Cooling now an urgent repair
Repairs to air-conditioning or other cooling appliances must now be treated as urgent. Previously, the law covered heating, cooking, laundry and hot water, but not cooling appliances. Landlords are required to complete urgent repairs as soon as necessary after being notified of their need by the tenant.
This change does not impose an obligation on landlords to install air conditioning in rental properties where there is not currently air conditioning.
Ability to create minimum standards for residential tenancies
The new laws also empower the ACT Government to create minimum standards for existing and new rental properties in relation to:
Minimum standards are common across Australia. However, the ACT Government has not yet set any minimum standards as further discussion with the ACT Community is required about what these standards should be. Stakeholders will be made aware when discussions regarding minimum standards progress.
More rights for tenants when a rental property is being sold
Further changes have been made to protect tenants’ rights when their rental property is being sold. Landlords retain the right to sell their rental property at any time, however, the law now contains greater protections for the tenant’s rights to privacy and ‘quiet enjoyment’ of their home when the property is being sold.
There are two changes to the law that are intended to reduce the burden of the sale of a rental property on its tenants.
Firstly, limits on the landlord’s right of access to the property for inspections have been tightened.
Previously, landlords were permitted to schedule inspections at 24 hours’ notice, at a time determined by them, and with no limit on the number of inspections per week.
Secondly, tenants in a fixed term lease will now have a right to terminate the lease early if the sale process takes too long or if they were not told about the sale before they signed the lease. This right will arise if the landlord wishes to sell the property:
If a tenant wants to exercise this right, they must give the landlord 14 days’ notice, but there is no requirement to pay any compensation for ending the lease. Any rent arrears or property damage debt that arose during the course of the tenancy will still be a debt payable by the tenant at the end of the tenancy.
In this way, the landlord’s right to sell the property remains protected, but the tenant now has the freedom to move on and find a new home in circumstances where the sale may be considered unduly disruptive.
Protections for landlords if rental properties are used illegally
The law in the ACT is clear that tenants cannot use (or allow others to use) their rental home for any illegal purpose. Previously, in order to terminate a tenancy on the basis of illegal use the law required landlords to prove that their interest in the property was detrimentally impacted. This requirement was unnecessarily onerous, especially as the negative impact of illegal use on a property may be subtle or intangible.
The law now permits the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the Tribunal) to terminate a lease without the landlord being required to show detriment to their interest in the property. Tenants are still protected from being unreasonably evicted, as the Tribunal must be satisfied that the illegal use of the property justifies the termination of the lease, having regard to matters such as the seriousness of the illegality and the tenant’s history in that property.
Stronger dispute resolution processes
The Tribunal helps tenants and landlords to resolve disputes about rental laws in a quick, informal and inexpensive way. A range of minor changes to the law have been made to support the Tribunal’s operations.