Page 2109 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 2 August 2022

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Housing—tenants wellbeing—petition 4-22

By Mr Rattenbury, Attorney-General, dated 23 June 2022, in response to a petition lodged by Mr Braddock on 5 April 2022, concerning a wellbeing clause in the Residential Tenancies Act.

The response read as follows:

Dear Mr Duncan

Thank you for your letter of 6 April 2022 regarding petition number 4-22, lodged by Mr Andrew Braddock MLA on behalf of the petitioners regarding a proposed amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (the Act) to include a ‘wellbeing clause’ for tenants. This letter is my response, pursuant to Standing Order 100.

The ACT Government notes the petitioners’ concerns that under the current legislative framework, landlords and agencies are not obliged to consider the well-being of their tenants when making decisions about the tenancy arrangement. It is noted that the clause proposed for insertion in the Act includes a requirement for the landlord to compensate the tenant in the event that their decision, made lawfully under provisions of the Act, impacts the tenant in certain ways.

The ACT Government is committed to ensuring the rights and interests of tenants are adequately protected and has in recent years made a range of amendments to reform and modernise the Act so that tenancy laws are clearer, fairer and deliver better outcomes. The Government also has an ambitious program of reform for the 10th Parliamentary Assembly, including a commitment to end no cause terminations in the Territory, which is discussed in more detail below.

In undertaking reform to residential tenancy laws, it is important that the legitimate rights and interests of landlords, as well as tenants, are recognised and protected. This is a delicate balancing act and is one that is the subject of regular review and refinement by the Government. For instance, the rights of tenants to feel safe and secure in their homes must be balanced with the legitimate interests of landlords in managing their property. In doing so, the Act contains safeguards to ensure a tenants’ right to quiet enjoyment is protected but also provides a framework for the landlord to have access to their property where required. In the event that these interests are not respected by one or both parties, the Act creates remedies for breach.

The suggested clause would constitute a significant burden on landlords as it requires them to compensate tenants in the event they wish to lawfully use or maintain their property in accordance with residential tenancy laws. Taking into consideration that the Act has been designed to manage the competing interests of both tenants and landlords as much as possible, the Government does not propose to include the suggested wellbeing clause in the Act.

While I do not recommend a clause of the kind proposed in the petition being included in the Act, the ACT Government is undertaking reforms to the Act this year which will strengthen the rights of tenants in other ways.

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