Consumer Protection is planning to take tougher action against real estate agents and private landlords who lodge tenancy bonds late.
Under the Residential Tenancies Act, bonds must be lodged with the bond administrator as soon as practicable or within 14 days after the funds are received.
However, in the three months prior to 31 October 2016 there were as many as 945 bonds lodged by real estate agents and a further 758 bonds lodged by private landlords that were received after the 14-day cut-off.
Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection, David Hillyard, said the extremely high and growing number of late lodgements is unacceptable.
“There were a significant percentage of these late bonds which took more than three months to lodge. The worst case took more than six months, which is alarming,” Mr Hillyard said.
“Overall the number of late lodgements have more than doubled in the past three years and this is despite a 10 per cent decrease in the overall number of bonds being collected.
He said the trend cannot be allowed to continue and that Consumer Protection will be taking “decisive action” to target offenders and improve compliance with the law.
He said offenders would be sent warning letters, and added that those who ignored the warnings may be issued with an infringement notice amounting to a $2,000 penalty.
In more serious cases, he said, people could face prosecution or disciplinary action where they may have to pay a fine of up to $20,000.
“Licensed real estate agents could also be putting their licence, and ultimately their livelihood, in jeopardy if there are serious and continuing violations of this important aspect of tenancy law,” he said.
“There is absolutely no reason why bond money cannot be lodged within the 14-day period or sooner, especially since the new Bonds Online eTransactions system has become available to all agents.”