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PMs appeal to Parliament: ‘Tenants 6 to 8 weeks in arrears’, industry in trouble

09 November 2016 Reporter
Property managers seek parliamentary help

A group of property managers is seeking an audience with members of Parliament to address its concerns which include delayed bond refunds, slow progression to tribunal in cases of arrears, and other “injustices” that allegedly place “undue stress” on PMs, tenants and landlords.

In a letter sent to all members of South Australia’s Parliament, the Attorney-General’s department and “other relevant stakeholders” and forwarded to Residential Property Manager, the South Australian Property Management Community (SAPMC) said it is seeking to “effect change for the benefit of thousands of investors impacted by the massive delays and inconsistencies that CBS [Consumer and Business Services] and SACAT [South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal] has been unable to rectify over the past 12 months”.

“Some issues have even progresses to an even more critical state that is having a marked impact on the financial and mental stress of property investors (taxpayers) and property managers,” the letter said.

SAPMC is seeking a meeting with members of Parliament to discuss the issues affecting PMs in South Australia. According to the letter, these include:

  • Extended delays (four-plus weeks) for agents/landlords seeking a hearing at SACAT: “Often tenants are nearly six to eight weeks in arrears before a hearing is even set. This puts undue stress on all parties,” the letter said.
  • Phone support (Tenancies Advice): SAPMC claims phone support is “regularly not responsive due to lack of staffing”, with hold times of up to an hour. “Often agents are met with a message stating ‘call back later’,” the letter said.
  • Extended delays in receiving bond refunds: “Funds owed in arrears to a landlord puts excessive financial strain on property owners.”
  • “The injustice of the ‘applicant’ (often already out-of-pocket) not being able to recoup the application costs when the opposing party is at fault. This restriction goes against the fair and equitable principle for which SACAT was designed.”
  • “Clunky/outdated and troublesome bonds online system that is vague, difficult to navigate and problematic at the best of times. Tenants have great difficulty in accessing and navigating the system they are not familiar with.”
  • Thirty-one-day response period when claiming the bond: The SAPMC says tenants previously had 10 days to respond before a bond was escalated (in line with the legislation) “and yet with communication these days being more succinct, property owners are now sometimes waiting months for their funds”.
  • The landlord/agent being liable to pay the application fee to receive a bond back if either party disputes “even when the tenant leaves a debt, the property owner is forced to pay even more money to receive the arrears/debt that have been left unpaid”.
  • “Bonds being paid/refunded to the property owner, and then being disputed by the tenant up to two years later”.
  • “Bonds, SACAT and Housing SA not communicating efficiently, documents being lost/ not received and therefore causing major delays.” SAPMC also noted “just one individual CBS staff member is responsible for processing every single bond refund request for the entire state.”

The group said “without any representation of a practicing property manager on their board”, the Real Estate Institute of South Australia no longer speaks for them and they are now seeking parliamentary assistance.

“We are now calling upon an external voice and assistance in helping us get the answers [as] we need to move forward with the actions that are long overdue, yet continue to effect property investors every single day.

“The current systems and processes are costing the state’s taxpayers and real estate businesses unknown millions of dollars [in] lost income, and change is what we need, and now.”

The letter was sent by Brett Wheatland, property management department manager at LJ Hooker, Glenelg, suburban Adelaide.

In a follow-up email to stakeholders and Residential Property Manager, Mr Wheatland wrote that “the plan is to go viral if a response is not given!!!”.

SAPMC claims to represent 550-plus real estate professionals including property managers, principals and business owners.

 

PMs appeal to Parliament: ‘Tenants 6 to 8 weeks in arrears’, industry in trouble
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