Host - Belinda Heit – Communication and Education – RTA
Guest – Rowan Bayliss – 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.
Today in this episode we will bust some myths and misconceptions to help get a greater understanding of the RTA’s role and what we do to support the Queensland rental sector. Today's expert from the RTA is Rowan Bayliss. Welcome Rowan.
Guest: Thank you.
Host: Can you tell us about your role at the RTA and what you're responsible for?
Guest: Yeah, thanks Belinda, thanks again for having me on the podcast. As you said my name is Rowan, I'm a Customer Experience Officer here in the RTA contact centre. My role is primarily to assist our customers with information on QLD tenancy legislation and also rental bond processes.
Host: Now, we're going to step through some myths today. So, I'm going to start with myth number one, the RTA makes the legislation that outlines tenancy rules and regulations.
Guest: Yes, so this is a very common misconception. In all seriousness, the RTA does not write or create the legislation that covers the tenancy rules and regulations for Queensland and that legislation is the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008, quite a mouthful, or the RTRA Act for short.
So, what the RTA does do, is administer the RTRA Act. So that means that we make sure that the Act is carried out and complied with by all of the relevant people that the legislation applies to. The RTA is an independent, self-funded statutory authority. The RTA does not make the rules or write the legislation.
A great example of this is the recent Housing Legislation Amendment Bill. The Queensland Government, primarily the Department of Community Housing and Digital Economy lead an extensive consultation process with the community on reforming the rental legislation prior to then introducing the bill to Parliament. The bill passed Parliament and then became law, which brought amendments to the RTRA Act in October 2021. Since then, the RTA’s role has been supporting the rental sector in navigating the changes to the RTRA Act, as it has been amended through these reforms.
Host: So, we don't actually make the rules, we just help administer them. Myth number two, my property manager or owner keeps my rental bond money, and they don't give it back at the end of my lease?
Guest: So that of course is not true. Under the RTRA Act, property managers or owners who take a rental bond must lodge it with the RTA within 10 days. There are penalties involved if the bond is not lodged with us within 10 days, and that's to make sure that the RTA can safeguard your bond money and it's there for you to claim when your tenancy ends.
When you pay your rental bond, you can pay it to your property manager or owner who will then lodge it with the RTA on your behalf. Or another option is to lodge your bond money directly with the RTA using the RTA web services through our website. That's more direct and can give you peace of mind knowing that the RTA has your money straight away without it going through your property manager or owner. If you do use the online service, both you and your property manager or owner will get an acknowledgement of rental bond to confirm that the RTA has received your money at the end of that process. Usually, your property manager or owner would prefer to know that you'reyour bond money has been paid before they give you access to the rental property.
So just make sure you let them know that you're going to, or you'd like to lodge your rental bond online with the RTA in advance. The bond will be refunded back to you when you do leave the property, if you don't owe any money for rent, damages or other costs. So, it's really important that your contact details are kept up to date with the RTA. This way you can be contacted if a claim has been made on your bond, giving you the option to agree or disagree. And just remember, if you do not respond after the legislated time frame, the bond will be refunded as per the original request.
Host: So yeah, a few options there in terms of bond money. Now myth number three, RTA staff and conciliators take sides and can make decisions on tenancy matters.
Guest: Yeah, that is a very big myth. The RTA is impartial, which means we help everybody no matter if you're a tenant or a property manager or owner. When you call us for tenancy information and support, customer experience officers like myself, we do not take sides and we do not make judgement on anyone, or on the situation. What we do tend to do is ask a lot of questions, but this is so we have a clear picture of your situation to give you that information. Our goal is to empower whoever is seeking help or support from the RTA to know what options that they have under the legislation and what action they can take so they are able to move forward with their tenancy.
Particularly looking at the dispute resolution process, our conciliators help you and the other person make informed decisions and reaching an outcome that is acceptable to both of them. Conciliators do not determine who is right or wrong and they cannot make decisions about disputes or enforce rules or regulations. So, for those of you who have participated in the process before, you will know that participation in conciliation process is actually voluntary and people cannot be compelled to take part in the process, so keep that in mind as well. Finally, people who do go through conciliation and are unable to reach an agreement, there's always the option to then apply to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal, also known as QCAT. QCAT was previously known as the Small Claims Court and QCAT adjudicators are the ones that actually have the authority to make decisions and orders related to residential tenancies and rental bonds.
Host: Yeah, so basically we're Switzerland when it comes to decision making and taking sides. Now, myth number four, RTA inspects rental properties and has visibility of all forms and documents exchanged between a tenant and a property manager or owner.
