Tenant fined $1,000 for ruining rental with pet faeces and urine: Midland Magistrates Court

A tenant in Western Australia has been charged $1,000 after leaving a rental property in a "dirty way" and failing to provide a forwarding address.

The tenant, 47-year-old Lisa Marie Hutchins, pleaded guilty to breaking tenancy law at a hearing at the Midland Magistrates Court on 16 January 2014.

Hutchins rented a property in Stratton in December 2008, owned by a couple. She was given a notice of termination in August 2011. She refused to vacate. The investors sought a court order, which they obtained, that made her leave in November 2011. She did not attend the final inspection nor provide a contact address.

Stratton's median weekly rent is $393.

The property was left in a bad way, with the carpets ruined by pet faeces and urine. Hutchins was fined $250, and ordered to pay $702.63 in costs after her guilty plea.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection, Anne Driscoll, said that this prosecturion under the Residential Tenancies Act shows 'even handedness' in the regulation of the rental marketplace, and warned tenants about their legal responsibilities.

"Tenants have to keep a rental home tidy and clean and hand it back in a similar condition to how it was when the rental agreement began; less any fair wear and tear. In this case the property was left in a dirty and unsatisfactory condition – the carpets were ruined with pet faeces and urine," Driscoll said.

"The repairs cost nearly $6,000 and the bond only covered about $1,600 leaving the owners about $4,300 out of pocket. They were unable to contact Ms Hutchins to seek redress because she had failed to leave her former landlord a forwarding address, which exiting tenants are required to do under the Residential Tenancies Act."

A number of complaints are apparently received by Consumer Protection from landlords around this type of issue. Not leaving a forwarding address is a responsibility of the tenant, said Driscoll.

"Importantly, the maximum fine for this issue has recently been increased from $1,000 to $5,000. The higher fine was not applicable in this case," she said.

"A tenant failing to leave a forwarding address might sound like a trivial matter but for a landlord who needs to seek payment for repairs, it is vital information. The consequences of not having those details can be severe financial detriment."

Tenant damage, while not always common, is something that strikes fear into the hearts of many investors. If you are concerned about tenant damage, Margaret Lomas explains the insurances you might want to take out.

This guide on how to keep good tenants might also come in handy.

jduke@propertyobserver.com.au

Jennifer Duke

Jennifer Duke

Jennifer Duke was a property writer at Property Observer

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