A landlady who entered a rental property illegally to conduct renovations and change the locks while her elderly tenant of 30 years was in hospital has been ordered to pay a hefty fine.
Marlene Ruzica Pavlovich, a former real estate sales representative, was found guilty by the Fremantle Magistrates Court on 30 June 2017 of contravening two offences under the Residential Tenancies Act and fined $11,907, Consumer Protection said in a statement.
The court found that Ms Pavlovich entered and took possession of a rental property in North Fremantle, Perth without a court order and changed the locks without the consent of the tenant and without a reasonable excuse.
She was fined $3,000 and ordered to pay $8,907 in costs.
In February 2015, Ms Pavlovich contacted the tenant’s power of attorney to organise a viewing of the property by prospective buyers and to undertake bathroom renovations. No consent was given by the tenant, who was ill and in hospital at the time, nor the tenant’s power of attorney.
Nonetheless, Ms Pavlovich illegally took over possession of the property to carry out extensive renovations. The lease was in place still and the tenant continued to pay rent.
An application to the Magistrates Court had to be made by the tenant’s power of attorney for access to the property to recover the tenant’s personal belongings and medication.
Consumer Protection lawyers told the court that Ms Pavlovich’s actions were opportunistic and that her actions caused unnecessary stress, inconvenience and expense for the 87-year-old tenant.
Acting commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said the case demonstrated the necessity of the strict laws governing the owner’s access to a rental property.
“The laws which control a property owner’s ability to access the property while it is subject to a tenancy agreement are necessary in order to give the tenant peace of mind and allow them quiet enjoyment of their rented home without undue harassment by the owner,” Mr Hillyard said.
“Being a former real estate sales representative, the landlady in this case had no excuse for not knowing or following the laws that apply in these circumstances and, by breaking the rules, she has caused unnecessary stress and inconvenience to an ill elderly tenant and her carers.
“All owners of rental properties and their agents are required to know the tenancy laws that apply in WA and ensure that they are followed without exception.”
The elderly tenant, who had rented the property since 1985, died in June 2015.