LANDLORDS would be unable to evict tenants without reason under a new draft Bill that proposes sweeping changes to tenancy laws in the ACT.
Released today (July 27), the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill 2022 calls to ban “no-cause evictions”, a move Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury says would create a “fairer rental system for all Canberrans.”
Under the current laws, landlords are able to terminate a tenancy without reason as long as they provide the tenant with 26 weeks’ notice.
“The bottom line is people deserve a home to live in and shouldn’t be evicted without a legitimate reason,” said Rattenbury.
“The ACT government has committed to end no-cause evictions to help address the power imbalance that currently exists between landlords and a tenant.”
Under the new laws, a landlord could still terminate a tenancy agreement for “legitimate reasons”, including a failure to pay rent or damage to the property.
A proposed new termination clause would also allow tenants or landlords to terminate the agreement where one party threatens, harasses, intimidates, or abuses the other party.
The Bill would also make it an offence for landlords or agents to solicit rental bids in order to attain the highest rental price possible.
“People shouldn’t be encouraged into a price war when they’re searching for a place to rent; this proposal ensures that agents and landlords can’t solicit bids to pit renters against each other and raise the rental price. That’s not a fair system,” said Rattenbury.
The Bill further proposes the introduction of minimum standards for rental properties.
Under the new laws, landlords would need to disclose if the property meets minimum standards in force, when advertising the property. Tenants would have the right to terminate their tenancy, seek a rent reduction, or seek compensation where minimum standards were not met.
“The first standards will be energy efficiency standards for rental properties, which will require a minimum standard for ceiling insulation. This won’t commence until late 2022 and landlords will be allowed an extensive phase in period to understand the changes and make arrangements,” said Rattenbury.
Joel Dignam, Executive Director of tenant advocay group Better Renting, said the changes will make it easier for people who rent to have secure, stable homes.
“We’ve heard from so many people who talk about the cost of forced moves: not just in moving vans and lost income, but in the mental burden of never feeling like you can put down roots,” said Dignam.
“Ending unfair evictions and requiring a good cause to end a tenancy is an essential step to ensure people can feel secure in their home.
“In addition, these changes will make it possible for people to exercise other rights without fear of retaliation. For example, we know of a pensioner who opposed a rent increase because it was excessive. That person later got a no grounds notice to vacate. This was retaliation, pure and simple. It should not be allowed, and, with these changes, it will not be allowed. Landlords should follow the law.”
Mr Dignam did however say he was concerned about the abuse of “with cause” termination notices.
“Compensation should be payable when a lessor terminates a tenancy and the tenant isn’t at fault. This would discourage frivolous terminations, and help to address the significant cost burden that a landlord imposes when they end a tenancy,” he said.
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