Rental properties are people’s homes, and renters need to know they have adequate protections to ensure basic housing security. Our current rental laws offer inadequate protections for renters.
Canberra’s high rents and low rental vacancy rates (less than 1 per cent vacancy) mean that renters lack choice and bargaining power when it comes to basic rights. This needs to change. In 2019, rental laws in the ACT will be debated, which means we have an opportunity to get a fairer deal for the ACT’s 100,000 renters.
More people are renting now than ever before and for longer. The type of people who are renting has also changed to include a greater number of families with children and older people. It’s time to modernise and improve our rental laws, to protect the rights of renters in the ACT, and to reflect the ‘new normal’ of long-term renting.
The processes of reviewing the Residential Tenancies Act began four years ago: since then, very little has changed. The Government have tabled amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act, which are due to be debated. In 2019, we have the chance to ensure renters get a better deal.
That’s why the Greens are working to ensure renters can make minor changes to their properties without having to ask their landlord’s permission. It’s the little personal touches that make all the difference —hanging your favourite artworks and family photos or putting up a shelf for mementoes and books.
That’s why the Greens are standing up for Canberra renters to have the right to make minor and reversible modifications without having to seek consent.
We’re also working to ensure that all rental properties meet minimum rental standards. No one deserves to live in a mouldy house where the dishwasher floods the kitchen and the front door won’t lock—it doesn’t feel like home.
The Greens are challenging the Government to set some very basic minimum standards for rental properties, including roofs that don’t leak, doors that lock, and functional kitchens. Greens’ MLA Shane Rattenbury started this work back in 2011 and we’re still committed to getting it done.
We’re also concerned to hear cases of unfair evictions in Canberra, when ‘no cause’ really means, move out. Under the current legislation, a tenant can be given 26 weeks’ notice that their tenancy will end, and the landlord does not have to provide a reason.
These “no cause” evictions are sometimes used in a retaliatory way: there are numerous reports of tenants receiving termination notices after disputing a rent increase or raising maintenance issues.
We know that this can cause renters to remain in unsafe or unfair housing, rather than bring these issues. That’s why the Greens will introduce amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act to remove no cause evictions, and instead insert a list of acceptable reasons for a lessor to end a tenancy, similar to recent reforms in Victoria.
Clearly, a raft of changes are required. It’s time the Government got on with the job.
Caroline Le Couteur is the member for Murrumbidgee and the ACT Greens spokesperson for Housing.