Deluge of rental complaints in cyclone's aftermath
THERE'S been a flood of complaints about rental properties and landlords across the Mackay-Whitsunday region in the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie.
QSTARS (Queensland Statewide Tenant Advice and Referral Service) has received more than 50 referrals for cyclone-related complaints since the March 29 weather event, according to Mackay advocate Nikki Hancock.
She said tenants were being forced to live in cyclone damaged properties.
Ms Hancock also said pressure from landlords to evict tenants on periodic leases, or those whose leases were nearing their end, without 'just cause' was rising as rents increased in line with growing demand for rental accommodation.
"In some instances, landlords simply want to get their tenants out so that they can increase the rent," she said.
"In the 29 cases we've had regarding repairs, the tenants were not offered a rent reduction to suit the current living arrangement.
"Some tenants have reported only one room in the property being currently liveable.
"Tenants living in a property that is completely or partly unfit to live in or where the amenity or standard of the property has decreased substantially are entitled to a decrease in their weekly rent to match the current condition of the property, but instead we're seeing tenants being forced to reside in half a property but still being charged the full weekly rent amount."
The greatest areas of "rental vulnerability" are in Cannonvale, Airlie Beach and Strathdickie.
Mould growth and asbestos removal concerns were the most common complaints.
Ms Hancock advised tenants to take photos and keep evidence of the state of the property in case of lengthy disputes.
"We've had a number of tenants come to us telling us their properties are unliveable but they are afraid if they end their lease they will be liable for compensation to the lessor," she said.
"If you want to stay but the premises are destroyed or completely or partly unfit to live in because of damage, you are legally entitled to negotiate reduced rent with your lessor or agent.
"Put any agreement in writing and keep a copy."
If an agreement can't be reached the Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) can be contacted about dispute resolution.
The next step, beyond the RTA, is to take a matter to the Queensland Civil Administrative Tribunal.
"If you can't reach an agreement, you can apply to the Residential Tenancies Authority for dispute resolution.
In instances where there was a dispute, Ms Hancock advised tenants not to withhold rent.
QSTARS is a free program which provides tenants advice to manage and sustain their tenancy.
It's managed state-wide by Tenants Queensland and delivered in the local region by the Mackay Regional Community Legal Centre.