The ACT Greens have called for 12-week notice periods for tenants on month to month tenancies as the availability of affordable rental properties continues to dry up.
Greens housing spokesperson Caroline Le Couteur says the Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay was due to introduce amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act (1997) by the end of the year and longer notice periods should be on the agenda.
“We’re talking to the Attorney-General about him making amendments which go along these lines, or making amendments ourselves,” she said.
The Residential Tenancies Act (1997) currently provides for three notice periods for termination with cause during a periodic tenancy:
- Four weeks if the landlord or a relative intend to move in;
- Eight weeks if the landlord has an intention to sell the property;
- 12 weeks if the landlord is planning to make major repairs to the property.
But Ms Le Couteur said these should all be 12 weeks, so tenants have sufficient time to find another place to live in the current tight rental market.
“We’re talking here about Canberra renters who, through no fault of their own, might find themselves with a month to find a new place to live,” Ms Le Couteur said.
“This proposal would go some way to providing good renters with a reasonable buffer of time to ensure that they can find a new place to live, if the owner does intend to move in, sell up, or make major repairs.
“Being given a month to find somewhere to live would be stressful for anyone, and all the more so if you have children or pets.”
Ms Le Couteur was also concerned about retaliatory evictions where for example tenants raise maintenance issues and then receive notice from landlords saying they or a relative wish to move in, only to re-let the property.
Recognising that there may be genuine cases, the Greens propose that landlords be required to lodge a statutory declaration with ACAT, providing detail of the name(s) of the new occupant(s) and the reason that a notice period of less than 12 weeks is required.
“If the reason is the landlord just wants to change the tenant then they need to take 12 weeks and give people more of a chance to find somewhere else to live,” Ms Le Couteur said.
“It’s problematical if you want to stay in the same area, because your kids are going to school and you don’t want to become an out-of-area enrolment. You need to stay somewhere where the kids can physically get to school, not find you are moving to somewhere on the other side of town.”
The Green’s proposal follows similar moves in Victoria, which last week passed legislation providing more protections for renters despite a strong pushback from the property industry.
Ms Le Couteur said feedback from the real estate industry in the ACT had been less than positive, but the property landscape had changed dramatically in recent years with high house prices, rising rents and low vacancy rates.
“Where I am coming from is a significant power and convenience imbalance between tenants and landlords,” Ms Le Couteur said.
“We need to protect tenants more because there are just so few vacancies, and the economic power has shifted more and more to the landlord.”