Guest: These types of requests come through a lot, but the RTA is definitely not a middle person or at intermediary between a tenant and property manager or owner. So, there's two main points that can help me highlight why the RTA does not play such a role and also, why we don't have visibility over all of the forms and documents. Firstly, a tenancy agreement is a legally binding contract between two parties, with these two parties being the tenant and the property manager or the owner. The RTA is not one of those parties, and so we don't have any tenancy rights or responsibilities in that tenancy. For example, the RTA does not conduct routine inspections of rental properties. That's a right of the property manager or the owner and the RTA also does not keep copies of tenancy agreements or leases as again, the RTA is not a party to the contract. So, we again, are an independent and impartial authority that helps everyone.
Secondly, and what I think is most important is that we always encourage customers to document in writing any agreements and/or changes to your tenancy agreement or any other arrangements. So that's to ensure that any agreed changes to the rights and responsibilities outlined in the tenancy agreement or arrangements under the law are documented clearly, so the parties of the tenancy are on the same page and have the same expectations of each other. Again, as the RTA is not a party to the tenancy agreement, we do not need to have any visibility of what documents or communications are exchanged, so we don't hold those documents either.
These written records, or formal notices are to remind parties to the tenancy of their rights and responsibilities and other arrangements that they've agreed to with each other. As an extension of that myth, if I can go on, many tenants seem to think that we share the discussions we have with them over the phone with their property manager or owner. So, I can't stress enough that the RTA does not do this. When you call us for information or support, we take the information you give us at face value and provide you with the assistance that you need. We don't make any connections between calls, and we definitely do not share your information, records, or contents of your discussions with anyone. If you would like to know more about our information security and privacy practises, you can tune into the recent podcast episode called How to Help Us Help You When You Call.
Host: Yes, we covered that in the last episode. So, if you are interested in that, go back and have a listen. Now, myth number five, information provided through the RTA dispute resolution process will be shared with the compliance and enforcement team if an investigation request is submitted for the same matter.
Guest: Yeah, so that's an interesting one. So well, yes, both dispute resolution and investigation requests are available at the RTA. It's still unknown we don't share information that we gain from one process to the other. Let me quickly outline the difference between the two RTA services. Our dispute resolution service helps property managers or owners, and tenants resolve disagreements and disputes and reach a mutually agreeable outcome. On the other hand, our compliance and enforcement team looks into investigation requests about offences in the RTRA Act, which refer to as breaches of the tenancy legislation that have a penalty attached.
The RTA’s dispute resolution is an independent and confidential process and whatever information is provided through that process does not get shared anywhere else. Customers who participate in the dispute resolution process are also bound by a confidentiality clause which prevents them from sharing any information or contents of the discussion from the conciliation. So, what that then means, is if the customer wants to request an investigation on the same issue, they will have to resupply all relevant documents and records again via the investigation request kit. So, none of the documents, discussion notes, or outcomes from the dispute resolution process are shared with the compliance and enforcement team.
Host: Yes, that's a good one to know if you do end up going through a dispute resolution process and then going on to an investigation. Myth number six, RTA can regulate rent increases and help alleviate the tight rental market.
Guest: No, the RTA definitely can't do that. Of course, the rental market will fluctuate and change according to the volume of supply and demand, and we don't regulate market conditions. As we mentioned at the start of the episode, our main role is to administer the RTRA Act. So, what the RTA can do is to make sure everyone is aware of their rights and responsibilities in all stages of their tenancy based on the RTRA Act, whatever the market conditions may be. The RTRA Act does not cover the rental application process, so the RTA is unable to regulate how rental applications are assessed either. So those processes will usually follow the property manager or owners’ business practises.
But the RTRA Act does have rules around rent increases, so there are specific conditions that need to be satisfied before rent can be increased during a tenancy and there are rules about how often rent can be increased as well. The law also outlines pathways for tenants who face excessive rent increases, and they may have the option to apply to the Tribunal for a decision. You can find out more information on rent payments and rent increases on our website, in our other podcast episodes, webinars and also factsheets.
Host: Yes, we have heaps more information on the website, so jump on there and check it out. Well thanks Rowan for helping us to get greater clarity and busting some myths on the role of the RTA and how we support renting in Queensland.
Guest: Thanks Belinda.
Host: Thank you for listening to the Talking Tenancies podcast. For more information about the Residential Tenancies Authority, visit rta.qld.gov.au.