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Renters deserve a better deal

Caroline Le Couteur MLA 1 February 2019 42

Greens housing spokesperson Carolyn Le Couteur says its time for a look at renters rights. Photo: Supplied.

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.


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42 Responses to Renters deserve a better deal
bj_ACT bj_ACT 11:24 am 02 Feb 19

Make sure you don’t miss two of the key factors in rental increases across Canberra.

The changes to Land Tax calculations on rented properties have been directly passed on to the renter. No surprises here despite the government saying landlords would swallow the increases.

The disproportionate increases in annual rates, Family violence fee and Emergency Services Duty has hit poorer households in the outer suburbs much harder than inner Canberra.

These outer fringes of Tuggeranong, Belconnen and Gunghalin are where many low income families have traditionally rented.

Greens have the power to renegotiate the way Annual Rates and Land Tax are calculated and the lack of facilities, services and public transport in outer areas needs to be captured in the tax charges. Per square metre Land value alone is not fair and equitable.

    I am a Rabbit™ I am a Rabbit™ 7:50 pm 02 Feb 19

    The days of “lower income families” renting a McMansion in the outer suburbs are long over – they’re now only capable of affording dog box apartments in Franklin. The lower income individuals who live in the outer suburbs typically own the house outright, meaning they’re still sitting on a significant financial asset.

    The comment about the rise in rents being driven primarily by tax is also completely incorrect – first year of economics 101 will tell you otherwise. I’d also be careful about advocating for reform… People in town-houses and apartments are sick to death of having to subsidies individuals living in valuable McMansions.

    Your “fair and equitable” solution is debatable, and I would argue such steps would be regressive towards the true poor (low income individual or family renting with no assets) – as opposed to wealthy retirees who are cash poor and asset rich. It’s not the responsibility of tax payers to subsidies the lifestyle of the latter group.

Maya123 Maya123 1:59 pm 02 Feb 19

The mould issue is often brought up. This is a tricky issue, as some people don’t clean enough and then complain about mould. I had one lot of tenants like that. No tenant before them had a problem with mould, but then these tenants moved in and the bathroom became covered in mould. They moved out leaving the bathroom filthy, and other problems, saying the mould wouldn’t come off. A cleaner found it easy to clean off. They lost their bond in the Tribunal. More tenants moved in and I went around to see them and to collect the bathroom curtains to wash out the mould. ‘No problem,’ they said. ‘Done already. Easy.’ I was embarrassed they had seen the curtains as they were, but they were lovely people and nothing was too much a problem. Unlike the previous tenants, who couldn’t even change a light bulb. I would do this for them. That house never suffered a mould problem again. My theory was that the tenants never used the bathroom fan, and if they did they didn’t allow enough air gap for proper extraction, such as leaving the bathroom door slightly ajar. They also didn’t clean enough. The agent showed them how to clean; I showed them how to clean, it was all too difficult and I believe they thought that was someone else’s responsibility. In a previous life, they had probably had cleaners to do this for them.

I have also been a tenant and I moved into a flat that had the worst mould problem in the bathroom I have ever seen. I used a knife to scrap it off; it was so bad. Once the mould was removed, I never had a mould problem again, because I actually cleaned. And that bathroom had no extractor fan.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 7:57 am 04 Feb 19

It would appear that the Greens have a good insight into landlord/tenant matters with the local leader Shane Rattenbury already owning two investment units in Canberra:

https://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/act/greens-leader-negatively-gears-investment-properties-one-in-light-rail-corridor-20160912-grealf.html

While that could appear to be a conflict of interest with the tram project Rattenbury said he supported the Greens’ policy on negative gearing, and that he had always planned to use a progressive affordable housing model, named Homeground, to rent out the apartments at a discounted rate to low-income tenants.

I think the Greens’ policy on negative gearing is the same as Labor’s in which case his units would be “grandfathered” if they were negatively geared.

What good luck Mr Rattenbury is having.

Kuan Bartel Kuan Bartel 12:28 am 06 Feb 19

And pets! Canberra is the worst place I’ve ever lived for finding a place which accepts pets. Most other states have already changed to allowing pets.

    Maya123 Maya123 6:37 pm 06 Feb 19

    One of my best tenants came because I allowed pets in my rental…Doberman (gulp) in this case. The owner was a brilliant tenant. Actually I almost didn’t take him, because the reference he wrote for himself saying how he would look after the place sounded too good to be true. It all turned out to be absolutely true.

Blen_Carmichael Blen_Carmichael 4:22 pm 06 Feb 19

“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.” Wow, only six months’ notice, hey?

Grimm Grimm 8:24 am 10 Feb 19

Landlords should have every right to decide if pets are kept in their property or modifications are made, or if they want the current tenant out with 6 months notice.

If you don’t like it, buy your own house and do what you like with it.

John Chan John Chan 9:11 am 22 Feb 19

When a tenant and a landlord cannot resolve their differences why must the Law interfere with a 4 month smooth process that would allow landlords to recover their large assets and move on? Landlords also have families to look after with their investments. Do not always think that the landlord should wear the problem for every friction with the tenant.

John Chan John Chan 9:12 am 22 Feb 19

6 months notice is fair.

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