Residential Tenancies

The relationship between a landlord or residential premises and his or her tenant is tightly regulated by theResidential Tenancies Act 1997 (ACT).

What is a residential tenancy agreement?

A residential tenancy agreement will arise when a person gives someone else the right to occupy certain premises for use as a home in exchange for value.  The agreement does not have to be in writing.  The agreement does not have to be express; it can be implied from one party allowing the other to occupy the premises and accepting payment from that party.

Some types of residential arrangements will not be residential tenancies unless the parties expressly agree in writing that their arrangement is a residential tenancy.  These include an agreement to occupy a caravan or mobile home, an agreement to occupy premises on the campus of a university or school, or an agreement to occupy premises as a boarder or lodger.

What are the terms of a residential tenancy agreement?

If an agreement is a residential tenancy agreement, then the standard residential tenancy terms in schedule 1 of the Act will automatically apply.  This is the case even if the agreement is not in writing or has been implied by the conduct of the parties.

In order for the parties to agree to a term that is inconsistent with the standard residential tenancy terms they must apply in writing to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) to have the inconsistent term endorsed.  In the absence of ACAT endorsement, any term in consistent with the standard residential tenancy terms is void.

How to terminate a residential tenancy agreement

The process for terminating a residential tenancy agreement will depend on whether the agreement is for a fixed term or is periodic and whether you wish to terminate as a result of the other party’s breach of the agreement.

In short, if the agreement is for a fixed term, you can only terminate the agreement during the fixed term if the other party is in breach of the agreement and you have given notice of and time to remedy the breach and it has not been remedied.  If the agreement is a periodic agreement, such as a month to month arrangement, it may be terminated by giving 26 weeks’ notice to vacate or if the other party is in breach of the agreement and you have given notice of and time to remedy the breach and it has not been remedied.  The Act also permits a lessor to terminate a period agreement on shorter notice in certain circumstances, including if the lessor or a relative wishes to live in the premises. If you wish to terminate a residential tenancy agreement, you should carefully read the standard residential tenancy terms in Schedule 1 of the Act.  You must firstly determine whether you have valid grounds for terminating the agreement and if so, you must be careful to follow the process set out in the standard residential tenancy terms to ensure that your termination of the agreement is lawful.  This includes making sure you have given the required notice to remedy any breach of the agreement in the required form.

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