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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 05 Hansard (Thursday, 10 May 2018) . . Page.. 1761 ..

Today’s bill demonstrates the government’s continuing focus on vulnerable people. It will amend the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 to provide fairer outcomes for vulnerable tenants. These amendments respond to a key recommendation from the 2016 report on the review of the Residential Tenancies Act that consideration be given to amending the conditional termination and possession order, or CTPO, provisions in the act. The bill also makes changes to the act to ensure that new products offered to renters are carefully considered and regulated. This government is open to innovations in our rental marketplace, but those innovations must not come at the expense of vulnerable people.

I turn to the amendments to address new products in the rental market first. There has been recent community discussion about a new product in the rental market called a commercial guarantee. A commercial guarantee serves as an alternative to a rental bond. In exchange for a monthly fee, rather than a deposited bond, a service provider would guarantee the landlord for the amount of a bond. Prior to September last year ACT legislation allowed for these products to enter the market. Last year the ACT government amended the Residential Tenancies Act to limit the entry of these products into the market. The intention was to give time to develop an appropriate regulatory framework.

Passed in September, the legislation set a default date of 7 May for people who wanted to offer this product to be able to apply for an approval to the Commissioner for Fair Trading. Our consultation, particularly with groups who represent renters and people who face financial disadvantage, has shown that there is more work to do. Serious concerns remain about these products. Those concerns must be addressed before we can consider allowing them into the territory.

This bill contains an amendment to reintroduce the legislative stay on offering alternatives to a bond in the ACT. The stay will operate until a written declaration by the minister provides for the commencement of legislation to regulate bond alternatives. The government will keep working in this area to ensure that any future rental bond alternatives are consistent with our consumer protection and residential tenancies frameworks. I thank in particular the Tenants Union, Care Financial Counselling Service and Better Renting for representing renters and, in particular, vulnerable renters in this process.

I now turn to the provisions in the bill about conditional termination and possession orders, or CTPOs. These amendments respond to concerns expressed by parts of the community, notably Canberra Community Law. There are particular concerns about the impact of those provisions on social housing tenants. A CTPO is essentially a payment plan ordered by the tribunal. Under the existing legislation, a person’s tenancy automatically terminates if the rent is not paid in accordance with the CTPO regardless of the reason. This occurs even if rent is paid a single day late due to issues beyond the control of the tenant, such as Centrelink processing delays.

The CTPO amendments also respond to the concerns expressed by the ACT Supreme Court in the 2015 case of the Commissioner for Social Housing v Moffatt. In this case then Master Mossop highlighted the issue of what happens when the tenancy

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