Rental laws in the ACT were reviewed in 2016 in consultation with the community.  On 8 June 2016, a report was tabled in the ACT Legislative Assembly containing 24 recommendations for improvements to the RTA. Since then, guided by that report and by developments in rental laws around Australia, the ACT Government has undertaken an ambitious program of reforms to the RTA.

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

The reforms have modernised and improved our residential tenancy and occupancy laws, so they are clearer, fairer and deliver better outcomes for all parties involved.

What are the upcoming changes to the RTA?

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

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2020 (No 2) recently passed the ACT Legislative Assembly. However, this Act is subject to delayed commencement and so the measures it contains have not yet come into force (see below for further details on commencement).  The Act introduced reforms to occupancy law and to tenancy law around share housing.

The Act significantly increases protections for occupants, including by:

  • clarifying the difference between an occupancy agreement and a residential tenancy agreement, so that occupants and grantors have greater certainty about their rights and obligations
  • introducing mandatory minimum principles for occupancy agreements, including:
    • protections against unreasonable evictions
    • entitlements for access to communal areas
    • tighter rules around when a grantor can enter the premises
    • requirements for grantors to provide occupants with information, and
    • limitations on penalties that may be charged
  • creating a new obligation for grantors to lodge security deposits with the ACT Revenue Office (an exception applies for universities), and
  • providing more dispute resolution options for occupants and grantors, by giving them access to free, informal and enforceable conciliation through the ACT Human Rights Commission.

The Act also substantially reforms the law on share housing to better reflect modern community behaviours and expectations. People living in share houses deserve clear laws that are adapted to their circumstances. The reforms:

  • introduce a legal framework into the RTA for co-tenancies, which is a common way to set up a share house, where all tenants have equal rights and responsibilities
  • provide clear processes for co-tenants to move in and out of share houses, including managing transfers of interest in the bond, and
  • ensure that the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal can be used to resolve disputes between co-tenants as well as between co-tenants and landlords.

The Act, along with explanatory materials, is available on the ACT Legislation Register here.

Commencement of the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2020 (No 2)

The changes in relation to share housing and most of the changes in relation to occupancy law will come into effect in March 2021 unless the Minister decides to commence them on an earlier date. The changes to education provider occupancy agreements (university accommodation) will commence on 30 January 2022.

What are the recent changes to the RTA already in effect?

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

As of 25 August 2020, all of the reforms in the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2020 (No 1) are in effect. 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.

Properties affected by loose-fill asbestos – new laws from 1 July 2020

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 will be void (meaning it will be invalid).
  • The same will apply 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 introduced in 2019

In November 2019, changes to the RTA came into effect that:

  • 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: