Page 3940 - Week 11 - Thursday, 26 September 2019

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Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill 2019

Mr Ramsay, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MR RAMSAY (Ginninderra—Attorney-General, Minister for the Arts and Cultural Events, Minister for Building Quality Improvement, Minister for Business and Regulatory Services and Minister for Seniors and Veterans) (10.43): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

On 8 June 2016 my predecessor, Mr Simon Corbell, tabled a report containing 24 recommendations for improvements to tenancy law. Guided by that report, the Assembly has passed four acts which improve the law for both tenants and landlords. Among those amendments, we have extended tenancy protections for people who had received a protection order as a result of domestic or family violence. We have made it easier for landlords to regain possession of a property that has been abandoned by a tenant. We have new end-of-tenancy provisions to reduce the scope for bond disputes. We have supported tenants to keep pets and make minor modifications.

By introducing the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill 2019, we have entered the final phase of this ambitious program of legislative reform. This bill covers the widest range of issues of any of the legislation produced as part of this program, finalising the outstanding policy issues raised by the 2016 report. It leaves only occupancies and share housing to a future bill, which I propose to introduce to the Assembly later this year.

This bill reflects the government’s commitment to empower tenants to make Canberra their home. It reflects community expectations, protects the legitimate interests of landlords in their investments, and modernises the Residential Tenancies Act so that both tenants and landlords achieve better and fairer outcomes.

Prescribed minimum standards are the hallmark of modern residential tenancy law. By not having minimum standards for rental properties, the ACT is becoming an outlier among Australian jurisdictions. This bill enables the prescription of minimum standards for rental properties, facilitating a community conversation about what those standards should be and how those standards can contribute to maintaining adequate housing in the ACT. Tenants in the ACT deserve housing that is safe, secure and fit for purpose.

Heating services are already listed as an urgent repair in the act, and this bill will add “cooling” to that list. Just as the current urgent repairs list does not require landlords to install heaters, the amendment does not require landlords to install air conditioning. This is a minor change—matching the standard set by New South Wales—and reflects our recognition of the threat that extreme heat can pose to vulnerable tenants.

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