Promoting and protecting the rights and lifestyles
of unit-owners in Queensland since 1978
There was a recent decision from the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) which may be of considerable interest to unit owners in Queensland, especially those who have short-term letting arrangements with letting managers. It certainly will be exciting their interest.
The matter involved a real estate agent who had a contract with unit owners, in a Gold Coast resort, to provide property letting services under a PAMDA Form 20a.
The question to be decided by QCAT concerned whether the letting agent was liable to disciplinary action for illegally retaining a reward exceeding the amount stated in the prescribed PAMDA Form 20a.
The alleged secretly retained rewards involved:
It was claimed the illegal rewards arose because, although the agreed fees for cleaning and for Foxtel access were correctly stated/disclosed in the Form 20a, the letting agent’s actual costs for cleaning and for Foxtel access were sometimes less than the fees charged to the owners. For example, the letting agent may have charged $64.90 for a ‘One Bedroom Clean’, but only paid the cleaners $30.00…yielding a net profit of $34.90 per clean. Similarly, while Foxtel may have charged the letting agent only $55.00 per unit per month, the letting agent may have charged each lot owner $84.80 per month ie providing the letting agent with a net profit of $29.80 per unit per month.
Regarding the WOTIF-sourced tenants, the claims of illegal rewards concerned an alleged practice of calculating the letting agent’s commission on the gross amount paid to WOTIF, rather than net amount after deducting WOTIF’s up-front commission.
The charges were originally heard by an occupation regulation tribunal.
The Tribunal Member ruled the excess charges were not illegal, and therefore the letting agent was not liable for disciplinary action in relation to these particular charges… see: Chief Executive, Department of Justice and Attorney General v Peterson Management Services Pty Ltd  QCAT 473.
An appeal was then lodged with QCAT, on a point of law.
The Appeal Tribunal (Justice Carmody and Member Dr Forbes) found against the letting agent, ruling that there had been disciplinary breaches regarding all three matters ie the undisclosed rewards were illegal.
Accordingly, the Appeal Tribunal remitted the proceedings back to the occupation regulation tribunal, for determination of appropriate sanctions, rulings on costs etc. See: Chief Executive, Department of Justice and Attorney General v Peterson Management Services Pty Ltd  QCATA 163.