Commissioner’s concern for an increase in late bond lodgements - Real estate bulletin issue 133 (February 2017)
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6 February 2017
Figures received from the Bond Administrator show there were 683 late bond lodgements in January 2017, an increase of 35% on December’s figures.
Consumer Protection is concerned by these figures after a strong message was previously issued to the industry (bulletin Issue 128), warning of the hard line it intends to take to ensure compliance.
The previous advice stated that from 1 December 2016, the Commissioner of Consumer Protection (the Commissioner) would address late bond lodgements by sending education advice and formal warnings where appropriate, but would consider issuing $2,000 infringement notices as an enforcement tool for anyone with a history of late bond lodgements.
During January, Consumer Protection issued 14 formal warnings and 3 infringement notices each for $2,000 for late bond lodgements made in December. Potentially, many more infringement notices could have been issued as in those cases where infringement notices were issued there were multiple bonds lodged late. A single late bond lodgement is a single offence. Two late bond lodgements constitute two offences and an infringement notice can be issued for each offence. However, only single infringement notices were issued on this occasion.
The bond is the tenant’s money held in trust and the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 (the Act) requires that they must be lodged with the Bond Administrator as soon as practicable, or within 14 days of receiving it. A delay in paying the money to the Bond Administrator puts these funds at risk.
Consumer Protection will also be educating tenants to expect a receipt immediately after paying a bond to a landlord or agent, and an acknowledgement from the Bond Administrator once the bond has been lodged. If the tenants do not receive acknowledgment within the first three weeks they are being advised to contact Consumer Protection.
If an owner or an agent does not take positive steps towards complying with the requirement to lodge all bonds within 14 days, then the Commissioner may consider whether prosecution is warranted if continued education and warnings are not having the desired impact on the practices of those handling tenancy bonds. The maximum penalty in the Magistrates Court for a single offence is $20,000.
In addition to the requirements under the Act, the person in bona fide control (BFC) of an agency has a duty under Rule 14 of the Real Estate and Business Agents and Sales Representatives Code of Conduct 2016 (the Code) to properly supervise the Agency. This means that among other things they must take reasonable steps to ensure the agency’s employees comply with the relevant statutes, rules or regulations and this includes the proper lodgement of bonds. Contravention of the Code may result in Consumer Protection alleging to the State Administrative Tribunal that there is proper cause for disciplinary proceedings to be taken against the BFC.
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