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Agent fined over ‘predatorial’ behaviour towards tenants

A Brisbane real estate agency has been fined after preventing a tenant from moving into their new rental home, despite them having signed the lease and paid the rental bond plus two weeks’ rent in advance.

Ray White Annerley was prosecuted by the Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) after they refused to hand over keys to a Fairfield rental property until the new tenant signed an Entry condition report without viewing the property first.

The Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 (RTRA Act) prescribes that the owner/manager must complete, sign and give a tenant a copy of the completed Entry condition report at the start of a tenancy, after which the tenant has 3 days to sign, mark up and return it.

RTA Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Smith said it was essential for all parties to follow the correct process as set out in the tenancy legislation.

“The Entry condition report is designed to protect a tenant from unsubstantiated claims on the bond at the end of a tenancy, and to support a property manager/owner’s claim for compensation if the property is damaged by the tenant,” said Ms Smith.

“A property owner or agent has no right to force a tenant to complete an Entry condition report prior to viewing the property, or to prevent them from accessing their home.

“Where the RTA uncovers these types of offences we will take action.”

In this case, Ray White Annerley told the tenant it was “office policy” to have two Entry condition reports – one of which needed to be signed immediately by the tenant before they could receive the keys. Office staff told the tenant they would keep this report on file in case the tenant failed to return the second report.

When the tenant advised he would not sign the Entry condition report without first viewing the property, Ray White Annerley refused on multiple occasions to give him the keys to his new rental home. He did not receive the keys until the following day, after signing the report as demanded by Ray White Annerley.

The agency pleaded guilty at Brisbane Magistrate’s Court to interfering with the tenant’s reasonable peace, comfort and privacy in using the rental premises by refusing to allow them access to their new rental home, in contravention of section 183(2) of the RTRA Act.

Magistrate Jacqui Payne said Ray White Annerley’s policy to have a tenant sign every single page of an entry condition report prior to viewing the rental property “would be of overwhelming concern to a potential tenant”.

Magistrate Payne noted the concept seemed “particularly predatorial” where an agent should be endeavouring to protect customers’ rights.

Ray White Annerley was fined $1300.