The occupiers of a Gladstone rental who permitted a dog and two cats to enter their home contrary to an express requirement they be kept outdoors, have appealed against an order they pay $900 for housecleaning when the entry condition report recorded the home was in a “dirty” state at the outset.

Kay Christiansen and John LaFave contested a magistrate’s finding that “there was animal hair throughout the property” and argued that evidence from cleaner “Mr Choy” to that effect, was false.

Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) Deputy President Peta Stilgoe – in deciding their appeal – ruled an entry condition report is not “incontestable evidence” of the relative state of cleanliness of a tenancy at its conclusion.

And given the cleaner’s evidence and the admission that animals were permitted inside from time to time, she was “not persuaded the learned magistrate was in error”.

To add insult to injury, the magistrate sitting at first instance had also allowed landlord Wendy Westbrook a further sum for the cost of mowing when they vacated, which by coincidence was also $900.

“Such a high cost did not accord with experience or common sense,” the tenants contended to further their case that the mowing cost was unsustainable.

While being dubious that the magistrate’s experience included knowledge of prevailing landscaping rates in Gladstone or Calliope, judge Stilgoe ruled “there was other evidence on which he could decide that Ms Westbrook had paid $900 for lawnmowing”. Presumably she had obtained a receipt for that sum.

The tribunal also dismissed the tenants’ allegation of bias ruling “there is no reasonably arguable case that the magistrate was in error” despite the fact that there had been some antipathy between them on the original hearing.

Leave to appeal was refused and the tenants must pay another $900 in addition to the bond that they had forfeited.

Christiansen & Anor v Westbrook [2015] QCATA 044 (Acting) Deputy President Stilgoe OAM 19/01/2015


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