Renter fights real estate and comes out on top
A "MODEL tenant", Joshua Dickinson took his real estate agent to court after they claimed his $1920 bond from the residential tenancy authority without his knowledge.
Mackay Regional Community Legal Centre solicitor Nikki Hancock said Mr Dickinson's case was a perfect example of how the bond refund process is unfair to tenants.
The 29-year-old mining specialist said he vacated a Triton Court property in April 2016 believing he had done everything right, but after a few weeks still hadn't received his bond back.
The RTA revealed a claim for the $1920 bond payment had been signed off by his real estate agent, Jenny Cameron at Real Estate Mackay City.
Legally, both a tenant and real estate agent can claim the bond without the other party's signature.
The RTA told Mr Dickinson they had sent a "Notice of Claim" to an address provided by the agent - the home he had vacated.
Ms Hancock said she advised Mr Dickinson that the agent was not entitled to more than half the claims made.
Mr Dickinson then filed the case with QCAT.
"The real estate had applied for the whole bond, every cent of it," he said.
Although a frustrating process, he said while he was able to fight the claim, others may not be so lucky.
"I looked forward to the challenge but a lot of people might see it as a challenge they can't deal with."
Ms Cameron refused to comment on Mr Dickinson's case but said current laws award tenants "everything" during bond disputes.
The case between them was settled through mediation in August 2016.
Tenancy laws hurting renters
A MACKAY lawyer has called for law reform as tenancy disputes continue to put renters last.
Clashes over bond money continue to be the number one tenancy issue, Mackay Regional Community Legal Centre solicitor Nikki Hancock said.
In Queensland all rental bonds must be lodged with the Residential Tenancy Authority.
Ms Hancock said a real estate agent can claim the bond from the RTA without the other party's signature.
If an agent does this, the RTA sends a 'Notice of Claim' to the tenant, who is given 14 days to dispute the claim. But this letter is sent to the tenants last known address - usually the house they have just vacated.
If the tenant does not dispute the claim or apply to the tribunal in the seven days after, the money is released.
"Sometimes the tenant will have no idea what's happened to their bond at the end of the tenancy," Ms Hancock said.
"Sometimes people don't realise that the money has been paid out to the agent, and unless the tenant asks for proof to where it's gone, they're not required to provide you with that information.
"There definitely needs to be some law reform in this area."
Ms Hancock's comments come as new data revealed the top complaint to the RTA continues to be about bond disputes, with the number of cases increasing each year.
There were a total of 1325 dispute resolution requests lodged with the RTA across the Isaac, Whitsunday and Mackay Regional Council last year, up from 1110 cases the year before.
There were 1030 requests in the Mackay area, 223 in the Whitsundays, and 72 in the Isaac region.
An RTA spokeswoman said after bond disputes, the most common complaints were about repairs, rent arrears and ending a tenancy.
$750,000 of bonds unclaimed
THE Residential Tenancies Authority has revealed they are holding $781,697.31 in unclaimed bond money belonging to renters in the Whitsunday, Isaac and Mackay regional council areas.
A spokeswoman said bonds were often unclaimed because people did not updated their address.
"Bond refunds may also be returned due to the tenant providing incomplete bank account details.
"The RTA requires an Australian bank account to process refunds, and a tenant may move overseas without claiming their bond."
There are 1806 unclaimed bonds across the three council areas, the bulk of those  in Mackay area.
It is held by the RTA until it can be refunded, so there is no expiry date on claims.
More than $15 million in unclaimed bond is currently being held by the RTA for renters across Queensland.
Whitsunday has 596 unclaimed bonds totalling $173,290.21. Isaac has 185 unclaimed bonds totalling $ 279,100.95 and Mackay has 1025 totalling $329,306.15