Tenants’ Rights and Responsibilities in the ACT
In the ACT, residential tenancies are governed by the Residential Tenancies Act 1997. Disputes about tenancies are heard by the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT), which can make orders to resolve disputes about residential tenancy agreements. This page deals with residential tenants’ rights and responsibilities in the ACT.
Leasing a property
When a tenant leases a residential property, they must provide their full name. The tenant must be provided with a copy of the residential tenancy agreement. They must also be provided with certain information, including:
- The lessor’s full name
- An address for service
- The energy efficiency rating for the premises
A tenant may be asked to pay a bond at the start of a residential lease. This is a form of security for the owner in case the tenant causes damage to the property of fails to pay their rent.
Under section 20 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, the bond must not be more than the first four weeks of rent on the property.
A bond is usually paid to the owner or real estate agent. It must then be paid to the Office of Rental Bonds.
When the tenancy agreement is terminated, the lessor may deduct money from the bond for unpaid rent, damage to property, for fuel that has not been replaced or for the cost of securing the property if the tenant fails to return the keys. If the lessor does not refund the bond in full, they must provide reasons for the deduction and an estimate of the costs of any repairs needed.
Maintenance of the property
A tenant must take reasonable care of the property and notify the owner or agent of any damage that occurs.
When repairs are needed, the owner must have them carried out as soon as necessary. Non-urgent repairs must be carried out within four weeks.
If a tenant wilfully damages a property, the owner is not obliged to repair it.
Termination of a tenancy by the tenant
A tenant can end a periodic tenancy by giving three weeks notice.
If a tenant terminates a fixed-term lease early, they will be required to pay a lease break fee. However, in some situations, a tenant can end a fixed-term tenancy without being liable to a lease break fee. This can occur when:
- The lessor has seriously breached the agreement;
- The property has become uninhabitable;
- The lessor puts the property up for sale within six months of the start of the tenancy and requires the tenant to allow access for inspections;
- The tenancy would suffer significant hardship if the tenancy were to continue;
- The agreement was entered into because of false or misleading statements by the lessor.
If a tenant has been a victim of domestic violent, they may be able to end their lease early without penalty by making an application to ACAT.
Renting with a pet
A tenancy agreement in the ACT cannot prohibit a tenant from having a pet at the property. However, a tenant can be required to seek permission before bringing a pet onto the property. An owner cannot refuse this request or impose a condition on the keeping of the animal without approval from ACAT, which must be sought within 14 days of receiving the request (section 71Ae of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997).
ACAT may approve a request to refuse a tenant to bring a pet onto a property because:
- The property is unsuitable for a pet
- The pet would be likely to cause unreasonable damage;
- Keeping the pet would cause the landlord significant hardship;
- The pet would be a risk to public health and safety; and
- Keeping the pet would be against the law.
A person’s information can be listed on a tenancy database if they have breached a lease and owe an amount that is more than the bond on the property. A lessor must not list a person’s information on a tenancy database without first providing the person with the information and giving them 14 days to respond to it or object to it being listed.
A person can apply to ACAT for an order prohibiting a rental provider from listing information about them on a tenancy database. This order may be made because:
- the information is inaccurate, incomplete, ambiguous or out of date;
- listing the information would be unjust, considering:
- the reason for the listing;
- the person’s involvement in the circumstances that led to the listing;
- adverse consequences from the listing;
- any other matter.
If you legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.