Abraham & Issac Stone were two of four occupants of a home at Thornycroft Street, Tarragindi rented by Mark & Lorraine Briggs.
Together with Jack Persson and Mark Thomas, they signed a tenancy agreement from August to November 2012 at a rental of $720/fortnight and paid a $1,440 bond.
The arrangement in practice required each of the four student tenants to pay $90/week to make up the overall rent payable.
The agreement also specified each tenant was to pay ‘1/5 of bill’. It turned out the fifth person residing at the premises was Indus Briggs, the owners’ son.
The Stones continued in occupation up to May 2014 with Persson and Thomas departing much earlier. Other students came and went from time to time and for the latter periods there were often fewer than five in occupation.
When the Stones claimed their share of bond of $720 on leaving the home, the Briggs demanded rental arrears and the cost of repairs, rubbish removal totalling nearly $12k.
This was on the basis that each tenant – they claimed – had a responsibility to ensure the total rent paid each week was $360.
When the matter came before the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT), member John Bertelsen had to decide whether all four of the original tenants were liable for rent for the whole of the tenancy through to May 2014.
If that were the case there was clearly a shortfall in rent paid given the total due under that scenario was $32.5k and the total received $23k,a deficiency of $9.5k.
But judge Bertelsen considered that not to be the case because the initial four were required to pay $90/week for occupancy of a room each and “the tenancy was clearly room by room student accommodation”.
Thomas and Persson were refunded their share of the bond – $360 each – when they departed in 2012.
In fact the owners continued to accept $90/week from Issac and Abraham for the duration of the tenancy and from one of the “various persons (at least six) who came and went during the course of the tenancy”.
The tribunal noted that the owners’ demand for arrears of rent “only appears to have come about in response to Issac and Stone’s application for the remainder of the bond to be paid to them”.
The tribunal also dismissed their assertion that one of the later occupants, Kelly Matthews, was a “subtenant” of the Stones. She was after all the girlfriend of the Briggs’ son, Indus.
The court ordered the Stones be returned their share of the bond less a small deduction for a broken window.