14 February 2020

Ramsay introduces final rental reforms to Assembly

| Ian Bushnell
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Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay

Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay: The reforms will mean a simpler and more streamlined system. Photo: File.

Greater protections for renters against unreasonable evictions, simpler arrangements for share houses, and a new requirement for landlords to lodge bonds are part of the final tranche of the government’s rental reforms introduced to the Legislative Assembly on Thursday.

The amendments to the Residential Tenancies ACT 1997 aim to provide a more even playing field and greater legal clarity for tenants and landlords.

Changes to the Act passed by the Assembly last year and in effect since November sought to protect renters from excessive rent increases, strengthen their rights to have a pet, enable renters to make minor modifications to their home and make it easier for them to break leases without incurring significant costs.

Under the proposed changes now before the Assembly, tenants will have mandatory minimum protections including protections against unreasonable evictions, ensuring they have access to communal areas, a requirement for notice periods if landlords want to enter the premises, and limitations on penalties that can be charged.

Tenants will also only have to pay two weeks rent in advance to afford them more flexibility, and landlords will have to ensure they have information about dispute resolution mechanisms including access to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal and the ACT Human Rights Commission.

It will be the responsibility of landlords to lodge security deposits with the Office for Rental Bonds, unless they are education providers such as universities.

The changes will also create a new class of tenant – a co-tenant – to acknowledge the common practice of share housing, particularly among students and young professionals.

They will clarify the legal status of a household member and afford them the protections and obligations under tenancy law, making it less complicated when people move in and out of a house, particularly regarding bonds or rent owed.

Another proposed change will allow the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal to alter tenancy agreements in family violence situations.

Landlords will also be able to terminate agreements if their property is used for an illegal activity.

Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay said the changes would ensure a fairer system for tenants and provide a clearer framework for landlords to manage their properties.

“The old system of tenancy laws was outdated, often skewed in the favour of one party and lacked legal clarity around process, conditions, sustainability and fairness,” Mr Ramsay said.

“These changes will provide basic parameters for both tenants and landlords to understand what is and what is not acceptable when entering into a tenancy or occupancy agreement.

“I am confident that this package of reforms will help ensure that both tenants and landlords understand their obligations through a simplified and streamlined system that will benefit our entire
community.”

This series of reforms was first outlined in the 2016 review into the Residential Tenancies Act 1997.

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