A review into the ACT Residential Tenancy Act has been welcomed by the ACT Tenants Union, which believes the process may address a number of rental horror stories experienced by many Canberra tenants.
Attorney-general Simon Corbell announced the review into the Residential Tenancy Act last Thursday and detailed an intention to review the rights of landlords to evict tenants, amid a sweeping review of rental contracts.
An ACT Tenants Union spokeswoman said the review was a welcome development, since housing was "a key human right, which has a fundamental impact on the lives of people in our community, including their health, education and employment outcomes", as reported in The Canberra Times.
The ACT Tenants Union has dealt with a number of nightmare cases this year, which they believe could be addressed by the review, including the lack of protection for those with intellectual disabilities or those who experienced domestic violence.
The spokesperson supplied The Canberra Times with a number of examples*:
Additional protection for disadvantaged renters:
Jerry, who has a mild intellectual disability and receives a Disability Support Pension, signed an agreement with his landlord that he didn't understand.
After asking for some simple repairs to the home, he was told he was causing trouble and given one week to leave the property.
Jerry is now facing homelessness.
Additional protection for those suffering domestic abuse:
Mary was living in a rental property on a 12-month contract with her husband Derek when he lost his job, started drinking and started physically abusing her.
Derek eventually left to visit family and while he was gone Mary decided to leave the property.
She asked her real estate agent to speak to Derek about having their co-tenancy terminated but Derek refused to agree and the real estate agent’s hands were tied.
Derek is now refusing to pay rent until Mary returns home.
She is living in her car as she cannot afford to find another place while still paying as much as she can for the property.
Improved standards of housing:
Tess inspected a property that didn’t have central heating but moved into the house because it was the only affordable property near her children's school.
She tried to heat the house with oil heaters in the living spaces.
The house wasn’t insulated and Tess' heating bills were huge. Tess’ four year-old child, Matthew, has been sick for two months with a lung infection due to the cold and damp in the house.
Revised legislation to reflect new technologies:
Amy moved into a brand new house in Casey and the landlord installed solar panels on the roof.
She put the electricity bill in her name, as she has always done, and paid her bills on time, happy the solar credits would make the home more affordable.
Six months later, the landlord told Amy she shouldn’t have put the bill in her name as he wanted the solar credits for himself.
He demanded Amy pay him back the solar credits from the last six months.
*Names have been changed to protect tenants' identities