Australia has one of the most out-of-control rental markets in the world. Canberra is no exception.
People looking to rent a home often find themselves competing against dozens of other applicants, facing application discrimination and unable to secure a fixed-term lease. As Canberra grows, we need to ensure now more than ever that renters rights are secured.
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The Greens think renters deserve a better deal.
In February the ACT Assembly debated a raft of renters’ rights reforms. While the reforms that were passed mean that life will get easier for renters in some ways, there’s still a way to go before renters get the deal they deserve.
Let’s start with the good news.
Pets in rental properties
From 1 November 2019, the presumption in the Residential Tenancies Act will be that renters will be allowed to have pets in their homes—with the onus shifted from renters having to ask permission to owners having to apply to refuse a pet.
We’re pleased that the ALP got on board with the Greens to realise this important change.
The Greens know how important it is to make a house a home. It’s the little personal touches that are all the difference—hanging your favourite artworks and family photos or putting up a shelf for mementos and books.
In February 2019, the major parties voted against a Greens amendment that would have Canberra renters the right to make minor and reversible modifications without having seek their landlord’s permission. Nonetheless, the changes that were agreed to by the Assembly mean that landlords need approval from ACAT to refuse consent for such minor modifications.
Informing renters of non-standard lease terms
It’s usually only when a renter has been offered a property and is sitting down to sign a lease that they find out if there are any non-standard terms, or special conditions, attached to the lease agreement.
That’s why the Greens introduced an amendment requiring landlords to provide this information to prospective tenants up front. This will avoid tenants applying for a property where there may be special conditions that will not meet their requirements. We are pleased that the major parties have backed this amendment.
When your landlord, or their relative, wants to move in
Some Canberra renters had told us of cases where their landlord had ended their tenancy, stating that they wanted to move back in—only for this not to eventuate. Instead, their landlord had used this loophole to end a tenancy quickly.
From 2019, landlords will need to provide a statutory declaration stating the reason why they are ending a when ending a tenancy if the reason given is that they or a relative, want to move in.
But there's still more to do.
That's why the Greens are fighting for:
Pay Your Rent Your Way
Renters should have more choice and control over how they pay their rent.
Currently, some real estate agents in Canberra are requiring tenants through non-standard terms in rental agreements to use a third-party app such as Sorted to pay their rent. We think renters should have the option to pay their rent via direct bank transfer, rather than through data harvesting third-party rental apps.
The major parties have so far refused to back some reforms that would have also helped to make life easier for renters such as ending unfair evictions.
No one deserves to live in a mouldy house where the dishwasher floods the kitchen and the front door won’t lock.
Greens’ MLA Shane Rattenbury started this work back in 2011. Caroline Le Couteur tried again in 2019. Again the ALP and Liberals voted against these amendments. It is pleasing to see that the ALP have jumped on board and are now proposing a mechanism to regulate for minimum standards in rental properties.
The ACT Climate Change Strategy 2019-2025 and Living Infrastructure Plan
Getting a better deal for renters
No-one should have to live in a rental property that’s freezing in winter and boiling in summer. Yet for many Canberra renters, dealing with an energy inefficient rental is practically the norm.
This has to change. The Greens think renters deserve a better deal.
We think having minimum standards in place for rental properties – including around energy efficiency – can help turn a house into a home.
For almost a decade, we’ve pushed for minimum rental standards for Canberra without the support of either of the major parties. For almost a decade, these efforts have stalled.
That’s why, from 2021, legislation will be in place to deliver staged minimum energy performance requirements for Canberra rentals.
Landlords and real estate agents will also have to disclose the energy performance of an advertised rental as it goes to market – so that Canberra renters can find out how energy (in)efficient a potential home is, long before you sign the lease.
We’ll also be expanding the Actsmart Home Energy Program to provide free, tailored in-home energy assessments for Canberra renters – delivering more practical advice for renters to save on your energy bills and make your home more energy efficient.
We will keep advocating for the major parties to back us in widening these reforms to include other minimum standards for rental properties (basic things, like doors that lock).