A Southport real estate agent and her son have been convicted and jailed for fraudulently obtaining $107,000 from the agent’s trust account.
The agent was also prosecuted for another 16 counts of failing to lodge rental bonds and failing to issue receipts for bonds received.
This prosecution comes as a success from the collaborative partnership between the Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA), Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and the Queensland Police Service (QPS). While the Southport agent was under investigation for offences under the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 (the Act), fraudulent activity was detected and referred to the OFT and QPS.
The defendants were sentenced to four years imprisonment which will be suspended after serving six months in prison.
The prosecution caps a year of proactive action for the RTA Investigations Unit, which issued 78 penalty infringement notices for various offences under the Act across Queensland, amounting to more than $51,000 in fines. Common offences included non-lodgement of bond, failing to provide bond receipts and relevant tenancy documents, and unlawful entry.
Earlier this year a Cairns crisis accommodation director was prosecuted for 17 offences under the Act in another joint investigation with the OFT. Offences included using the wrong tenancy agreements, unlawful eviction and falsifying documents. Convictions were recorded with a $16,000 fine and costs of $2350 handed down.
In July 2018, a Gold Coast real estate agent entered into a guilty plea for submitting false and misleading documents to his knowledge to the RTA. This was the first prosecution of its kind in Queensland and Magistrate Louise Shephard emphasised the importance in upholding the integrity of RTA systems through maintaining the reliability of forms submitted and received.
The prosecution of a Queensland-wide real estate agency was also a landmark achievement for the RTA this year. The agency was convicted and fined $10,000 for committing repeated offences under the Act, including unlawful entry and requiring tenants to purchase specific cleaning services as a condition of the agreement. Magistrate Stuart Shearer drew parallels between unlawful entry and burglary, and criticised the agent for threatening the tenant with eviction in retaliation to the tenant’s complaint about the agent entering their home without receiving adequate notice.
RTA Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Smith said the RTA had ramped up its investigations and prosecutions in the past year to enforce regulatory compliance of tenants, property managers and owners in Queensland.
“The RTA will take action where there are serious or repeated breaches,” said Ms Smith.
“Offences under the Act are criminal and can carry a conviction in addition to a significant financial penalty for companies and individuals.
“We do a lot of work to raise awareness and educate the sector on their rights and responsibilities under the Act, and I encourage anyone who is unsure about what’s required of them to check out the resources on the RTA website or call our Contact Centre.”