Landlord fined $24,000 for tenancy law breaches (Carl Olsen)

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TenantLandlord / lessorProperty industry

A landlord who spent tenants’ security bonds, harassed a tenant and took too much rent money up front, has been fined $24,000 after Consumer Protection prosecuted him for breaching tenancy laws.

37-year-old Carl Raymond Olsen of Meekatharra, who owned and leased out a property in High Wycombe during 2013 and 2014, failed to appear at the Midland Magistrates Court to face charges on 27 October 2015. He was found guilty of 13 contraventions of the Residential Tenancies Act in his absence and in addition to a $24,000 fine, he was ordered to pay costs of $462.

Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection Gary Newcombe says it was important to take this legal action after receiving complaints from affected tenants.

“Mr Olsen took bonds from three tenants and failed to deposit the money with the Bond Administrator at the Department of Commerce. The law ensures that a tenant’s bond money is secure and will not be misused, so private landlords as well as agents need to lodge the funds with the Bond Administrator as soon as practicable and certainly no later than 14 days. Tenants need to be assured that their funds they hand over are safe and secure,” he said.

“Mr Olsen would also constantly turn up unannounced and uninvited when one tenant was renting his property and he harassed her via phone calls and texts. A landlord must respect a tenant’s right to privacy, peace and comfort. Notice of no less than seven days and no more than 14 days must be given for any routine inspections, which have to be at a reasonable and convenient time and can only be carried out four times a year. Even in the case of inspecting necessary repairs, 72 hours written notice is required.

“On top of this Mr Olsen made tenants pay him four to six weeks rent up front when a landlord is not legally allowed to take more than two weeks rent in the first two weeks of a tenancy. Preventing tenants from being forced to pay more than a fortnight’s rent in advance was one of the important changes to the Residential Tenancies Act in July 2013 to help ease financial pressures when renting a home in WA.”

Charges also related to:

  • The use of incorrect forms when putting new tenancy agreements in writing.
  • Not providing receipts for rental payments.
  • Insisting on receiving a bond in excess of what is allowed at law. Bonds can’t exceed the equivalent of more than four weeks rent, unless the weekly rent is greater than $1200.

Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection Gary Newcombe hopes this significant result will send a strong message to private landlords that, like real estate agents, they must comply with tenancy legislation.

When tenancy laws changed in July 2013, Consumer Protection conducted a campaign to inform landlords and the public. Landlords can learn about their rights and responsibilities by reviewing Consumer Protection’s webpages and videos, at www.commerce.wa.gov.au/tenancy. The forms to use when putting new tenancy agreements in writing are also housed there.

Consumer Protection also developed a free app for tenants. iRentWA has been downloaded by more than 5,500 iOS and Android device users to-date. Features include:

  • a calculator to work out the maximum amount of rent payable before moving in;
  • a place to store photos from compulsory property condition reports;
  • reminder functions for payment deadlines, routine inspections and notice periods. 

 

Media contact (Consumer Protection)

Consumer Protection
Media release
29 Oct 2015

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