This article does not constitute legal advice; the RTA is prohibited from offering legal advice to anyone charged with an offence under the RTRA Act.
Over the years, the Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) has prosecuted numerous offences under the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 (RTRA Act).
There are a substantial number of offences under the RTRA Act. They are criminal offences that are prosecuted in the Magistrates Court, and need to be taken seriously.
The RTA prosecutes these offences on behalf of the State of Queensland in the same way that Police prosecute criminal offences. We also conduct joint prosecutions with Queensland Police in more serious offences (such as fraud), and pursue all matters in the public interest.
What happens during a prosecution?
For a long time, full prosecution in the Magistrates Court was reserved for the most serious offences under the RTRA Act. The consequences of a criminal conviction and significant fines were considered so serious that in most cases, rather than prosecuting, the RTA chose to educate property owners/managers about their responsibilities, and caution them.
However, due to a significant increase in multiple and repeat offences, the RTA is taking a more proactive approach to enforcing compliance. In 2016/2017, we investigated more than 800 complaints concerning more than 2000 offences under the RTRA Act. In the most serious cases, offenders received jail time for fraudulent activity.
What are the most common offences?
The most common offences include non-lodgement of bonds, unlawful entry, interference with the quiet enjoyment of a tenant, the use of photos for advertising containing personal belongings without written permission, unlawful recovery of premises and failing to issue receipts or other mandatory documentation.
What are the consequences?
When a breach of the RTRA Act occurs, the offender may receive a warning letter, a Penalty Infringement Notice (PIN) or the matter will be listed for prosecution in court, depending on the nature of the offence. This year the RTA has issued more PINs than ever before.
How to avoid prosecution
The best approach is to understand the RTRA Act and put procedures in place to ensure you do not commit offences. The RTA exists to ensure renting is fair for everyone. That’s why we are committed to educating our stakeholders about their responsibilities under the RTRA Act. Remember, as a professional real estate agent in the rental industry, or property owner/manager, you have an obligation to know the rules and not to break them. It’s the law.