Canberra renters and landlords, some changes are coming your way.
Next month, amendments to the ACT’s Residential Tenancies Act will come into law.
These changes were introduced to the Legislative Assembly in October 2018 and were passed in February this year.
The laws were originally going to come into effect in March 2020 but earlier this month, the ACT government brought the amendments forward to November.
The reforms address four major areas:
- Pets in rental properties
- Making modifications to a property
- Excessive rent increases
- Break-lease fees
So if you’re a tenant or own an investment property in Canberra, here are some questions you might be asking:
I currently live in a rental property and my lease runs out mid-2020. I really want to get a cat, does that mean I can now?
No, existing rental agreements are not bound by the reforms. The changes to the ACT’s Residential Tenancies Act will only apply to leases signed on or after November 1, 2019. If you sign a new agreement you will be able to pursue getting a cat.
The new laws make it easier to have a pet – does that mean I can just move my dog into a rental without having to do anything?
That depends on the tenancy agreement. While the new rental reforms do favour tenants keeping a pet, landlords can put a provision in the tenancy agreement that a tenant must seek permission before moving in with a pet. If the agreement does not have this provision, a tenant can move a dog in without the landlord’s consent.
If a landlord wants to refuse consent to having a pet they must do so with the approval of the ACT Civil and Administrative Authority. Landlords are required to apply to ACAT within 14 days of the tenant’s request.
I’m a landlord of a small one-bedroom property, I don’t really want a large dog in my property – is ACAT likely to rule in my favour?
ACAT will approve your request if it satisfied the property is unsuitable to keep the animal, keeping the animal would result in unreasonable damage on the property, keeping an animal would be a risk to public health safety, the landlord would suffer significant hardship or keeping the animal would be contrary to the law. So, it’s unlikely a rottweiler will be allowed to move into your 50-square-metre apartment.
I applied to ACAT to refuse my tenant’s request for a cat, but they ruled against me. What if the cat damages my carpet? I don’t want to pay thousands of dollars to repair it!
You won’t have to. A tenant is responsible for repairing all damage an animal makes on the property. If the damage exceeds the bond they are also required to pay the excess.
I don’t like the colour of the walls in my rental, can I paint over it?
If your landlord says yes, but unless otherwise agreed it will be your responsibility to repaint the property in the original colour upon leaving.
Under the reforms, tenants are required to seek the permission of the landlord for any modifications on a property, however, a landlord is not able to refuse consent to minor modifications such as adding picture hooks.
Tenants are required to leave the property in the same condition as it was when it was rented unless they reach an agreement with their landlord.
It so cold in my rental in winter, there are air leaks coming through multiple ceiling fixtures – will I be able to replace these?
This is a case where a landlord cannot refuse consent as it’s an example where a modification will help improve the energy efficiency of a property (future proposed legislation will put the onus on a landlord to do this). Other cases include modifications relating to improving safety, to assist tenants with a disability, access to telecommunication services and for the security of a property.
My tenant’s 12-month lease is due for renewal in December, I want to increase their rent from $400 to $500 per week – can I do this?
No this is considered an excessive rent increase under the legislation. The reforms set out that a landlord cannot increase the rent on a property beyond a Consumer Price Index threshold – a landlord can only increase rent by 10 per cent more than the increase in the CPI.
In some cases, a landlord can increase the rent beyond the threshold if the tenancy agreement permits it, if the tenant agrees to the rise or if approval is given by ACAT.
I want to leave my rental property before the lease runs out, how much will I pay?
Essentially you will have to pay the costs incurred by the landlord, so the lost rent before a new tenant is found and the costs of re-advertising the property.