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Tuesday, May 11, 2021
BAL Lawyers
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Calls for better rental standards

The ACT Greens are calling on the ACT Government to consider implementing minimum standards for rental properties in Canberra.

ACT Greens housing spokesperson Caroline Le Couteur said it is “unacceptable that renters should live in fear, lest they be evicted of making basic maintenance requests”.

“Poor quality construction, poor insulation and a housing market that strongly favours landlords means that, too often, renters are deterred from speaking up for what should be a bare minimum standard.

“Ensuring that landlords must guarantee that a rental property meets minimum standards would go some way to ensuring that renters can live feeling secure in their homes.”

The ACT Greens will put forward amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act to ensure “basic minimum standards are met in all rental properties”. These minimum standards would include ensuring properties are watertight, free of mould and have functional plumbing.

“Ensuring basic minimum standards is absolutely necessary to make a house a home,” Ms Le Couteur said.

Director of renting advocacy group Better Renting, Joel Dignam said “if you’re paying money to rent a home, you deserve to be confident that it’s not going to make you sick and that it’s decent to live in”.

Mr Dignam said current standards are vague with respect to what a tenant can expect from a rental property, and minimum standards should be developed through consultation to reflect “reasonable community expectations”.

“The standards could cover things like building condition, lighting, ventilation, security and plumbing. While rental properties will always range in quality, minimum standards can help ensure that nobody is forced to live in squalor just to have a roof over their head.

“Minimum standards are useful, but enforcement is the most important thing. It’s not good enough to rely on people who rent – who are in a vulnerable position – to police the system. The ACT Government should play a pro-active role in enforcing rental laws and issuing fines to make sure that everyone is playing by the rules and the honest landlords are not worse off,” he said.

Mr Dignam also said it is critical for the ACT Government to protect renters by ending unfair evictions.

“If the ACT Government is serious about enabling renters to make a house a home, they need to provide people who rent with the stability they deserve,” he said, citing Disrupted, a recent survey of renters which found 44% of Australian renters worry they could be evicted if they make a repair request.

The survey, published by Choice Magazine also found 51% of people who rent are living in a home that is currently in need of repairs, and 68% are concerned that a request for repairs could mean a rent rise; 8% of renters responded saying they think they are likely to be forced to move in the next 12 months.

The ACT Greens have previously been vocal about strengthening regulations around retaliatory evictions, calling for landlords to be required to provide a reason for eviction. The minimum standards bill is expected to be debated in the Legislative Assembly next year.

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