Reforms to tenancy and occupancy laws

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) (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 Standard Residential Tenancy Terms that come into effect on 3 March 2021 are available here. Please note that these advanced Standard Terms are provided for implementation purposes and that they do not apply before 3 March 2021.

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

Share housing 

Occupancies

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 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 enforce prior to the commencement of the Amendment Act will continue to apply to education provider occupancy agreements until 30 January 2022.

Reforms that commenced in 2020

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

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 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: