News from the Tenants' Union ACT
Welcome to the 3rd edition of our e-newsletter. In this edition you will find:
- What's on @ TUACT
- International Tenants Day Art Competition
- Housing and Tenancy in the News
- News from the housing community
- Renting in summer
- What's new on the web
- Tenants Advice Service
What's on @ TUACT
In late September we made a submission to the ACT Government's review of the Residential Tenancies Act. This is the legislation that regulates many aspects of renting in the ACT. The Government provided 2 consultation papers which raised a range of issues including energy efficiency in rental properties, the status of occupants (boarders/lodgers, on campus accommodation). We responded to the key issues raised in the consultation papers but also took the opportunity to raise a number of other key issues:
Submission to review of the Residential Tenancies Act
In developing our submission we consulted with the following organisations:
- Security of tenure. Security in a rental property is not just about protection from eviction but also adequate protections to ensure that the property is liveable and safe, for example adequate provisions for repairs and maintenance.
- Occupancy agreements: the research shows that renters with Occupancy Agreements are more likely to be vulnerable and marginalised. The current legislation does not provide adequate protection to these groups
- Domestic violence: at present the Act does not adequately address situations where tenants living in rental properties are at risk of domestic violence, restricting their ability to stay at home safety or leave home safely.
- Share-housing: the current share housing framework does not adequately address the complexity of shared living resulting in confusion and in many cases financial and personal hardship
- Legal Aid ACT
- Youth Law Centre of the ACT
- Women’s Legal Centre (ACT and Region)
- Welfare Rights and Legal Centre
- Supportive Tenancy Service
- ACT Disability, Aged and Carer Advocacy Service
- Domestic Violence Crisis Service
- Tenants Union of NSW
- a number of community housing providers
Advocating for caravan park residents
In September we met with the ACT Attorney General Simon Corbell regarding the potential sale of the Canberra South Motor Park. The park is home to a number of long term elderly residents who have limited accommodation options. The possible sale of the park represents a great deal of uncertainty for the park residents and also highlights the limited protection offered to caravan park residents under current legislation. These issues were raised with the Attorney and the ACT Government is now taking steps to ensure the residents are kept informed of any changes to the Park and supported through any necessary transitions.
NSW Tenants Advice + Advocacy Program (TAAP) network meeting
In late October our Project Worker attended the NSW TAAP Network Meeting which brings together tenants advice services from across NSW. While ACT and NSW tenancy legislation is different it was still a great opportunity to meet our NSW colleagues, discuss common issues and hear some success stories. Coming out of the meeting we will be engaging more with the Murra Mia Aboriginal Tenants Advice Service located in Batemans Bay. Jervis Bay which is in Murra Mia's catchment area is ACT Territory and so ACT tenancy law applies - a tricky situation for tenancy advisors down there!
Community Legal Education
Over the last few months we have delivered education and information sessions to community workers at the Adult Mental Health Day Service and at the CIT Student Association. Upcoming we will be presenting training to clients of the Red Cross who are entering the private rental market.
If you would like to organise an information session at your workplace or community group please get in touch. We offer a wide range of sessions from basic information about our service and how to do referrals to in depth customised training for tenants and community workers.
International Tenants Day Art Competition
Leo Francois with "Sharing a Bond"
Each year, events are held across the globe on the first Monday in October to mark International Tenants’ Day and act as a prompt to tenants to be aware of their rights and for the wider community to be aware of tenancy issues. In 2014, International Tenants’ Day was celebrated on Monday 6 October.
International Tenants Day originated in 1986 when the French tenant organisation CNL proposed a special world day for tenants. The council of the International Union of Tenants agreed, and decided that it coincide with World Habitat Day (the first Monday in October). On this day throughout the world housing and tenancy issues are promoted and expounded. Issues such as rights for tenants, affordable rental and tenant participation in all matters related to housing highlight the universality of tenancy.
