Host - Belinda Heit – Communication and Education – RTA
Guest - Susan Cridland – Customer Experience – RTA
Host: Welcome to the Talking Tenancies podcast, brought to you by the Residential Tenancies Authority. I’m your host, Belinda Heit. Join me as we explore everything you need to know about renting in Queensland, with experts from the RTA and industry. We're here to help make renting work for everyone.
When you contact us at the RTA, there is some information that you can gather to make sure we can provide the right information for your situation and the support you need. Being prepared before picking up the phone and understanding the RTA’s role and responsibilities can go a long way to help us guide you to a better outcome.
On today's episode, our expert from the RTA is Susan Cridland. Welcome, Susan.
Guest: Thanks for having me.
Host: Now, can you tell us about your role at the RTA and what you're responsible for?
Guest: Yes, certainly. So, my role here at the RTA is as a Customer Experience Officer. So, I'm here for any agents or tenants or anyone in between who might have any questions about their situation when it comes to renting in Queensland. To answer those questions and to assist them with their rights and responsibilities under our legislation.
Host: And very helpful you are, I must say. Now, what are some of the ways in which people can be prepared before they pick up the phone and call us at the RTA.
Guest: First and foremost, when you are calling us, please make sure that you have all the relevant details on hand. What I mean by this is that if you're calling for assistance to troubleshoot an issue online, for example, make sure you can specify the form or the web page or the service that you're calling about. If you have encountered an error message, if you can take a screenshot or make a note of what that message is, that will help us to get you the help you need to for a quicker resolution.
If you are calling to learn about your tenancy rules or rights, or for general information on your tenancy, if you can have your bond number ready or your tenancy agreement on hand, details like this will help us give you the information that relates to your situation the best. In addition to that, I would encourage customers to have a pen and paper or a notepad on hand so that they can make notes and scribble down any information or options we discuss. A lot of information can be provided over the phone, so sometimes having those notes can be really helpful. Sometimes you may not have enough time to act on all the items we discuss straight away, and you might need to come back to that at a later date, so the notes can help a customer pick up where they left off, remember what was discussed and record their options for consideration. And these notes can also help us if you need to call us again for any clarification.
Host: Yeah, it really helps to have that background and understanding so that when we get on the phone, we can get what we need, right?
Host: Now we ask for full contact details every time you call. Why is that?
Guest: Now that is a very good question. And yes, we do ask for your full contact details every time you call, and there are two main reasons for us doing this. One of them is that it forms part of the process of verifying your identity over the phone so that we know you really are the person you say you are. This identity verification process is important as we could be discussing someone’s address or any other personal information during the call and we want to ensure the privacy of all of our customers. Now the other reason is so that we can make sure that the RTA has your most up-to-date details on file. Keeping your details up to date with us will help us process any paperwork and necessary forms quicker, which means we'll be able to act on your request sooner.
Host: Yeah, it also helps us with web services. If we've got those up-to-date details on file as well, so getting a bond refund faster. Now, sometimes we can't always tell you what you want to know. Is that right?
Guest: Yes. As I mentioned before, we take our customers' privacy very seriously. We do not share any information you share with us with anyone else. This is why we have the identity verification process in place over the phone. There are limitations on what tenancy information we can share with different tenancy parties, so we can only share specific information on a tenancy that the customer calling us has the authority to know about. The same applies no matter if you're a tenant, a resident, a bond contributor, an agent, or a landlord. For example, if you are not a bond contributor, I can't tell you how much bond was lodged for the tenancy because financial information like this is personal information.
If an agent who was not on the bond calls us to find out who are the bond contributors, we can't disclose any information because they don't have the authority to know. We also don't share any details or instances of customer interactions with anyone. This means if you are a tenant and you call us and a few days later your property manager or owner calls us, we don't disclose that we've had a conversation with you, the tenant, or share anything that we discussed in this conversation with them.
We treat each calling customer as a separate individual. We don't know who their tenants are or who their property manager or owner is, none of the calls are linked to each other. We provide information and support only based on the situation that the caller we've got is describing to us. And because of this, sometimes you may find that we provide different information to the two different parties dealing with the same situation. The person calling us may have provided different details on the situation over the phone, which can affect the information that we provide.
Now I can feel that you are questioning how all of this works in the dispute process. So the RTA’s dispute resolution process is confidential and is usually done via telephone conference. The conciliator and the two disputing parties who participated in the process voluntarily cannot disclose anything that was discussed in the process to anyone else. Otherwise, they are considered to have breached the confidentiality clause as part of the terms for participating in dispute resolution. We definitely do not, and will not, tell customers about our interactions with other customers.
Host: And that's something you get a lot, isn't it? Like, you know, my agent’s called – “Did they tell you this?” Or, you know, “My housemate called and told you this, what about that?” We don't connect the dots in any way. It is a fresh call every time. Now, to quickly recap, talk us through the things that the RTA won't do.
