6 August 2021

ACT Government unveils proposals for greater rights for renters

| Ian Bushnell
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ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury

ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury: “We want to turn rental properties from a house into a real home.” Photo: Dominic Giannini.

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.

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There is a Social Housing program in ACT that benefits owner and tenants but not many people have taken up this option. Greedy landlords want to squeeze the hard earned money from those less fortunate than themselves. Not a good look!

As a property owner (my home) and having been a renter I applaud the ACT govvy’s action at making it a more equitable and just arrangement between landlord and tenants.

This business of Investing in property to increase wealth is a double edged sword. Sure Mum and Dad investors are looking for ways to secure financial freedom but this trend of “getting rich” by using OPM, Other Peoples Money, is in my opinion unethical or can be.

Tenants need to have some security of tenure in their home. I have been fortunate to have rented from good people, who didn’t charge excessive rent and who were open to communicate with me regarding my needs and wants in relation to the property I rented. I have had the unfortunate experience here in Canberra some 30 years ago of falling prey to an unscrupulous Agent who wanted us to pay to have the house recarpeted due to some red cordial stain on the ancient existing carpet. I had paid to have the carpet patched professionally but this wasn’t enough for the Real Estate Agent managing the property. We ended up at the Tribunal and the case was decided in our favour. But it was a stressful and time expensive process.

Thank you Mr Rattenbury for being a champion of fairness

Not sure why you’re thanking Minister Rattenbury for being the champion of fairness?

His property tax changes have added almost $100 to weekly rents, his land supply restraints have added hundreds of thousands to the cheapest blocks of land and his inner city renewal plans have removed thousands of public housing dwellings and made Canberra property developers very rich. .

Even some Greens supporters aren’t overly happy with aspects of his housing policy and actions.

The photo shows the face of incompetence.

For a party that claims to represent the disadvantaged, to be progressive, to be socially aware they have made housing so unaffordable that Canberra has now become the most expensive Australian city to rent a property.
All on their watch.
The median weekly rent in Canberra is now $620 compared to Sydney $582, Melbourne $444, Brisbane $476, Adelaide $430, Perth $472, Hobart $499, Darwin $548.
The hypocritical blinkered Greens/Labor just don’t get it.
Their own policies and agendas are what is driving rents up and affordability down.

PlasticScene2:09 pm 07 Aug 21

As I predicted, there were mostly pro-landlord comments to this article. But fact of the matter, tenants are treated very poorly in Canberra. It’s astonishing how badly they are treated considering the rent tenants have to pay! I have moved into properties that had existing issues that were never addressed (I would have expected them to be remedied between tenants; all it takes is sending a handyman around), including such serious issues as a green, untreated pool and mould problems. It’s disgusting and unacceptable and can have consequences for people’s health and wellbeing!

Bring on more basic protections; they are SORELY needed.

Tenants cannot “be thrown out at the end of the month” if on a month to month lease. There’s no such thing as a month to month lease. It’s called a periodic lease, and a month has nothing to do with it.
26 weeks notice is still required if it’s without reason. Otherwise, it’s 12 weeks for renovations or 8 weeks for sale or for the owner to move back in.
Tenants on a lease can’t be evicted with 26 weeks notice unless the end of that 26 weeks is after the end of their fixed term lease.
What a poor excuse for journalism this is.

There’s plenty of property investment advisors who highlight that Canberra has become a difficult place for property investors who are looking for cashflow positive investments. High prices, high rates and taxes and government imposed restrictions on landlords can scare off mum and dad property investors.

Wealthier or high earning landlords who are happy to negative gear and wait out rent losses for long term value can make a killing in Canberra.

In cities like Sydney and Brisbane the cheap rent houses are often the pretty run down small houses owned by working class or aged owners (who treat it like superannuation).

I feel our politicians have a theoretical and academic view of housing and renting in Canberra that doesn’t match idiosyncratic nature of our housing and rental market.

Being a landlord in the ACT is a mug’s game. Just when you think you are catching up, Mr Barr moves the goal posts with his ever increasing taxes and charges and measures like this.

While rents are expensive, the costs cannot all be passed on or the rents would be prohibitive. I would expect the number of private investors is in steady decline.

“The government is also proposing to restrict rent bidding and give tenants more freedom to grow their own food and compost kitchen scraps.”

I find it hard to imagine the type of person who would not allow tenants to do this (as long as they are a responsible tenant). When I used to have a rental property and a tenant asked me could they have a vegetable garden, I had no hesitancy saying of course they could. I knew they were sensible and responsible and wouldn’t make a mess of this, and they didn’t. I also allowed good tenants to have pets. On the other hand a bad tenant who had a dog without telling me, I would have preferred didn’t have a pet. Neighbours told me they had to call the RSPCA on them and when the dog died it was allowed to rot beside the fence. I likely would have refused them a vegetable garden if they had asked, because they would not have been trusted with this. What is allowed should depend on the tenant. If a tenant is not allowed though to grow their own food, the owner should have a reason to argue why not. Otherwise, the tenant should be allowed.

Be a good tenant, and you will be (should be) allowed to do more things.

Sounds like you were/are a great landlord Maya123. Wish they all were! My experience as a tenant/renter for about 10 years in three different properties was that any request for me to convert a patch of ground into a veggie garden was denied. Even pots on concrete patios upset the landlords because they may mark the concrete. Sad!! Now I own it’s different but I still remember the restrictions associated with renting. It’s always going to be a challenge balancing freedoms of tenants with protecting the landlords investment and income.

Does Rattenbury even believe his own claims about helping renters?

He keeps increasing the rights of renters and placing additional restrictions on landlords as the rents get ever higher.

At the same time Canberra rents are skyrocketing due to all the land release, housing, rental and tax policy changes that he’s helped implement.

How about you reduce our land taxes you greedy mugs. Will have to pass on these restrictive measures to my tenants through higher rents now. Will be increasing it 30% next month, my tenants can thank the ACT Government!

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