This is an important time to remember that to tenants our houses are our homes and all that this entails but to landlords they are simply an investment. For tenants, it’s not just about the financial investment – there is an emotional investment also both in the property and in the local community.
For those people not in rental housing this is a time to think about what renting means for more and more people in our community. Consider what it would be like to have people come through your home and tell you how to clean it, to receive a notice giving you 4 weeks to move out.
To celebrate ITD the Tenants’ Union ACT and Housing ACT invited all tenants in Canberra to join in the celebrations by entering the annual International Tenants’ Day Art Competition and Exhibition. This year’s theme was Sharing a Bond. Artworks were be exhibited at the Belconnen Arts Centre from Wednesday 24 September until Friday 12 October. The exhibition provided a great opportunity for participants to exhibit their works, gain exposure, and connect with other Canberra tenants.
2nd place: Hans Lyons with "Bondi Bathers" (top left)
3rd place: Village Folk with "When in Time" (top right)
Highly Commended: Abigayle Tett with "Still life at Fisher Street" (bottom right)
Photography Prize: Aysia Lee Rogers with "Housemates: The Dinner Party" (bottom left)
Omar Musa performing at the Launch
Housing and tenancy in the news
The ACT Government with a concessional loan of financial assistance of the Commonwealth Government, has announced a voluntary Buyback Scheme for all ACT houses affected by loose fill asbestos insulation.
The ACT Government, reflecting advice of the ACT Asbestos Response Taskforce, has determined that eradication of the ongoing risk of asbestos exposure through demolition of all such properties is the only enduring solution to the health risks affected homes pose to current and future residents, visitors and workers and their associated social, financial and practical effects.
A copy of the Asbestos Response Taskforce report Long Term Management of Loose Fill Asbestos Insulation in Canberra Homes, has been publicly released, which recommends the demolition of these homes.
A copy of the Taskforce report is available here: Long Term Management of Loose Fill Asbestos Insulation in Canberra Homes (PDF, 4.7mb)
A copy of the Chief Minister’s Media Release is here: Buyback and demolition program announced for ACT ‘Mr Fluffy’ homes (PDF, 571kb)
A copy of the Taskforce e-newsletters are available here: Newsletters
NOTE: the Tenants Advice Service can provide advice to tenants who are residing in homes affected by Mr Fluffy asbestos - see below for more details.
Common Ground due for completion!
From the ACT Government:
The construction of the ACT Common Ground is well underway. With the assistance of the Commonwealth Government, a 40 unit dwelling is being built which will become home to 20 former chronic homeless individuals and 20 individuals on low income. The building is located on a site near the Gungahlin Town centre, close to public transport and amenities.
Common Ground is an assertive intervention model which addresses homelessness by providing safe, secure, supported accommodation for people who have experienced homelessness.
It does so in specifically built or modified accommodation, provided in a form which mixes people who have experienced homelessness with low income working tenants who pay affordable rental.
The Common Ground model began in New York, USA; similar models have been developed throughout the world, including Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Hobart.
A key theme of the Common Ground model is its linkages to the local and extended community and a focus on social interaction for its residents.
A web camera has been erected over the Common Ground construction site at Gungahlin. The camera captures real time footage and allows interested individuals to follow the development of the Common Ground site. You can access the camera here.
The Canberra Times reports that the public housing "tenant damage" bill is $3.7 million. What it doesn’t say is how much of this is actually proven to be the tenants responsibility. This means that damage caused by domestic violence or break-ins which is not the tenant's responsibility is all included in the $3.7 million figure!
Public housing "damage bill"
Maybe we're not so different after all
An interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald discussing the possibilities for learning lessons from the German rental market and how that might not be as incompatible with good returns for landlords as we are often led to believe.
News from the housing community
A message from the new Executive Officer of Shelter ACT
My name is Travis Gilbert and I have come to ACT Shelter from Mental Health Australia, the national peak body representing the interests of the mental health sector where I worked as a Policy Officer for 18 months.
