The ACT is the only jurisdiction in Australia that allows landlords to contract out of their legal obligations, according to a new report out today from tenant advocacy group Better Renting.
The report, The Path of Lease Resistance, highlights that ACT law allows landlords to add terms to a lease even if the terms are inconsistent with the standard terms of a tenancy. It finds that this mechanism is poorly understood and often abused, which means that some renters miss out on legal protections. In one example in the report, an additional term might specify that a tenant is responsible for replacing broken glass, even where this would otherwise be the lessor’s responsibility.
Executive Director of Better Renting, Joel Dignam, argues that the misuses found in the report show it’s time for the ACT to abandon its peculiar approach.
“When signing a lease, the relationship between landlord and tenant is fundamentally unbalanced: the tenant needs somewhere to live and isn’t in a position to negotiate. Allowing the landlord to use this power to reduce their own obligations is contrary to the spirit of the law and it means weaker protections for people who rent.
“The ACT Government should introduce a prescribed tenancy agreement and establish penalties for agents or landlords who use inconsistent terms or mislead renters about their rights.”