A landlord whose $5k bond claim included $75 for lights globes he argued his tenant somehow “left burning” for six months after she vacated until he replaced them, has been rebuked by a court for including discriminatory and unlawful conditions in his leases.

unlawfulDeborah Alexander – who resided in the home with her children – took the precaution at the start of her tenancy of entering on the entry condition report that the dirty, broken and marked state of the carpets, blinds and walls.

But not having signed the report, landlord Martin Burrell was able to dispute those allegations when it came time to decide how much of the family’s bond need be returned to them.

The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal considered various items he claimed. As to carpet, “it was not in a good state of repair” at the start and given Alexander cleaned it on exit – a claim supported by her children and the landlord’s real estate agent – senior member Peta Stilgoe concluded, “the evidence could not support a finding that Ms Alexander left the carpet it worse condition than she found it”.

Burrell also argued – and Alexander disputed – damage to walls necessitated a re-paint which he performed at a “labour cost of $800”.

While agreeing a person is entitled to be reimbursed for the cost of his or her own labour, the tribunal rejected the claim – except for the cost of paint – due to the absence of evidence of the extent of damage or the re-painting performed; or any breakdown of the labour said to have been performed.

His $75 claim for “replacing lights and globes” – because Alexander somehow left them “burning” after she vacated the premises and turned the power off at the mains – and which he replaced more than six months after she departed, was rejected out of hand.

On the side of the ledger, his $420 labour claim “for odd jobs” – because “they were the sort of jobs that often occurred at the end of a tenancy and there was some evidence to support the claim” – and a small sum for blind repairs, were approved.

Judge Stilgoe reflected that it was “somewhat surprising” that Burrell – who told the tribunal he had been renting out residential properties for 40 years – would annex to the standard tenancy agreement 21 pages of special conditions “some of which are discriminatory, others contrary to law and may attract a penalty; and some a statement of his personal philosophy on life”.

“No tenant should be asked to sign a document in this form,” she observed. “Mr Burrell would do well to take proper advice about the legitimacy of his tenancy agreements”.

Alexander v Burrell [2016] QCATA 041 Senior Member Stilgoe OAM published 08/06/2016


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