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Previous tenant’s unpaid rent

By Old_Timer - 13 December 2011 17

My little sister and her housemates are having some problems in their rental property.

The property manager says that at some stage in the past (between 2007 and 2011) one or more tenants didn’t pay enough rent, and now there’s a sum of money outstanding. The current tenants have been asked to pay the outstanding sum.

When they asked the PM to clarify the date that the payment was missed, they were told the PMs aren’t sure when it happened. All the housemates checked their bank transaction history, and confirmed they’re up to date with their fortnightly payments since they moved in.

Two of the housemates moved in fairly recently, so it seems a bit much to ask them to pay for previous tenant’s unpaid rent.  It’s not clear whether the landlord knows about the discrepancy, and the housemates don’t have his contact details. My guess is the PMs are trying to pressure the current tenants into paying so the landlord doesn’t find out about the error.

The housemates and my sister aren’t sure what to do. I suggested they ask Tenants ACT for advice, and I thought I’d see if any other riotact readers have been in a similar situation. Any advice or similar experiences to share? Can renters be made to pay money owed by previous tenants?

What’s Your opinion?


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17 Responses to
Previous tenant’s unpaid rent
I-filed 7:15 pm 13 Dec 11

Sorry, but Der! Of course they don’t have to pay someone else’s outstanding rent! They should report the property manager to his/her bosses.

HenryBG 4:22 pm 13 Dec 11

schmeah said :

Grail said :

schmeah said :

Oh don’t get me started on LiveIn Property. My partner and I were recently house hunting and one of the propoerties we were interested in was being managed through this mob. The agent never answered his phone and would call you back hours later usually late at night when normal people are in bed.

Did you complain to the agency? Which agent were you dealing with? It’s worth noting that all the property managers at LiveIn are female – the real estate agents are both guys. You’ll want to send your complaint to erik@livein.net.au – he’s the managing director.

I’m not the OP, so my rant is separate .. but I was dealing with a man and he was the property agent (i.e. he who was trying to sell a property).

Hmmm…..if the property was owned by a little old lady, perhaps he was trying to *not* sell it…..wouldn’t be the first.

schmeah 3:36 pm 13 Dec 11

Grail said :

schmeah said :

Oh don’t get me started on LiveIn Property. My partner and I were recently house hunting and one of the propoerties we were interested in was being managed through this mob. The agent never answered his phone and would call you back hours later usually late at night when normal people are in bed.

Did you complain to the agency? Which agent were you dealing with? It’s worth noting that all the property managers at LiveIn are female – the real estate agents are both guys. You’ll want to send your complaint to erik@livein.net.au – he’s the managing director.

I’m not the OP, so my rant is separate .. but I was dealing with a man and he was the property agent (i.e. he who was trying to sell a property).

Grail 3:19 pm 13 Dec 11

schmeah said :

Oh don’t get me started on LiveIn Property. My partner and I were recently house hunting and one of the propoerties we were interested in was being managed through this mob. The agent never answered his phone and would call you back hours later usually late at night when normal people are in bed.

Did you complain to the agency? Which agent were you dealing with? It’s worth noting that all the property managers at LiveIn are female – the real estate agents are both guys. You’ll want to send your complaint to erik@livein.net.au – he’s the managing director.

schmeah 2:12 pm 13 Dec 11

levelcleared said :

I recently had the same request from my property manager. Wasn’t LiveIn by any chance?

Oh don’t get me started on LiveIn Property. My partner and I were recently house hunting and one of the propoerties we were interested in was being managed through this mob. The agent never answered his phone and would call you back hours later usually late at night when normal people are in bed. Then, when we finally got him to organise an inspection for us, he didn’t even turn up. We ended up knocking on the door and this little old lady, cute as a button answered and didn’t even know there was meant to be people coming around that day. We tried calling the guy, no answer .. only a return phone call two days later .. totally hopeless.

That side-show aside, this situation sounds like balls. When you’re renting and you find a good real estate agent … stick with them forever. I recommend Wright Dunn in Ainslie and Bright Partners in Manuka.

Mothy 1:56 pm 13 Dec 11

A couple of assumptions;

* You’re talking about a share house/group tennancy.
* When you say a previous tenant, you’re referring to one member of the group.

Dropping one person off the tenancy agreement and adding another probably doesn’t break the liability chain for those who were continuous tennants.

Hence the comments about being joint and separately liable – as far as the real estate agent goes, they don’t care about how the rent was split among “the group”, only that “the group”, whomever it comprises, covers it all.

But as previous comments have said – get an itemized account. The PM should be able to provide details of when the rental arrears occurred.

And, as ever, the disclaimer is I am not a lawyer and you should seek professional advice – starting with the Tennants Union ACT.