Prior to that I worked as Policy and Research Officer at Homelessness Australia for a little over 4 years.
I came to Canberra nearly 6 years ago from Adelaide where I had worked in the housing and homelessness sector for a number of years as well as doing a short stint on the Your Rights at Work campaign for SA Unions.
I have a longstanding interest in housing and homelessness issues. I am passionate about working to end homelessness for people and I firmly believe that the foundation for community inclusion, social and economic participation and health and wellbeing is an affordable, safe and secure home.
I look forward to working for and on behalf of you all and the broader Canberra community to achieve housing justice by increasing the number and range of affordable housing options available to Canberrans. In doing so, I hope that I can play my part in progressing the realisation of housing as a human right in Australia.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to meet with me or discuss what you believe the priorities should be for ACT Shelter going forward.
P 02 - 6247 3727
M 0420 699 405
GPO Box 927 Canberra ACT 2601
Tenancy Options Officer now at the Supportive Tenancy Service
STS have created the new position of Tenancy Options Officer to assist tenants looking for suitable, affordable and sustainable accommodation options. You can get assistance with identifying options and preparing to apply for and enter a tenancy. To access this service call the STS general intake line on 6207 2427 or email email@example.com.
YOGIES nominations open!
The Youth Coalition is excited to announce that nominations are open for this year's YOGIE Awards. The YOGIES recognise, celebrate, promote and reward outstanding practice in working with young people in the ACT and surrounding area. The YOGIES highlight the exceptional commitment, talent and innovation that exist in the youth sector.
The Youth Coalition is calling for nominations in the following categories:
More information and nomination forms can be found here.
- Organisation, Service, Program or Project Awards
- Outstanding Achievement in Youth Participation Award
- Innovation in Practice Award
- Collaboration for Change Award
- Excellence in Research and Evaluation
- Excellence in Organisational Practice Award
- Individual Awards
- Outstanding Youth Worker Award
- Outstanding New Talent Award
- Outstanding Contribution to Young People Award
- Lifetime Achievement Award
ACTCOSS budget priorities
ACTCOSS has published their submission to the ACT Budget for 2015-16. The Budget Submission includes key asks around affordable housing and homelessness that community sector organisations have come together to promote. ACTCOSS and its members collectively believe on-going investment will underpin and facilitate genuinely better and more sustainable outcomes for disadvantaged Canberrans in the areas Government has identified as priorities for action in its Budget Strategy.
ACTCOSS's members have also identified three areas of urgent need that they advise the Government to invest in as a matter of priority: Accessible services and community infrastructure; prevention, early intervention and targeted assistance; and reorienting and prioritising service delivery in the context of whole-of-community roll out of the NDIS. Copies of the submission can be found here.
New resource from the Women's Centre for Health Matters
Women experiencing domestic violence in the ACT (especially as parents) face pressures in managing their money and their financial situation which contributes to their isolation. They may make several attempts to leave a domestic violence relationship and may be forced to return for financial and economic reasons. Financial support and knowledge is frequently the difference between violence and safety for many women, and once they have left, separating their finances and financial obligations from their abusive partners is important to starting a new life.
Understanding who to talk to, how to safely plan for leaving, what needs to be considered and what support options are available all contribute to helping to support a woman to leave domestic violence. This resource aims to provide these women (and their friends or family members, or services who may be supporting them) with local, accessible and reliable information to help guide them with their specific needs, and to help improve their financial knowledge and access to support in the ACT.
A PDF copy of the full resource can be downloaded here.
Renting in summer
Summer energy saving tips from the ACT Government
With an average minimum temperature of 13C and average maximum of 28C, summer in Canberra can be a combination of warm to hot days with cooling conditions at night.
These summer energy saving tips could help you save money and reduce your energy use.
Low income households can receive a free home visit through the Outreach Energy and Water Efficiency Program*. An energy efficiency officer will visit your home and provide advice and education on how to save energy and water. For more information or to see if you are eligible, please contact one of the following organisations:
- Keep your house cool by closing your windows, doors and curtains when it starts to get hot outside and open them again when it cools down.
