10 August 2022

Probing the polls: dangerous driving and tenant's rights

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Leased sign

Renters are seeking more protection against no-cause evictions. Photo: Daria Nipot.

Dangerous driving has been in the headlines after several tragic deaths, including that of Matthew McLuckie, whose father Tom says the ACT’s laws around serious motor offences are too lax.

In last week’s poll, we asked, Should the government crack down harder on dangerous driving? A total of 1312 readers voted.

Your choices were to vote No, mandatory sentences don’t work. This received 18 per cent of the total, or 242 votes. Alternatively, you could vote Yes, lives are at risk without a bigger deterrent. This was a clear winner with 82 per cent of the total or 1070 votes.

This week, we’re wondering whether you agree that tenants’ rights predominate over those of landlords.

Under a draft bill released by the ACT Government, landlords will not be able to evict tenants without a reason, or conduct rent bidding, and will have to declare that a property meets minimum standards.

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill 2022 aims to give Canberra renters more security when leasing a home and the bill proposes laws to remove ‘no cause evictions’, a consistent complaint from tenants.

Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury says the government was modernising tenancy laws to create more secure housing and a fairer rental system in an environment of soaring rents and extremely low vacancy rates.

Region journalist Ian Bushnell said the changes are long overdue.

“The government says it has taken a balanced approach so that landlords can still manage their properties effectively, and so they will,” Ian Bushnell wrote in an opinion piece about the changes.

“The industry should stop crying foul about changes that are not only just but overdue and learn to work within the new property environment that it has helped build.”

READ ALSO Landlords need to move with the times – their tenants have had to

There was fierce debate among readers.

Scott Anthony wrote: “As a former ACT landlord who found it impossible to terminate and evict a clever tenant for non-payment of rent, this ‘power imbalance’ has always resided with the tenant and just got worse … The landlord OWNS the house and 100% of the RISKS … The tenant only has to pay weekly rent and has no more invested than a few weeks’ bond … how about you even up the money imbalance.”

Another reader, also a landlord, said: “If the ACT Government was really serious about making rents affordable and providing tenants security, then they would abolish Land Tax (why aren’t rates, stamp duty, etc enough?) Until then, you’ll need to forgive me for being cynical of their portrayal of themselves as protectors of poor disadvantaged tenants.”

But there were plenty of other views.

Tim wrote: “I am amazed by the views held here. When will people understand that a house (or apartment) is not like other property?

“It’s not like owning a car; it’s not like owning a bar of gold. When you rent out property, accept that this becomes someone else’s home and that you shouldn’t lord over them and determine their destiny at whim.”

Our question this week is:

Should landlords be able to evict tenants at will?

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What a loaded survey. “evict at will”? That implies being able to turf out a tenant for any reason at any time. I think it just needs to be more even and transparent. Have a clear contract that specifies the “rules” and what will happen if breached, and make sure it can be understood by a 6 year old rather than a property lawyer. Breach contract the first time, 2 weeks to ‘amend’ and then after that get out.

As for land tax, 100% guarantee that removal of that would not decrease rents. The owners would simply pocket the additional money while claiming all the other tax benefits and negative gearing while someone else pays off their mortgage.

The only solution to the housing crisis that I have seen that makes any sense is for the ACT government to have a ‘rent-to-buy’ scheme (which unlike the bank-run ones would not be a scam) where the tenant pays off the mortgage and owns more of the property each year, with a fixed $ ‘profit’ for the govt.

Incidental Tourist11:57 pm 10 Aug 22

Those advocating tenant’s “power imbalance” have forgotten that for for each tenant claiming their entitlement to a “home for all” someone else has to be willing to take up a mortgage first. Do “mum and dad” investors deserve contempt and financial loss because they invest in a rental property in ACT? Will they be better off if they invest interstate or buy a holiday house on a coast, or contribute more in their super or invest in their kids or perhaps buy new family car? Don’t get me wrong. I am not against entitlement to a “home for all” as long as I don’t pay for it.

As a landlord the greatest imposission place upon us has been the ‘abject right of tenants having an animal on the property’.. The pencil pushers that allowed this to happen do not have to deal with animals that destroy/deface/foul our assets and we almost no ability to pass on the costs to the offending tenants. And tenants (& pen pushers) wonder why rents have increased!

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