Diggety 1:26 pm 13 Dec 11

ps0104 said :

Unless the real estate can produce a clear, written and itemised statement showing exactly when the underpayments occured and the amounts associated with each date, your sister is under no obligation to pay a cent. If this shows that the underpayments occured before the current tenants moved in (assuming the lease was updated correctly when tenants arrived/left) then it is not her problem and it is up to the real estate to pursue with the previous tenants.

It is no different to your sister calling the real estate and saying to them ‘I beleive I have overpaid at some point in the last 3 years but I’m not sure when, so please refund me $1000’. Would they cough up the cash without a truck load of evidence? Heck no!

Tell her to stand her ground.

+1.

The Property Manager should be asked for a Tenant Ledger (which must be kept by all PM’s, as I understand it).

If they can’t provide one, they’re full of you know what.

Henry82 10:38 am 13 Dec 11

ps0104 said :

Unless the real estate can produce a clear, written and itemised statement showing exactly when the underpayments occured and the amounts associated with each date, your sister is under no obligation to pay a cent. If this shows that the underpayments occured before the current tenants moved in (assuming the lease was updated correctly when tenants arrived/left) then it is not her problem and it is up to the real estate to pursue with the previous tenants.

It is no different to your sister calling the real estate and saying to them ‘I beleive I have overpaid at some point in the last 3 years but I’m not sure when, so please refund me $1000’. Would they cough up the cash without a truck load of evidence? Heck no!

Tell her to stand her ground.

+1, this sounds like a scare tactic. Stand your ground, and ask for the clear itemised statement as per above. They’re probably hoping she will pay up because its easier for them/ because they said so.

levelcleared 10:31 am 13 Dec 11

I recently had the same request from my property manager. Wasn’t LiveIn by any chance?

Old_Timer 10:27 am 13 Dec 11

Lazy I said :

Tell your sister she owes me rent too, not sure for what time period.. and I can’t prove it.. but how about we call it $500 because Christmas is getting close and I want to buy Mrs Lazy I something nice.

haha, I’ll pass that on Lazy I =)

Thanks for all your comments. If the property managers give an exact date and some documentation it’ll be a good start, then the household can work out who owes the money. Hopefully it happens soon. Right now they’ve just asked for the outstanding sum to be paid. It seems dodgy that they haven’t noticed the missing payment before now, isn;t keping track of rent payments something property managers are paid to do?

Thankyou again. I’ll send my sister to the riotact to read your feedback.

thehutch 10:12 am 13 Dec 11

Information is a little sparse (Chinese whispers i guess)… simply, if there is a joint tenancy all parties can be liable for each others actions (1 person does not pay, you are all liable). However, when one party vacates (and the lessor is reasonably aware of this) the agreement ceases. If another person moves in a new agreement starts. So the lessor could seek to recover debts from tenants at the property when the debts occurred, but not the new tenants as they did not have a contract with lessor. PM should also be reported to Fair Trading as they appear to have breached the agents act and regulations.

Lazy I 9:39 am 13 Dec 11

Tell your sister she owes me rent too, not sure for what time period.. and I can’t prove it.. but how about we call it $500 because Christmas is getting close and I want to buy Mrs Lazy I something nice.

enrique 9:21 am 13 Dec 11
dsblue55 9:16 am 13 Dec 11

Was your sister and the older housemates on the lease at the same time as those that didn’t pay enough rent?

One of the facts sheets from the Tenants Union ACT talks about joint and several liability:

—–
A liability of two or more persons so that all are liable jointly and
each is liable separately. Joint, or co-tenants have this, and what
it means in practice is that the landlord may sue one or more
of the tenants separately, or all of them together, to recover any
rent arrears or compensation for breach. The landlord has the
ability to decide who they want to hold liable.
——

So I would imagine if they were on the same lease then she and her housemates would still be liable for the unpaid rent.

That said, you’d definitely be wanting a whole heap of documentation showing when the rent wasn’t paid. Best thing is for your sister and her housemates to contact Tenants ACT so they can explain what’s required.

Best of luck to her, crappy situation to be in.

ps0104 9:07 am 13 Dec 11

Unless the real estate can produce a clear, written and itemised statement showing exactly when the underpayments occured and the amounts associated with each date, your sister is under no obligation to pay a cent. If this shows that the underpayments occured before the current tenants moved in (assuming the lease was updated correctly when tenants arrived/left) then it is not her problem and it is up to the real estate to pursue with the previous tenants.

It is no different to your sister calling the real estate and saying to them ‘I beleive I have overpaid at some point in the last 3 years but I’m not sure when, so please refund me $1000’. Would they cough up the cash without a truck load of evidence? Heck no!

Tell her to stand her ground.

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