The Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (the RTA) is the law that governs renting in the ACT. It provides a balanced framework that gives tenants strong protections, so they feel secure in their homes, while respecting the legitimate rights and interests of landlords in their property. The law also provides for fast, independent and informal resolution of disputes through the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
The RTA also sets out the law on occupancies. Occupancies are an alternative form of legal agreement for housing to tenancies. People who live in student accommodation, crisis accommodation, a mobile home park, or a room in a club or boarding house, will usually be occupants. Occupants are also protected under the RTA with minimum guaranteed rights and access to dispute resolution options to enforce them.
Access to secure and stable housing is fundamental to well-being. The information on this page is intended to help landlords, tenants, occupants and grantors to know their rights and obligations. This allows the parties to tenancy and occupancy agreements to make informed choices, manage their relationship with confidence, minimise and constructively resolve disputes, and as necessary enforce their rights.
The information on this page is to help you understand the law in general terms. It is not a substitute for legal advice on your individual circumstances.
COVID-19: changes to tenancy laws
The Government has put in place a range of measures to help tenants and landlords who are affected by the COVID-19 public health emergency. See the dedicated COVID-19 pages below for more information.
Reforms to tenancy and occupancy laws
Since 2016, the ACT Government has worked to reform the RTA to make our tenancy and occupancy laws clearer and fairer to produce better outcomes for all parties involved. For more information on the changes, including those planned for the future, click here.
Renting Book: Information for Tenants and Landlords
What is the renting book?
The Renting Book is a guide to rental laws in the ACT. It is primarily written for tenants, to explain their legal rights and responsibilities. It may also help landlords and real estate agents to make sure that properties are managed in accordance with the law.
Rental laws in the ACT are set out in the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (the Act). The Act applies to properties rented from private landlords (whether or not through a real estate agent) as well as to public housing rented from the Government and other forms of social housing. The Act aims to ensure that (among other things) people renting in the ACT have stable and secure housing and are protected from unfair practices.
The Act requires landlords to provide a copy of this Renting Book to the tenant (or tell the tenant where it can be obtained) before the tenancy starts.
The Renting Book covers the main issues that may arise before, during and after a tenancy. It is a guide only. It does not cover every aspect of the Act or every situation. The Act is also amended from time to time. You should always read your tenancy agreement closely, check the Act and seek legal advice if you are unsure about your rights or obligations. The Standard Residential Tenancy Terms, which form the basis for all tenancy agreements in the ACT are contained in Schedule 1 of the Act. You can find the Act at the ACT Legislation Register at www.legislation.act.gov.au.
Need more information or advice?
The RTA is available on the ACT Legislation Register at www.legislation.act.gov.au.
ACT Revenue Office (Rental Bonds)
The Rental Bonds Portal where residential tenancy rental bonds or occupancy security deposits can be lodged is available at https://www.revenue.act.gov.au/rental-bonds
ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT)
More information about the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal is available at www.acat.act.gov.au. The Tribunal does not give legal advice but can provide information about its processes. The Tribunal can be contacted on (02) 6207 1740 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Housing ACT Tenants
Housing ACT operates this helpline for public housing tenants only. You can contact the helpline on 133 427 email@example.com.
ACT Human Rights Commission
From 3 March 2021 occupants will be able to make a complaint about an occupancy dispute to the ACT Human Rights Commission. For more information see: https://hrc.act.gov.au/ or contact the ACT Human Rights Commission on (02) 6205 2222 or HRCIntake@act.gov.au
Tenants Advice Service (A division of Legal Aid ACT)
The Tenancy Advice Service ACT (operated by Legal Aid ACT) is funded by the ACT Government to provide free and confidential legal advice to tenants. For more information, and a range of online resources for tenants, see: https://www.legalaidact.org.au/tasact or contact 1300 402 512 or TAS@legalaidact.org.au.
Canberra Community Law
If you are a tenant in public housing (from Housing ACT), crisis accommodation or social housing (provided by a community housing provider), or if you want to find out if you are eligible for these services, the Housing Law service at Canberra Community Law can provide you with free and confidential legal advice. For more information, and a range of online resources for public housing tenants, see: https://www.canberracommunitylaw.org.au/
You can contact them on (02) 6218 7900 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Law Society of the ACT
Connects individuals and organisations with the legal profession and provides information fact sheets to assist understanding of the law.
There are services available in the ACT for tenants who may be facing difficulties in paying their rent or bills or are otherwise at risk of losing their tenancy or facing homelessness. These include:
- Onelink assists people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness (1800 176 468, email@example.com, www.onelink.org.au/)
- The Supportive Tenancy Service helps tenants who are worried about losing their tenancy as well as people who face barriers to securing a tenancy in the first place. Referrals to the Supportive Tenancy Service are made by contacting Onelink.
- The Care Financial Counselling Service assists people who may want help managing their expenses to make ends meet (02 6257 1788, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.carefcs.org/financial-counselling)
Rental Bond Help Program
If you want to start a tenancy but your income is low to moderate and you cannot afford to pay the bond upfront, you may be eligible for the ACT Government’s Rental Bond Help Program. The Program offers to pay up to 100% of the rental bond for approved applicants, as a loan that is interest free and can be repaid over 24 months.
For more information, see the Housing ACT website at: https://www.myaccount.act.gov.au/rentalbondhelp/s/
Conflict Resolution Service (CRS) is a nationally accredited mediation service that resolves conflict professionally, competently and compassionately. CRS have experience working with neighbours, landlords and residential tenants to provide a safe, structured, and confidential environment for discussion between parties. For more information contact CRS on (02) 6189 0590 or visit www.crs.org.au.