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Getting your agreements right

The RTA recently achieved a landmark result after a Cairns accommodation director was prosecuted for a number of offences against the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 (the Act).

The director pleaded guilty to 17 offences, which included using the wrong tenancy agreements, unlawful eviction and falsifying documents. Magistrate Luxton fined the director $16,000, ordered him to pay costs of $2,350, and recorded convictions.

“The offending is protracted and the victims of these offences were vulnerable tenants with somewhat limited financial means,” Magistrate Luxton said.

“This type of offending behaviour must be denounced and discouraged…the intent of the legislation is to put in place a system where the rights of both tenants and property owners are protected.”

Magistrate Luxton noted that directors had an obligation to ensure that the correct agreements were being entered into with the tenants. In this particular case, tenants were signed up to rooming accommodation agreements for self-contained units, instead of residential tenancy agreements as required by the Act. The significance of this was that the two different agreements altered tenants’ rights dramatically in certain situations.

For example, general tenancy agreements require seven-day notice periods to remedy any breaches, followed by a further seven-day notice period to vacate, after which an order by the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal is required should the tenant refuse to vacate. This differs significantly to rooming accommodation agreements, which allow for tenants to be evicted immediately under certain circumstances.

Unlike general tenancies, rooming accommodation agreements can occur when a resident:

  • has a right to occupy 1 or more rooms,
  • does not have a right to occupy the whole of the premises in which the rooms are situated,
  • does not occupy a self-contained unit, and
  • shares other rooms, or facilities outside of their room (with 1 or more of the other residents).

In this case, tenancies that should have ordinarily fallen under general tenancy agreements were incorrectly treated as rooming accommodation.

Over the past year, the RTA has initiated more PINs and prosecutions than ever before due to a pattern of re-offending and disregard for compliance requirements.

If found guilty, a criminal conviction may be recorded by the court, and this could impact an agent personally, such as when they go to renew their licence.

Read more about penalties, prosecutions and offences relating to the Act, or call the RTA on 1300 366 311.