Landlords cop expensive lessons
Two recent cases on the west coast provide a timely New Year reminder about landlord and agent responsibilities relating to bonds and up-front rent demands.
One private landlord was fined $24,000 for taking too much rent up-front, spending tenants’ security bonds, harassing tenants and not providing payment receipts.
According to Consumer Protection Western Australia, the landlord – who owned a property near Perth – would constantly turn up unannounced and uninvited and repeatedly harass one tenant via phone calls and text messages.
“Notice of no less than seven days and no more than 14 days must be given for any routine inspections, which have to be at a reasonable and convenient time and can only be carried out four times a year,” Acting Consumer Protection Commissioner Gary Newcombe explained.
“On top of this, Mr Olsen [the landlord] made tenants pay him four to six weeks rent up front when a landlord is not legally allowed to take more than two weeks rent in the first two weeks of a tenancy.”
The landlord also took bonds from three tenants and failed to deposit the money with the bond administrator, which is required under law to ensure a tenant’s bond money is secure and will not be misused.
Private landlords and agents need to lodge the funds with the bond administrator at the Department of Commerce as soon as possible, and no later than 14 days, in Western Australia.
In a second case relating to bonds and other security payments in the west, a real estate agent was fined $10,000 for mismanaging his agency’s trust accounts after he used money held in a trust account to pay some of the agency’s operating expenses.
Both cases serve as a reminder about landlord responsibilities as we launch into 2016.