- Use external shading like shade cloth, awnings or matchstick blinds to shade the house. It’s just like parking your car in the shade on a hot summer day.
- Canberra tends to get cooler easterly winds during summer evenings. Open windows at either end of the house and use fans to draw cool air into your home.
- Reduce the amount of time you spend using things that heat up your home, such as your oven, clothes dryer, plasma television and computers.
- Cook outside on a barbecue on hot days or create a meal that doesn’t require cooking.
Belconnen Community Service 6264 0200
Communities@Work 6293 6500 or 6126 9000
Northside Community Service 6257 2255
The Society of St Vincent de Paul 6234 7424
YWCA of Canberra 6173 7100
For information about other programs visit http://www.actsmart.act.gov.au/
*The Program is funded by the ACT Government.
Free energy saving house calls providing door seals, standby power controllers and energy efficient light bulbs are also being offered to all residents in the ACT. To find out more call 1300 789 002 or visit https://www.actewagl.com.au/energyefficiency
It's warming up quickly this year and the ever present threat of bushfires is on the horizon. In a bush city like Canberra even those living in the suburbs need to be prepared.
You can start by checking out the new ACT Emergency Services Agency Bushfire Ready website.
There's a Bushfire Survivial Plan, face to face community information sessions and a range of helpful apps for your smartphone.
FREE weekly information sessions
We are now providing FREE weekly information sessions for ACT tenants. The sessions are designed to empower tenants with information about common issues and strategies for how to resolve problems. The sessions will focus on our two most commonly raised issues, bond disputes and breaking a lease.
The sessions will cover:
- Basic introduction to ACT tenancy laws
- Myths about bond disputes and breaking a lease
- Overview of your rights and obligations in relation to bond disputes or breaking your lease
- How to apply the law to your situation
- Strategies you can use to resolve disputes with your real estate agent or landlord
- What resources are available to help you
The sessions will be held at our offices in Turner (address provided on booking)
The sessions run for 45 minutes and occur twice weekly on Tuesday nights (5:30pm) and Wednesday lunchtimes (12:30pm).
A list of session dates/times for the sessions is here
Our FAQ on ending your tenancy over holidays periods can be found here.
Thinking of moving out? Going away over Christmas and New Years?
In the ACT the standard residential tenancy terms are automatically part of all tenancy agreements. You can find a handy template tenancy agreement here (PDF download), which includes the standard tenancy terms. Make sure you read it carefully before you sign and double check all the details e.g. the amount of rent. Reading over our general "Tenancy in the ACT" fact sheet here is also recommended.
Starting a new tenancy? Perhaps you're with a private landlord and you need to find a contract?
There's no standard template but we have a great example available here (PDF download). Be sure to take photographs to accompany the condition report, particularly of specific areas which may be of concern later - e.g. damage or deterioration of carpets, curtains, floors etc
When you start a tenancy you'll also need a condition report.
Tenants Advice Service
The Tenants’ Advice Service provides free, confidential legal advice to tenants and occupants about renting in Canberra.
We strongly encourage tenants and community support workers to view the information under Renting Advice before you call the advice line.
To request advice:
- you may wish to check our Twitter to see if the advice line will be open on the day you are calling - we provide daily updates of service availability
- Phone (02) 6247 2011 between 10.00 and 11:30 on weekday mornings, you will be asked to leave details. To make sure we can help you please leave the following:
After hours on Tuesday nights - if you would like us to call you between 5 and 7.30pm on a Tuesday night please say so in your message.
- your full name,
- the name of the real estate agent or landlord or person you are in dispute with,
- a reliable phone number, and
- a brief description of your problem.
We will return your call during business hours. If you have difficulty taking calls at certain times, please say this in your message. If your matter is urgent, please let us know.
The advice workers make 3 attempts to call you back. They will leave a message if they are able to.