Page 536 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 23 March 2022

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Human Rights and Minister for Multicultural Affairs) (3.49): I thank Mr Pettersson for bringing this motion to the Assembly and for his interest in the rights of tenants. The Attorney-General, Minister Rattenbury, cannot be here today. I will be speaking in his place, on behalf of the government, regarding policy relating to tenancies. We do support this motion today.

The rights of renters, as has been reflected in all speeches today, are more important than ever before, particularly when many people are more likely to rent for longer periods of time or indeed for their entire lives. Additionally, the COVID-19 public health emergency has only made life tougher for renters who were already struggling to make ends meet. Everyone deserves a safe and secure place to live, and to choose and live in rental properties based on the principles of dignity and fairness. Currently, there is an unfair power imbalance between landlords and tenants whereby the rights of landlords are placed well ahead of the rights and needs of renters.

The ACT government is committed to addressing this power imbalance. We have already made significant reforms in recent years to improve the rights of tenants, and these are reflected in the motion. They include capping rent increases; strengthening tenants’ rights to have a pet; allowing tenants the freedom to make minor modifications to their home; providing a fairer method for calculating break lease fees; lowering upfront costs by limiting the amount of advance rent a landlord can request; and raising minimum standards for rental homes.

But there is more work to be done, and the ACT government remains committed to continuing to progress its reform agenda, including a significant reform that tenant advocates have long called for: amending the Residential Tenancies Act to end no cause evictions, which is outlined in the parliamentary agreement for this Assembly. Removing no cause terminations from the Residential Tenancies Act will mean that landlords will only be able to terminate tenancies when there is a justified ground for termination under the Residential Tenancies Act. Tenants will no longer have to fear that they may be evicted for no reason and may consequently feel more confident in asserting their rights under their tenancy agreement.

We also remain committed to considering a range of other tenancy reforms, such as regulating rent bidding; strengthening the right to grow food and to compost at a rental property; and introducing minimum standards for residential tenancies. We are considering these issues in consultation with the Canberra community. Members in this place might recall that between August and October last year we asked the Canberra community for their views on these key areas of reform. Community views were sought through the ACT government’s YourSay website via an online survey and through written submissions in response to the consultation paper released for community feedback at the beginning of August.

The listening report outlining community and stakeholder views as part of the consultation process will be released shortly. The community’s feedback as part of this process will inform the ACT government’s approach to the reform of rental laws. There will be additional opportunity for tenants, landlords, real estate agents and other interested members of the community to have their say, and to share views of the potential impacts of the proposed reforms and how they should be implemented, once

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