Advice and Opinion

HOME OWNERS ASSOCIATION FINES CAN ADD GREATLY TO LANDLORDS’ PROBLEMS 

The importance of checking every aspect of a prospective tenant’s credit and other records has to be done even more thoroughly if the rented property is in a well-managed scheme or estate with an active body corporate or a vigilant home owners association, says Tony Clarke, Managing Director of the Rawson Property Group. 

“Body corporates and home owners associations,” he said, “these days have the legal right to impose fines on members or owners when the occupant of the unit has in some way or other, to put it in its broadest terms, ‘let down the standards’ of the scheme or the estate as a whole.”

This ‘letting down’, said Clarke, can involve fairly simple issues such as not maintaining the unit satisfactorily, e.g. allowing blocked drains to remain that way or leaving broken windows unrepaired, but it can also involve the tenant’s behaviour.  Partying in a noisy way late into the night, playing music too loud or even insulting other residents or the staff can lay the landlord open to fines – even though he is not the culprit.

“If in the tenant’s previous tenancies at other rented properties there is even so much as a hint of irresponsibility or if his employment record is in any way patchy, these should be taken as warning signs,” said Clarke.

He had, he said, come across cases where, sometimes following the loss of a job by one or both of the couple occupying the unit, everything else fell apart.
 
“We have seen holes burned in carpets, electrical networks completely wrecked, toilets rendered dysfunctional and pets allowed to wander wherever they like.”

In these cases, said Clarke, the landlord on whom the fine is levied can of course, by law, claim from the tenant, but the chances are that the sort of tenant behaving in this way will also be the one to default on his rental payments and will not acknowledge any claims of this sort.

“In eight cases out of ten,” said Clarke, “these fines will, in our experience, be paid by the unit owner, who will then not be compensated for his outlay by the tenant later.  In six cases out of ten this sort of behaviour eventually leads to the tenant having to be evicted, a long and costly process, which again all too often is complemented by the rental in the eviction period not being paid.”