Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 6 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 2743..
operation of the Act. The review process identified widespread satisfaction with the existing legislation. For example, the Real Estate Institute of the ACT summed up the general satisfaction with the law stating that:
"The new Act is a vast improvement over the former out-of-date 1949 Act. While there are some issues that need to be reviewed in the four years operation of the Act, there are many features that have benefited lessor/owners and tenants that do not need to be changed. These include the operation of the breach of non-payment of rent/other breaches and the risk of termination of the lease, the different lease definitions of fixed and periodic tenancies, the operation of urgent repairs, the responsibility that the tenant takes for reasonable care, the property and its contents, the establishment of the Tribunal, and the integration of ACT Housing so that the same laws apply equally to public housing tenants and private housing tenants."
Similar sentiments have been expressed by both tenant and owner representatives. However, a number of areas were identified where changes are desirable. This bill contains amendments that deal with a number of these areas - where there appears to be general support for change. A future bill will deal with issues of greater complexity and contention.
Our existing residential tenancies law provides a balance between the interests of tenants and lessors in relation to residential tenancies. It is based on the 182 recommendations of the 1994 report on private residential tenancies by the ACT Community Law Reform Committee. However, our present law does not deal with a number of occupancy arrangements that fall short of being residential tenancies.
In making its 1994 report, the ACT Community Law Reform Committee observed that a common set of principles should apply equally regardless of the classification of the legal arrangements underlying any particular tenancy or occupation. For example, as a basic principle, the need to have and use accommodation without arbitrary interference is common to all residents, whether the resident is a tenant in a house or an occupant of a boarding house or a lodger in a private residence.
The bill addresses this issue by extending the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 to apply to a number of short-term occupancies which are presently excluded from the Act. The occupancies include a number of legal arrangements including licences and boarder and lodger contracts, which may include certain types of shorter term caravan park or student accommodation agreements. In addition, the amendments allow parties, for example a long term caravan park tenant, who previously could not hold a residential tenancy agreement to now enter into residential tenancy agreements.
The bill provides that the Act be amended to include a new part which deals specifically with "occupancy agreements". This part will define and govern occupancy agreements and disputes. These agreements may arise for a number of different premises not presently covered by the Act, including caravan parks, hotels or motels, or on the campus of an educational institution. They do not include an agreement that is a residential tenancy agreement.
In this context, the bill also establishes the concept of "occupancy principles". The occupancy principles provide that an occupant is entitled to a minimum standard of repair and cleanliness of the premises; a measure of security of tenure, such that termination and eviction by the owner may only take place in accordance with agreed periods of notice and procedures so that arbitrary eviction is not possible;