Guest: Yes, absolutely. So, here we go. First and foremost, we will not breach privacy laws. We will not share information with people who are not authorised. We have rigorous checks in place to make sure the person on the phone has the authority to know the information they are asking for. Secondly, we do not share information or records with managing parties or tenants from phone calls that we've received. Third, we do not provide personal opinions on your specific situation. Fourth, we do not take sides to determine who was right and who was wrong in a particular situation. We are impartial and we don't have the authority to make these decisions. Therefore, we don't. Fifth, we will not compromise your safety as a tenant or managing party by sharing forwarding addresses. Addresses and financial information all fall under personal information, which are private and confidential. And finally, the RTA will not provide legal advice in relation to the RTRA Act or any other matter, such as tenancy agreements. Customers must seek their own legal advice.
Host: Yeah, Susan, you know, I know there's some pretty smart humans at the RTA and I'd love their opinion, but we just can't give it over the phone.
Guest: That’s correct.
Host: Now, a lot of the time we ask so many questions that some people may feel like they're being a bit interrogated. But that's not the case, is it?
Guest: No, we are definitely not interrogating anyone. Asking questions is a really important way for us to collect the information we need to help you. When you call us on the phone, we want to understand the details of your situation. So, this could range from the type of tenancy agreement you have and when you moved in, to what you've tried to initiate discussion with the other party about, and what forms you've been given in chronological order.
We are absolutely not here to judge you or take sides or say who was right and who was wrong. As I said, we are impartial, and we help everyone that calls us. In fact, under the law, we actually can't give you our personal opinions. That's why you'll find we tend to redirect questions like, “What would you do in this situation?”. We can only give you information and options available based on the legislation according to the situation that you describe to us. What we want the most, is to give you information that is most helpful to you in the situation you are describing to us. So, to do that, we sometimes need to really get into the nitty gritty details as that can make all the difference.
Bear in mind, the RTA does not have any oversight on the notices and documents that get exchanged between parties, like any notice or a tenancy agreement, so we rely heavily on the information that you provide to us. We also want to understand what outcome you're looking for as well. Understanding what your ideal outcome is upfront can help us guide you on the right path.
Some customers may not be used to sharing details of the issue or their situation with anyone, so we ask all the questions to make sure we have covered everything that we need to assess what options you have. What we don't want is to have spent time talking with you through the available options just to find out at the end that none of those are really helpful to you because there are a few details that we didn't ask about. It can be frustrating when this happens, and it is wasting time and can cause confusion and misunderstandings throughout the process. So, to make sure it doesn't happen, we ask all the questions up front to get a clear picture of the situation you're in, or what you're dealing with and where you want to go with it, so we can give you exactly what you need as quickly as possible. Just remember that the information we give you is not legal advice, it's only information to clarify what the legislation states. We always recommend that customers seek their own legal advice where necessary.
Host: And we also receive lots of calls for different situations and we are trained to support you on a call, even when things aren't going great, right?
Guest: Oh, of course, like we do get a lot of calls from emotional customers, who do get upset or anxious while they're on the phone, particularly when things aren't looking great. Remember, we are here to support you. We understand that it can be stressful sometimes, because most of the issues or challenges relate to where you live. It's your home which provides a sense of security and stability. Feel free to let us know if you need a minute or two to take a few deep breaths or to go and grab a drink of water.
Even when things are looking good, the processes can still be unfamiliar and frustrating. We probably do give you a lot of information to process no matter the situation, so jump in and ask for clarifications if you need. You can also ask us to repeat the information to get your notes right. Make sure you understand everything and know what your next steps or options are before you hang up the phone.
Host: Yeah, a pen and paper on you, or even you know something to take notes on, is so important when you get on the phone with us because there's so much to take in. Now, what are your tips, Susan, on when is the best time to give us a call?
Guest: Oh, that is a very good question. So, it's a good time to call us when you've already visited our website to look for relevant information, you might need clarification on any information that you've seen or you've been given, you need help stepping through a process that you don't understand, or you need more information before taking any action. We have a lot of information on our website which is kept up to date. There is a really good search bar where you can type in a word or two to bring up relevant web pages or information. The content is also grouped by the stages of a tenancy: starting a tenancy; during a tenancy; and ending a tenancy. So, it's quite simple to browse through.
One last tip I have is, don't listen to your mates! Call us and talk to a trained professional who understands the tenancy legislation in Queensland. Every tenancy is different and different states have different tenancy laws. So, if you are renting in Queensland, definitely call us for the clarifications. If you want to know the latest news in the rental sector, then I would recommend signing up for our monthly RTA news on our website. You'll be able to get a curated newsletter with new articles sent to your inbox directly every month, and it's got a lot of helpful information that is current and it might help you with your tenancy.
Host: Those are some really useful tips there, Susan. Well, thank you Susan, for helping us to get a greater understanding of all we need to know about when it comes to helping us help you when you call the RTA.
Guest: Thank you.
Host: Thank you for listening to the Talking Tenancies podcast. For more information about the Residential Tenancies Authority visit rta.qld.gov.au.