Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 12 Hansard (Thursday, 1 November 2018) . . Page.. 4618 ..
This bill will provide that the standard residential tenancy terms include by default a clause giving tenants the right to keep a pet. Pets can make us physically and mentally healthier, and they are family to their owners. The ACT has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in Australia, and this reform will create a default situation where tenants are allowed to own pets and only if there is a sound justification on the part of a landlord can that be changed.
If a landlord wants to exclude pets and cannot come to an agreement with the tenant, the landlord can seek orders from the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal. The tribunal will consider the matter according to some straightforward criteria, for example, whether the house is not suitable for the animal or whether keeping the animal would cause unreasonable damage. The full set of criteria in the bill provide a foundation for fair decisions that respect the importance of pets and the legitimate interests of property owners.
There is an important provision about liability in this bill which provides that landlords cannot be taken to have assumed any duty of care they otherwise would not have had simply because of their engagement in consenting to pet ownership. This bill is not intended to force landlords to incur additional liability because a tenant keeps a pet.
The bill will also improve livability by setting out where tenants can make modifications to a property. Again, minor modifications can make a substantial positive impact on the livability of a residence. They, like having pets, can shift a building into a place that is home for tenants. Minor modifications can be prescribed by regulation, and tenants can make them after seeking written consent from a landlord.
The same is true of special modifications, which include disability and safety changes. For example, a special modification for safety could be a furniture anchor or a child safety gate. The bill places the onus on landlords to seek ACAT approval to refuse any minor or special modifications.
Tenants will be responsible for restoring the premises to substantially the same condition as they were in at the start of the tenancy, barring fair wear and tear. The parties can also agree to leave the modifications in the property and, unless otherwise agreed, the tenant pays the cost of any addition or alteration to the premises.
For other types of modification the bill places the onus on the tenant to apply to ACAT for review if the lessor does not give permission. These changes include giving tenants a firm and fair basis for making changes to their homes while the protections ensure that landlords have a right to keep their properties in the condition they expect.
In addition to making a tenancy more livable, this bill recognises the importance of fair negotiating positions for both tenants and landlords in terms of decisions about moving, and about rent. Currently, the Residential Tenancies Act requires the tenant to apply to ACAT for review of excessive rental increases. The bill reverses the onus. If a landlord and tenant cannot agree on a rent increase that is greater than 10 per cent