Canberra's tenants will be protected from unregulated online 'bond guarantee' products, but questions remain about when wider changes will be made to occupancy agreements.
The territory government last week introduced new changes to tenancy laws to protect tenants from questionable 'bond guarantee' products that are being offered by at least one online company to NSW residents.
The products promise lessors and tenants a way around up-front bond payment, but there are concerns they guarantee lessors will get their bond back at the end of a lease, with tenants potentially left to face debt collectors.
While changes, which are yet to pass the Legislative Assembly, will mean companies offering such products will have submit the products to the territory's Commissioner for Fair Trading for assessment before it can be put on the market.
But the bill will also allow such products to be offered in the future in the ACT, as long as the contracts meet numerous consumer protection safeguards, which are yet to be officially determined through regulations.
Tenants ACT principal solicitor Vanessa Faulder said she was concerned the bond guarantee products could mean that landlords were essentially guaranteed to get their bond back, while those on low incomes most attracted to the product would face debt collectors as they tried to leave a property.
"Our view is that we don't support the product as it is, but if you're going to have it, it needs to be regulated," Ms Faulder said.
Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay's spokeswoman said the government "became aware" of one operator potentially looking to sell such products in the ACT in June this year.
She said the government had moved quickly on the issue, given concerns it posed a risk to "vulnerable members of the community".
"The government is aware that at least one provider is seeking to launch a commercial guarantee product in coming weeks," she said.
"The bill will prevent these products being able to be accepted as an alternative to a bond while the Government does further work assessing these products."
But Ms Faulder said Tenants ACT had "noted" how quickly the government had moved on this issue, while it had still not introduced any legislative changes to protect tenants facing onerous requirements under occupancy agreements.
Such agreements are commonly used instead of lessor-tenant contracts for residents living caravan parks, university accommodation and some private rental homeowners.
That issue was the subject of a two-year-long review of the Residential Tenancies Act that finished in June last year, with the government passing some related changes last August, which came into effect in August.
But rather than include changes to occupancy agreements in those reforms, the government held a stakeholder forum on the issue earlier this year, which led to it being referred out to three "working groups".
Mr Ramsay's spokeswoman said the issue was still a priority, and the government would "work with stakeholders over the next year to consider further changes" and more changes could be made "depending on the progress and outcomes of consultation".
Ms Faulder said while tenants had backed the changes to date, the movement on occupancy agreements was "incredibly slow" and she was concerned that other issues had "simply been put on the backburner".