Residential tenancy disputes
Disputes occur between tenants and landlords, that’s life. But when they happen, regardless of which side of the dispute you are on, you need to know your rights.
Residential tenancy disputes can arise for reasons such as:
- damage to the property;
- people living in a leased property who aren’t on the lease;
- unauthorised access to the property;
- rent increases;
- illegal activities on leased premises; and
- failure to release a bond.
Often, people who are in dispute in regard to tenancies aren’t aware of how to resolve the dispute quickly or effectively, or even what their rights are.
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A landlord must not require that a tenant buy goods or services from them or their nominated supplier as a condition of the lease.
This can include requiring a tenant to purchase items such as lightbulbs or furniture, or cleaning services for when you move out of the premises.
A landlord or real estate agent needs to provide notice to enter a premises. They are entitled to enter a premises for reasons including:
- regular inspections;
- to make routine repairs;
- to show the premises to a prospective tenant or buyer; or
- in an emergency.
How much notice is required will depend on the reason for entry. An entry notice must be given to the tenant in an approved form. If the entry is for an inspection, the lessor must give at least seven days’ notice; otherwise, they must give at least 24 hours’ notice. A lessor may enter a premises without notice only in the case of an emergency, or if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the entry is necessary to protect the premises from imminent or further damage.
A lessor, or their agent, cannot enter a premises on a Sunday or a public holiday, or on another day before 8am or after 6pm, unless the tenant agrees.
This is not an exhaustive list of tenants’ and landlords’ rights and responsibilities. If you have questions about what your rights and responsibilities are, or if you feel that your rights may have been breached, call us today.
A rental bond is an amount of money held by the Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) for the financial protection of the landlord in the event that a tenant breaches the lease. It is not an upfront payment of rent.
For leased properties (other than moveable dwellings), the rental bond must not be more than four weeks’ rent. The bond can’t be held by the landlord or property owner – it must be paid to the RTA.
Payment of the bond at the end of the tenancy is one of the most common areas of dispute in residential tenancies.
Once the tenancy is ended, an application is filed with the RTA for the bond to be paid out. If the tenant has not breached the lease, then the bond should be returned to them in full. If there is no disagreement about how the bond is to be paid out, the lessor and tenant will sign a bond refund form, and the RTA will make payment within a few days of receiving the form.
If the lessor alleges that the tenant has breached the lease by causing damage to the property, or by leaving a mess which requires cleaners to be hired, then the lessor may seek to be paid some of the bond. The tenant can either agree to this or dispute it.
If there appears to be a dispute about who the bond is to be paid to, the RTA will send out a written notice to all parties who did not sign the bond refund form called a Notice of Claim. If you receive a Notice of Claim from the RTA, and you want to dispute how the bond is to be paid, you have fourteen days to give notice of your dispute to the RTA.
If either a tenant or a lessor believes that the other party has done something which breaches the lease agreement, they can issue a Notice to Remedy Breach. This form can be downloaded from the RTA website, and it is used to notify a party that they are in breach and that the breach needs to be fixed within a certain time.
Commonly, a lessor will issue a Notice to Remedy Breach if a tenant fails to pay rent on time, or if they have seriously breached the lease by destroying part of the property or significantly interfered with another tenant. If a tenant fails to remedy a breach after receiving a notice, the lessor may issue a Notice to Leave, which will end the tenancy.
Similarly, a tenant can issue a Notice to Remedy Breach if the lessor breaches any of its obligations. If they fail to remedy the breach, the tenant can issue a Notice of Intention to Leave for Unremedied Breach.
The RTA requires parties who are in a dispute over a lease agreement to attend a ‘conciliation’ process. Conciliation can also take place where a party files a Dispute Resolution Request, which may be an alternative to issuing a Notice to Leave, or a Notice of Intention to Leave.
Conciliation often takes place via telephone, and an RTA conciliator (similar to a mediator) will try to help the parties come to an agreement. They cannot force the parties to agree to anything.
You must represent yourself at the conciliation, and you are generally not allowed legal representation. This does not mean, however, that you cannot seek legal advice about your rights prior to the conciliation to help you prepare for the conciliation.
Nothing said during conciliation can be used later in Court or at a tribunal hearing.
If a dispute cannot be resolved at conciliation, an application will be made for the dispute to go to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).
QCAT can hear disputes relating to breaches of a lease and who the rental bond should be paid to. QCAT can order a party to do certain things, such as carry out an act that would remedy a breach. It can also order payment of money, including for unpaid rent.
Gibbs Wright Litigation Lawyers can help you with your written argument, compiling your evidence, and in some complicated cases, provide full representation.
If QCAT makes a decision which you consider to be unfair or unjust, you may be able to appeal that decision. See our website for information about how to appeal a QCAT decision.
Rental agreements in Queensland are regulated by the RTA.
When you rent a house, townhouse, unit or apartment in Queensland, you enter a legally binding agreement with the property manager or owner called a General Tenancy Agreement.
If you are leasing a room in a house or unit where there are common areas that you share with other tenants, you are a party to a Rooming and Accommodation Agreement.
These agreements must be in writing, and the type of agreement you have will determine things such as how much you can be charged for utilities.
If you didn’t sign an agreement, then the landlord may not have complied with their obligations.
The Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 (Qld) imposes standard terms and conditions relating to these agreements, including general rights and responsibilities of both the tenant and the landlord.
General Tenancy Agreement
The responsibilities of a tenant under a General Tenancy Agreement include:
- paying rent and any other items referred to in your lease, on time;
- keeping the property clean, and not damaging it;
- not using the premises for any illegal purposes;
- not causing a nuisance to others by your use of the premises;
- not interfering with the reasonable peace, comfort or privacy of your neighbour; and
- leaving the premises (as much as possible) in the same condition they were in when you moved in.
The responsibilities of a landlord under a General Tenancy Agreement include ensuring that:
- the premises are clean, fit to live in, and in good repair when the tenant moves in;
- the premises and inclusions remain in good repair throughout the tenancy;
- there is no impediment to the occupation of the property by the tenant; and
- the tenant has quiet enjoyment of the premises; and
- the landlord does not interfere with the reasonable peace, comfort or privacy of the tenant.
Additionally, under a General Tenancies Agreement, certain conduct is expressly prohibited or otherwise regulated.
If you need help
If you are a party to a dispute involving a lease, contact Gibbs Wright Litigation Lawyers today. We can help you to understand your rights, and the ins and outs of the dispute resolution process and QCAT.