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Landlord fined $2,000 after RTA probe uncovers illegal entry offences

A Brisbane landlord has been fined $2,000 after a Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) investigation found he flouted Queensland’s tenancy laws by repeatedly entering his tenants’ home illegally, and interfering with their peace, comfort and privacy.

Mark Petroff, who owns four rental properties including one at Fenton Street, Fairfield, inserted a special clause into the Fenton St lease which he claimed gave “perpetual notice” for him to enter the tenants’ home whenever he wanted.

He pleaded guilty at Holland Park Magistrates Court to four counts of unlawful entry and one count of interfering with reasonable peace, comfort or privacy under the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 (RTRA Act). No conviction was recorded.

RTA Acting Chief Executive Officer Juliet McKenzie said the RTRA Act sets out clear requirements about entry notices for landlords and property managers.

“The rules of entry are implied in every tenancy agreement and special clauses that suggest otherwise and conflict with the RTRA Act are null and void,” said Ms McKenzie.

“Ignorance of the law is no excuse and this sentencing shows our courts take tenancy law offences seriously.”

For most of the tenancy, which ran between 2013 and 2017, the tenants believed the special clause allowed Mr Petroff access to the yard to carry out maintenance. He also parked his car on the property when he went to work.

Between October 2017 and March 2018 Mr Petroff entered the property on a near-daily basis to undertake painting and other general work.

On several occasions the tenants arrived home to find him there unannounced, and on one Sunday morning in April 2018, one of the tenants only discovered that Mr Petroff was on the rear balcony of the property after she walked out of the shower.

The tenants contacted the RTA in April 2018 and were informed that any special terms conflicting with the RTRA Act was void, but when they passed this information to Mr Petroff, he told them he would continue to undertake work in the yard and downstairs area.

He told the tenants: “Unrestricted access means exactly that, ‘unrestricted access’…”

Magistrate Simon Young noted the instance of the tenant seeing Mr Petroff on the back deck “unannounced and unexpected” would have been particularly confronting for her.

He told Mr Petroff: “It did not put you in a particularly good light that you wanted to impose your will on tenants who otherwise had rights protected by law, and when you were challenged about it, you overrode their concerns.

Fining Mr Petroff $2,000, Magistrate Young noted: “The example that is made of you here today must serve as a warning to other landlords about how they conduct themselves around tenants.”