Residential Tenancy and Occupancy Reforms

On 8 June 2016, a report was tabled in the ACT Legislative Assembly containing 24 recommendations for improvements to the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (the RTA). Guided by that report, the ACT Government has developed a suite of reforms to tenancy and occupancy laws. These reforms have been developed in consultation with stakeholders ranging from tenancy advocates and landlords to businesses, real estate groups, crisis accommodation providers and universities. The overall intention of the reforms is to make our residential tenancy and occupancy laws fairer for tenants, occupants, grantors and landlords.      

What are the recent changes to the RTA?

In November 2019, the RTA was amended to:

  • protect renters from excessive rent increases;
  • strengthen renters’ right to have a pet;
  • enable renters to make minor 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:

  1. Overview of Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2019
  2. Keeping pets
  3. Making modification
  4. Break lease fees
  5. Excessive rent increases

Please note that the fact sheets above are designed to help you understand the changes. The information in these fact sheets does not constitute legal advice. You should seek legal advice if in doubt about your individual circumstances.

What is proposed for 2020?

Further reforms are planned for 2020, which will:

  • prevent a landlord from requiring more than two weeks rent in advance, allowing renters more flexibility by easing cost of living pressures when commencing a tenancy;
  • make it easier for tenants to terminate a fixed term lease if they were moving into aged care facilities or into social housing;
  • streamline the rules for a landlord to apply for a termination of a tenancy agreement if the property is used for an illegal activity; 
  • clarify the difference between an occupancy agreement (which is a form of agreement for accommodation which is more flexible than a residential tenancy agreement) and a residential tenancy agreement to give greater certainty about the rights and obligations of grantors and occupants;
  • introduce mandatory minimum protections for occupants, including protections against unreasonable evictions, protection for access to communal areas, notice periods for a grantor to enter the premises and limitations on penalties that may be charged;
  • require grantors to ensure that occupants have information about dispute resolution mechanisms;
  • introduce a new obligation for grantors who are not universities to lodge security deposits with the Office for Rental Bonds; and
  • reflect modern community behaviours and expectations as share housing becomes an increasingly common living arrangement for students and young professionals.

Please note that the effects of these changes will depend upon the circumstances of the individual residential tenancy agreement (including whether it is for a fixed term or periodic). You should seek legal advice about your individual circumstances.


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 at:, 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.


If you would like more information on residential tenancy agreements or occupancy agreements, contact the Tenancy Advice Service through Legal Aid ACT.