An east Perth agency has become the fourth company to be fined in Consumer Affairs' crackdown on taking too long to lodge tenants’ bonds to the Bond Administrator.
CENTURY 21 Eastbelle was fined $8,000, plus $275 in legal costs, after pleading guilty last week to 14 charges of failing to lodge bonds ‘as soon as practicable’ as required by the Residential Tenancies Act.
Speaking with Residential Property Manager, current licensee Julie Daniels didn’t make any excuses for the company’s actions.
“If they’re late they’re late, it doesn’t matter what the reason is. Some of the late lodgements were from before my time as licensee, so I don’t know the full extent of how it happened, but that’s no excuse,” she said.
Consumer Protection told the court that the company had taken, on average, three months to lodge 14 security bonds totalling more than $22,000 and, in some cases, were not lodged until more than four months after they were received.
The agency had received formal warnings on two previous occasions.
However, Ms Daniels said the situation could be avoided if a simple mistake wasn’t overseen.
“The property manager at the time would date the paperwork before sending off the documents for the tenant to sign. So when they returned it late, it still had that date on it, which would make it look like we’d been lodging it weeks after we were supposed to," she explained.
“We’ve got a system that alerts us to anything that doesn’t get submitted on time - it flags it and comes up on the computer telling us what needs to be done.”
According to Consumer Protection, three other companies have been recently fined for similar breaches:
- A real estate agency was fined $15,000 in December 2011 over 51 late lodgements that were 17 to 72 days late
- A real estate agency was fined $10,000 in April 2013 over 27 late lodgements that were, on average, 38 days late
- A property management company was fined $10,000 earlier this month over 37 late lodgements that were 17 to 46 days late
Commissioner for Consumer Protection Anne Driscoll said real estate agencies and property managers need to review their office procedures to ensure speedy lodgement of bonds.
“It’s essential that tenants’ funds are safe and secure and lodged with the Bond Administrator as soon as possible. Taking many weeks or even months to do so is unacceptable and is a breach of the law,” Ms Driscoll said.
“The appropriate lodgement and security of tenants' bond moneys is an issue that Consumer Protection takes seriously. Agents and property managers need to keep their business in order so they don’t run the risk of being prosecuted.”