The Tenants’ Union is an independent community legal centre initially formed by a group of tenants who came together to promote the rights and interests of people renting their homes in the ACT. Although we are called the Tenants’ Union, we help all renters, which means both tenants and occupants. TU members include private, public and community housing tenants, as well as boarders and lodgers, people living in student accommodation, caravan parks and emergency accommodation, and others interested in supporting the work of the TU.
Many of the problems renters face can be too big for one individual to tackle alone. Renters need a group that will talk to government, media, landlord groups and real estate agents on our behalf. We need a group that can express our views and concerns.
The Tenants’ Union is committed to addressing the inequities that exist between renters and property investors. To tenants and occupants, our houses are our homes, but to the owner they are simply an investment. With your support the Tenants’ Union can provide a stronger voice for tenants and occupants. Our success depends on the continued support and resourcing of members.
TU Mission Statement
The ACT Tenants’ Union is an organisation for tenants by tenants that seeks to enable all tenants to enjoy appropriate, affordable, accessible and secure housing in the ACT.
The ACT Tenants’ Union is a non-profit community organisation committed to:
- the participatory involvement of tenants to achieve its vision and aims and promoting rental housing which meets the needs of tenants;
- ensuring tenants’ views are recognised and incorporated into decision making processes;
- educating tenants and other stakeholders about their rights and responsibilities;
- promoting self help mechanisms for tenants seeking dispute resolution;
- fostering effective dispute resolution mechanisms;
- ensuring provision of high quality assistance to tenants through input into effective delivery of a Tenants’ Advice Service (TAS) and other tenancy support services;
- fostering high morale and work satisfaction, and providing career and development opportunities for TU and TAS staff (as far as possible);
- the continued use of resources resulting from investment of tenants’ bond money to support the rights of tenants, and increasing funds targeted to directly supporting the rights of tenants;
- supplementing funded resources with effective voluntary resources and coordinating both to ensure the TUACT is recognised as a well-managed organisation with effective internal and external stakeholder relationships.
Tenancy has been an issue for ACT residents for many years. In 1981 a community meeting of tenants and other concerned people decided to establish a group to represent public and private tenants in the ACT. Tenants’ Union ACT (TUACT) was incorporated on 10 September 1981 with the support of the Welfare Rights and Legal Centre (WRLC). TUACT had a desk in the WRLC offices in the old Griffin Centre on Bunda Street in Civic and held regular meetings.
In 1990, galvanised by impending legislation to set up a Rental Bond Authority, the first major achievement was when TUACT was successful in obtaining a small seeding grant that allowed the organisation to rent some space (pay a contribution for the desk space), publish some information leaflets and begin to think seriously about opening for business. The ACT Government sought submissions in relation to the use of the interest on bond money to be held by the Office of Rental Bonds agreed that a small portion of the funds should be spent for the collective good of tenants, and that an independent tenants’ advice service would be an appropriate use for the money.
Unfortunately the funds available were not sufficient to fund a new standalone service. The TU and the Welfare Rights and Legal Centre worked together to explore the possibility of offering a joint service – something that it was thought would be an unbeatable combination with the Union bringing the tenants’ perspective and WRLC providing the much needed expertise and experience in the legal side of tenancy matters. WRLC had already been providing tenancy advice through their advice lines), and received some Commonwealth funding for assisting public housing tenants (funds that went to TUs in other jurisdictions. So when the Office of Rental Bonds advertised for expressions of interest, they were ready with a joint proposal.
The opening of the Tenants’ Advice Service on 10 August 1994 represented the culmination of a lot of hard work behind the scenes. Since 1994 the TAS has provided the focus for much of TU work, initially with the service being managed jointly by TUACT and WRLC, then in 2006 TUACT took over sole management of the service. Through TAS, the TU has continually worked towards achieving its goals as stated in our Mission Statement and core values.