Rental law changes introducing minimum housing standards will come into effect for new tenancies from 1 September 2023, and for all tenancies from 1 September 2024.
The RTA’s Investigations function supports fairness in the rental sector through ensuring that all parties to a tenancy comply with the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 (the Act). We achieve this through taking a proactive approach to education, targeted compliance activities and investigations on behalf of customers into alleged breaches of the Act.
The RTA encourages tenants/residents and property managers/owners to try to resolve disagreements by talking to each other. If help is required to resolve a disagreement, eg: a bond refund dispute, our free dispute resolution service provides conciliation to help the parties reach an outcome.
Investigation outcomes are focused on providing future compliance, and do not recover monies or provide compensation.
The RTA only investigates sections of the Act that are an offence to breach. For a section of the Act to be an offence, it must have penalty units attached. The RTA does not investigate breaches that do not attract a penalty (e.g. claims of money owed or disputes about property maintenance).
Some of the offences the RTA can investigate include:
- failure to lodge a bond with the RTA within 10 days of receiving the bond
- failure to provide a written tenancy agreement
- entry by a property manager/owner without proper notice or consent
- imposing special terms in tenancy agreements that contravene the Act
- providing false or misleading documents to the RTA
- non-compliance with a repair order (not considered a property maintenance dispute)
- failure to provide a forwarding address if asked in writing at the end of a tenancy
- ending a tenancy in an unauthorised way (e.g. forcefully evicting a tenant)
For all offence provisions refer to the Act.
Matters unsuitable for investigation
The RTA can only investigate matters that are an offence under the Act and does not investigate:
- Property maintenance disputes
- Bond refund disputes
- Agent/landlord behaviour
Assistance with resolving the above matters can be provided through Dispute Resolution. An investigation that is received whilst there is an active related dispute resolution matter is closed. This is to allow both parties to freely participate in the conciliation to achieve a resolution as a first step. This may be all that is required to resolve the matter. If not, an investigation can be requested or re-opened after the conciliation process is completed.
The RTA cannot investigate incidents that happened over two years ago as the statutory timeframe has expired.
Memorandum of Understanding
There can be instances where a licensed property manager’s behaviour is a breach of legislation administered by the RTA and legislation administered by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).
The RTA and the OFT have a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to provide clarity for customers about which agency to request an investigation from.
Under the MOU, customers can make an investigation request to the OFT about licensed property managers who have:
- failed to lodge a bond with the RTA within 10 days of receiving it
- used rent money for another purpose within the tenancy (e.g. to cover a water bill or to pay for repairs)
However, if the investigation request involves another matter in addition to the offences mentioned above, the request should be made in full to the RTA.
The RTA also retains all other investigation requests under the RTRA Act, including all investigations into alleged offences committed by a private lessor or tenant.
Visit the OFT website for more information on OFT investigation requests.
Life Cycle of an Investigation
Case Assessment: The investigator reviews the information the customer submitted in the Investigation Request Kit to determine what allegations can be investigated.
Inquiries: The investigator contacts both parties and obtains further information and evidence to either support or refute the allegations
Case Outcome: The investigator reviews all the information and evidence to determine if an offence occurred and then takes a course of proportionate action.
Case Closure: The case is closed once all parties have been notified of the outcome.
Case Review: Parties to the investigation can request a formal review of the decisions and the process if they are dissatisfied with the outcome.
Requesting an investigation
To request an investigation, obtain an Investigation Request Kit.
A couple rent a house and acreage through the local real estate. Without any warning or notice given, the owner arrives at the property and begins using heavy machinery to clear all the trees surrounding the house. The couple ask the owner to stop and complain to the real estate agency. The owner refuses to stop and continues tree clearing for weeks. The couple must keep all the windows and doors closed to keep out the dust.
The couple make an investigation request to the RTA. They provide witness statements along with their tenancy documentation and photos. The RTA investigates the matter and prosecutes the owner for:
- s202, ‘Unlawful entry of premises’ of the Act and
- s183(2), ‘Quiet enjoyment’ of the Act
The matter is heard in the local Criminal Magistrates Court where the owner is found guilty and fined.