Reforms to Tenancy and Occupancy Laws

Renting and occupancy in the ACT

The ACT Government is reforming and modernising Canberra’s residential tenancy laws so that they are clearer, fairer and deliver better outcomes. 

To date, the reform program has benefited from close consultation with stakeholders including tenancy advocates, landlords, businesses, real estate groups, crisis accommodation providers, residents of mobile home parks and universities.

Some important changes have been made recently including with respect to co-tenancies and occupancy agreements.

What are the new proposed changes to the Residential Tenancy laws?

The ACT Government is now considering options to further improve residential tenancy laws. These are:

  • Ending no cause evictions
  • Restricting rent bidding
  • Allowing tenants greater freedom to grow their own food and compos
  • Setting clear minimum standard for rental properties.

Currently, landlords can evict a tenant on a periodic lease with six months’ notice without cause or reason to do so.  If no cause evictions are no longer allowed, tenants will be in a better position to assert their rights without fear of being evicted.  However, to enable landlords to manage their properties effectively, this change may mean there needs to be new ‘with cause’ grounds.

Currently, prospective tenants can offer or be asked to offer more than the advertised price for a rental property.  This practice is known as rent bidding.  There are varying views on whether this is acceptable, or unfair to prospective tenants.

The ACT Government is also considering whether renters’ rights to grow food and to compost food waste should be strengthened, and what conditions should be in place to protect landlords 

Lastly, the ACT Government is considering what minimum standards should be set to ensure that rental properties meet basic levels of safety, amenity and sanitation and how any minimum standards should be implemented.

How you had Your Say

Thank you to the Canberrans who provided feedback in writing through YourSay on the questions set out in the Consultation Paper. Comments closed midnight on 15 October 2021.

A Listening Report will now be prepared on the feedback to the Consultation Paper and will be published on YourSay

Shorter summary pages on each of the reform topics were also prepared for those who want a quicker overview of the key issues:

What are the recent changes to the Residential Tenancy laws?

Changes introduced by the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2020 (No 2)

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2020 (No 2) (the Amendment Act) passed the ACT Legislative Assembly on 27 August 2020.  The Act introduced reforms to occupancy law and to tenancy law around share housing. The changes in relation to share housing and most of the changes in relation to occupancy law commenced on 3 March 2021. The changes to education provider occupancy agreements (university student accommodation) will commence on 30 January 2022. Education provider occupancy agreements will be subject to transitional provisions until 30 January 2022).  This means that the law that was in force prior to the commencement of the Amendment Act will continue to apply to education provider occupancy agreements until 30 January 2022.

There are more detailed fact sheets on each of these separate topics available below:

Share housing 

Occupancies

Reforms that commenced in 2020

Changes introduced by the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2020 (No 1)

The reforms in the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2020 (No 1) came into effect in mid-2020. The reforms include measures to provide:

  • Lower upfront costs for tenants
    Tenants cannot be required to pay more than two weeks’ rent in advance.
  • Improved standards in rental homes
    Repairs to air conditioning are now classed as urgent.
    Minimum standards for rental properties can be set by the Government.
  • More rights for tenants when their rental home is being sold
    Rights of landlords to access the property for inspections are subject to stricter limits.
    Tenants have a new right to terminate their lease early in some circumstances where the sale process is too onerous.
  • Easier transitions to social housing or aged care
    Tenants can terminate their leases at short notice and without paying compensation if they have accepted a place in social housing or aged care.
  • New protections around evictions
    Tenants must be given at least 8 weeks’ notice before they can be required to move out because the landlord (or someone close to them) wants to move in.
  • Better protections for landlords against illegal use of rental properties
    Landlords will benefit from a more streamlined process to terminate a lease where a rental property has been used illegally. Protections for tenants will ensure that they are not unreasonably evicted on this ground.

A factsheet on the changes is available here (DOC) (PDF).

Properties affected by loose-fill asbestos

The law in the ACT aims to prevent tenants from renting properties that are known to contain loose-fill asbestos, because of the serious health and safety risks from these properties. The ACT Government operated a voluntary buyback scheme that ensured that most properties that were identified as being affected by loose-fill asbestos have been demolished and the land remediated. However, a very small number of affected properties remain. The ACT Government maintains an online Register that lists the remaining affected properties.

  • From 1 July 2020, any residential tenancy agreement entered into for an affected property that is listed on the Register is void (meaning it will be invalid).
  • The same applies for occupancy agreements, subletting and any other agreement to allow someone to live in an affected property.

The Government’s Register is available here so you can check whether the property you are considering renting is affected by loose-fill asbestos. Affected properties are also required to prominently display an asbestos management plan which would be visible during inspections.

Reforms that commenced in 2019

In November 2019, changes to the Residential Tenancy laws came into effect to:

  • better protect tenants from excessive rent increases
  • strengthen tenants’ right to have a pet
  • make it easier for tenants to make modifications to their home, and
  • provide a fairer method for calculating the cost to a tenant who uses a break lease clause.

There are more detailed fact sheets on each of these separate topics available below: