: Review of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (ACT)

Review of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (ACT)

Deb Pippen

On 25 July 2014 the ACT government announced the review of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (ACT) (the ‘RTA’). This piece of legislation regulates the relationship between people renting their homes and those who own the properties. Unlike many jurisdictions, this coverage is much broader than just tenants and landlords. Since 2005, the RTA has covered ‘occupancy agreements’. This encompasses most other rental agreements including boarding, lodging, caravan parks and student accommodation.

nder the terms of reference (issued as far back as 2 December 2011) the review addresses issues under four very broad areas — fairness, sustainability, share house tenancies and improvement in rental stock. Significantly it will be undertaken within a human rights framework, giving consideration to the right of adequate housing as stated in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

As part of the review, the ACT government has produced two discussion papers. The general paper covers another ACT anomaly, the endorsement of terms inconsistent with the Standard Residential Tenancy Terms, as well as minimum housing standards, share housing and the effect of breakdowns in tenant relationships, end of tenancy issues, remedies for breaches of standard terms and regulation of occupancy agreements.

The second paper focus on the RTA and social housing, somewhat controversially considering tenancy management issues such as eligibility and ‘anti-social’ behaviour. In an attempt to elicit greater community input into the review, the ACT government has also produced a survey.

This review has been a long time coming, as the date of the Terms of Reference indicates. It provides an opportunity to consider tenancy issues in light of the current rental market being very different to that of the late 1990s. Significant differences include:

  • the current lack of affordable housing decreasing tenants’ ability to negotiate;
  • renting no longer being a short term choice, with people relying on this form of tenure for much longer as house purchase is unachievable;
  • the rapid growth of illegal boarding-style student housing; and
  • government now relying on the private rental market to provide for people unable to access severely inadequate social housing.

More details about the review can be found on the website: — http://www.justice.act.gov.au/review/view/30/title/review-of-the-residential-tenancies

DEB PIPPEN is the Executive Officer, Tenant’s Union (ACT).
(2014) 39(3) AltLJ 196
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