing to restrict rent bidding and give tenants more freedom to grow their own food and compost kitchen scraps.
The proposals, some of which have already been widely canvassed, are now out for public consultation.
At present, landlords can evict tenants on a lease without cause by giving 26 weeks’ notice, but those on month-to-month agreements can be thrown out at the end of the month.
The government is proposing to remove no-cause evictions from the Residential Tenancies Act to give tenants more certainty and confidence that they can raise issues with their landlord without fear of being tossed out in retaliation.
It wants to know if any new causes for eviction should be added, such as wanting to use the premises for a non-residential purpose, or so social housing can be managed effectively.
The push for minimum property standards has been focused on the high energy costs renters face, as well as the health risks of enduring Canberra’s chilly winters and baking summers in poorly insulated properties with inefficient or no heating and cooling.
The government can now introduce minimum standards for physical accessibility, energy efficiency, safety and security, sanitation, and amenity, but is still deciding on particular measures and how detailed they would be.
For example, the standards in Victoria are much more specific and prescriptive than in NSW.
The government is also considering whether minimum standards should be phased in during a period of time, if there should be any exemptions, and how they should be enforced.
Reports of rent bidding or auctions have emerged during the ACT’s rental crisis, and many people argue the practice is unfair, unethical and hikes rents.
The government wants to know if the practice should be banned or restricted, and whether advertising a rental property with a price range or with no price at all should be allowed.
While tenants can already have gardens, the government wants to give them more scope, so long as they restore the grounds to their original condition when the lease ends.
Landlords would not be able to refuse significant changes without an order from the ACT Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury said everyone deserves a safe and secure place to live, and the proposed changes would help create a fairer and safer rental system.
“Almost one-third of Canberrans rent so we want to turn rental properties from a house into a real home,” he said.
Landlords and the property industry have argued that the proposals would only deter investment in the rental market and lead to even fewer properties available to rent.
REIACT CEO Michelle Tynan said 21 per cent of landlords had indicated they would remove their properties from the market and 59 per cent said they would increase the rent if a minimum efficiency standard required extra investment.
She said nearly 10,000 properties could be affected.
But with many people unable or unwilling to buy their own home due to the runaway prices of property, calls have been growing louder for stronger rights for renters and more certainty.
Submissions can be made until Friday, 17 September, 2021.
To learn more, visit the YourSay website.