Tenancy and Occupancy Guide


The rental market in Canberra is competitive and many students are finding it increasingly difficult to secure housing both on and off campus.

There are two main types of renting agreements in the ACT, occupancies and tenancies. The laws on tenancies and occupancies are both stipulated in the Residential Tenancies Act 1997.

Occupancy Agreement

Where you pay for an accommodation that is not a residential tenancy, you will likely be asked to sign an occupancy agreement. This is usually the case if you are a boarder or lodger, or if you live on campus, in a caravan park, hotel, motel or club. An occupancy agreement is a contract between an occupant and the grantor.

In comparison to a rental tenancy agreement, an occupancy agreement can be in writing, oral, and may even be implied. Also note that occupancies do not have standard terms, so most of your rights and obligations depend on the terms you agreed to. You can, however, consult the nine occupancy principles outlined in the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 that provide some protection to occupants.

Tenancy Agreements

If you have been successful in securing a rental property, you will likely be asked to sign a residential tenancy agreement (also called a lease). A tenancy agreement is a legally binding document between the tenant and the landlord (or their agent). This agreement will usually contain the length of the tenancy, the bond, the amount and frequency of rent to be paid, and any special conditions. These have to align with the standard tenancy terms stipulated in the Residential Tenancies Act 1997. As a tenant, the standard tenancy terms automatically apply to you.

It is important that you read your tenancy agreement carefully before signing it. If you have any concerns, please consult any of the below tenancy support services for advice.

If you do have any concerns, please reach out to the below tenancy support services.

Tenancy support services:

Tenant’s Union ACT Inc.

The Tenants’ Union ACT is a not for profit community legal centre offering free services for people renting their homes in the ACT. Their website has factsheets on tenants and occupant’s rights and responsibilities, shared housing, common renting issues, sample letters to landlords.

Tenants’ Advice Service

If you are a tenant or an occupant in the ACT and need further information or specific advice you can contact the ACT Tenants’ Advice Service. The ACT Tenant’s Advice Service operates as a call-back service, which means you can call (02) 6247 2011 between 10.00am and 1.30pm to leave a voice message with your details and an advice worker will contact you.

Supportive Tenancy Service

Supportive Tenancy Service can assist you if your tenancy is at risk or if you are having difficulties in securing a private rental property. To be referred to this program, you can call OneLink on 1800 176 468 between 8 AM - 6 PM.

PARSA Legal Service

If you require legal advice relating to your tenancy, please contact parsa.assistance@anu.edu.au to arrange request an appointment with the PARSA lawyer.

Other resources:

The Renting Book

This is a booklet created by the ACT Government and provides an overview of tenants, landlords and real estate agents rights and obligations

Rental Bond Help

If you are looking to start a tenancy in the ACT private rental market but are having difficulties in covering the upfront costs of a bond, you may want to consider applying for the Rental Bond Help Program administered by Housing ACT. The Rental Bond Help Program can cover up to 100% of your rental bond. The bond amount is then repaid interest-free to Housing ACT in small instalments. To find out if you are eligible visit: www.communityservices.act.gov.au/hcs/policies/fact_sheets/bond-loans-rental

Contact PARSA

PARSA Office
Level 2, Di Riddell Student Centre
Kambri Precinct
Australian National University
Canberra ACT 2601

Office Hours:

9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday to Friday (except public holidays)
Call Us: +61 (02) 6125 4187
Write to Us: parsa@anu.edu.au