ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Media release: Extension of protections for renters welcomed, but more action is needed

23 July 2020

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has welcomed yesterday’s announcement by the ACT Attorney General, Gordon Ramsay MLA, that the eviction moratorium for COVID-19 impacted residential tenants has been extended for three months to 22 October 2020.

The Attorney General also responded to calls from ACTCOSS and other advocates to allow COVID-19 impacted households to terminate fixed-term tenancy agreements early without penalty.

ACTCOSS CEO, Dr Emma Campbell, said: "We welcome confirmation of the ACT Government’s commitment to a 6-month moratorium on evictions for rental arrears. This provides some certainty for tenants.

"Further, and in line with advocacy by ACTCOSS, ACT Shelter, Better Renting, Canberra Community Law, and Tenants' Union ACT, the Residential Tenancies (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Declaration 2020 (No 2) means a COVID-19 impacted household can now terminate their agreement by providing their landlord with three weeks of notice without being charged a ‘break-lease’ fee or be required to pay additional compensation.

"Tenants now have the option to find alternative accommodation in situations where their income has been reduced."

However, renters of privately-owned properties in Canberra remain at greater risk than renters in other jurisdictions.

Dr Campbell said: "We remain concerned that once the moratorium ends, tenants who are in rental arrears will face eviction and homelessness.

"As recommended in the first Interim Report of the Select Committee on COVID-19 Pandemic Response, we must develop a framework to deal with rental arrears incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic so that people are not placed at risk of being evicted once the moratorium is lifted.

"Unlike Queensland and Victoria, the ACT Government has not included the option of binding rental decreases as part of arbitration. Unlike Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, and Western Australia, the ACT has not introduced a blanket freeze on rent increases.

"Last month, ACTCOSS joined a national call to introduce these measures to address the crisis facing residential tenants in private, community and public housing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"ACTCOSS calls on the ACT Government to work with residential tenancy services and advocates to develop further measures to support and protect residential tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic. We support the Select Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic Response’s recommendation in its third Interim Report that the ACT Government consider and act on a range of tenancy policy reforms that have been proposed by Legal Aid ACT."

Dr Campbell concluded that: "In just over two months, a large number of renters in the ACT will be faced with a significant reduction in their incomes as a result of Federal Government cuts to JobSeeker and JobKeeper announced by the Prime Minister earlier this week. One month later, many will be faced with the prospect of eviction due to rental arrears. The ACT Government must act urgently to ensure that Canberra renters will be further supported and protected against eviction and homelessness both now and when the moratorium ends." 

ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations.

For more information or comment, please contact
Dr Emma Campbell, CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0424 910 617 or 02 6202 7200.