The RTA has successfully prosecuted a property management agency in Townsville for breaches of the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 (RTRA) related to carpet cleaning at the end of a tenancy.
Since then, the REIQ has received queries about the Special Terms for cleaning carpets at the end of the tenancy.
Set out below is a factual summary of the relevant decision delivered in the Townsville Magistrates Court, along with our view of the resulting implications for the REIQ Special Terms about carpet cleaning.
On 22 March 2018, Vespar Pty Ltd t/as Coral Sea Property Management pleaded guilty in the Townsville Magistrates Court to a number of charges, which included breaches of section 171(1) of the RTRA for requiring a tenant to agree to buy goods as a condition of being accepted as the tenant under an agreement.
Relevantly, Coral Sea Property Management’s special condition required a tenant to have carpets dry cleaned by a registered carpet cleaning professional to the satisfaction of the lessor/agent upon vacating, and to provide a receipt to the agent evidencing same. A similar requirement extended to curtains and blinds made from fabric.
According to the evidence, this special condition was not an REIQ Special Term, and contained wording that required the tenant to have carpets, curtains and blinds professionally cleaned at the end of the tenancy if this occurred at the start, in contrast with the REIQ version which instead permits a tenant to shampoo or steam clean the carpets themselves if this was done professionally at the start .
Summary and conclusion
As a result of pleading guilty to these breaches, as well as further breaches of sections 173(4) and 202 of the RTRA, Coral Sea Property Management was convicted by the Magistrate and fined the total sum of $8,500.
It is our position that the REIQ Special Term about carpet cleaning can be distinguished from the special condition used by Coral Sea Property Management because it does not oblige a person to buy goods or services as a condition of being accepted as a tenant under a lease agreement.
Over the previous 12 months, REIQ property management forms have been under review following feedback received from REIQ members, Property Management Support Staff and REIQ trainers with updates to be released shortly. For the avoidance of any doubt this review did not arise as a result of the recent Townsville Magistrates Court decision against Coral Sea Property Management and instead was commenced with the view of enhancing our forms for property managers.
Although we are comfortable with the REIQ Special Terms, if, as a result of this review, it is determined that the REIQ Special Term about carpet cleaning should be clarified to ensure that the intent of the relevant clause remains consistent with the RTRA, it will also be updated at this time.
If property managers remain uncertain about whether special conditions for tenancy agreements comply with the requirements of the RTRA, for REIQ members guidance can be sought from the Property Management Support Service or for non-members from the RTA. Alternatively, legal advice about special conditions should only ever be sought from a qualified legal professional.