The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2020 broadened the Tenancy Tribunal’s jurisdiction and administrative powers. This included introducing infringement fees for landlords and property managers who do not adhere to the Residential Tenancies Act. These are in addition to an increase in exemplary damages that can be awarded by the tribunal to either landlord or tenant, payable by the other party.
On request by the tenancy compliance and investigation team (TCIT), landlords and property managers have an obligation to provide records relating to the healthy homes standards.
Healthy homes statements
As a property manager signs/provides a tenancy agreement and the required statements to a tenant, they have a responsibility to ensure that the information provided is correct. Although a landlord may complete their own healthy homes assessment, it is not recommended, as property managers are still required to verify the information declared in the statement to ensure that the property is in fact compliant. This can result in additional workload as the verification process and evidence of compliance must still be completed by the property manager to provide to TCIT on request.
When the tenancy compliance and investigation team (TCIT) audits a tenancy managed by a property management company, they are looking for good recordkeeping practices. This includes ensuring the tenancy agreement and required statements are complete and accurate as part of the tenancy management process. Should there be evidence that the required documentation or management processes are inadequate, then the entity being audited can fail the compliance checks and be required to remedy the issues, and/or be fined. It is therefore the responsibility of a property management company to ensure their rental homes comply with all relevant building, health and safety standards, and their tenancy management processes are compliant.
TCIT carries out more than 1,500 audits per year, a large proportion of these are on property management companies. During all alert levels, Harcourts property managers have systems and processes in place to ensure that we maintain our high level of service and minimise disruption to our clients. Our property managers are equipped to work from home, with access to our data and information systems. In March 2020, Government introduced legislation to restrict the ability to terminate tenancies or increase rents. At the time of writing, no new legislation has been introduced for the current lockdown. Please note however that this may change depending on the length of the lockdown. The companies are selected at random, and a sample portion of their tenancies are audited as part of this process. TCIT audits on property management companies are roughly 400-500 per year nationwide and have included a large percentage of Harcourts offices, which we anticipate will continue. Harcourts is supportive of the measures that TCIT adopts to ensure compliance within the property management industry, including regulation of the industry that is anticipated to occur during this term of Government.
Property managers cannot simply rely on information provided by the landlord and must verify the accuracy of information, or risk failing an audit by the tenancy compliance and investigation team.
These articles were featured in Harcourts Property Management Focus, Issue 8 2021.