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Tenancy and housing

Before tenancy

Do I have any legal protection as a tenant?

Different types of tenancy are protected under different laws in Queensland.

  • The Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 protects people:
    • renting houses, flats, units, townhouses and in caravan parks and caravan park sites, and manufactured homes and house boats
    • renting a room in a boarding house or hostel
    • in off campus student accommodation, government run accommodation or accommodation provided by an employer
    • residing in hospitals, nursing homes or retirement villages as part of their employment.

If you are living in accommodation on campus, this act protects you with rules about bonds.

  • The Retirement Villages Act 1999 regulates accommodation in retirement villages.
  • People who own manufactured homes in a manufactured home park are governed by the Manufactured Homes Act.
  • Residential services such as hospital accommodation for nurses, university colleges, aged rental complexes, hostels and boarding houses are governed by the Residential Services (Accreditation) Act 2002 (QLD) and Residential Services (Accommodation) Act 2002 (QLD).
  • Other types of tenancy such as boarding in a private home or holiday rentals of less than six weeks are not covered by an act. They are governed by the contract you signed and if disputes arise you should get legal advice.

Am I a tenant or a boarder?

If you rent a room or part of a house from the owner or a tenant, but are not yourself a tenant then you are a boarder or lodger. It is sometimes difficult to work out if you are a tenant or not, but you are likely to be a boarder/lodger if you share bathroom and toilet and cooking facilities and if the money you pay includes food. If there is doubt about your status you should get legal advice as private boarders are not protected by the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act or any other act.

During tenancy

Where do I go if I have a dispute about a tenancy?

  • Tenancy information and advice and all specific queries should be directed to the Residential Tenancies Authority in the first instance. If the Authority is unable to assist, then you should get legal advice from Tenants Queensland.
  • Tenancy disputes that cannot be resolved may go to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT). Application to QCAT is only available if you have followed their three step process or your matter is urgent.
  • A register of retirement villages is maintained at the Office of Fair Trading and has details of all approved retirement village schemes. Complaints can be made to this office.

How do I get blacklisted?

TICA maintains a list of tenants who have defaulted in their obligations.

Before you can be listed on the register you must be named on the lease and the lease agreement must be terminated.

You can be listed if your tenancy agreement has been terminated by the tribunal for objectionable behaviour or repeated breaches or you owe an amount greater than the rental bond for one of the following reasons:

  • you were given a notice to remedy breach for arrears of rent, which the you failed to remedy
  • you have not paid within the appropriate time the amount owing under an order of the tribunal or under an agreement made at a conciliation conference
  • you have abandoned the dwelling with the money still owing.

Before you can be listed on the register, the person or agency listing you must have advised you in writing of the proposed listing or taken reasonable steps to advise you and given you reasonable time to review the information.

What can I do about a listing?

Within six months of becoming aware of a proposed or existing listing you can:

  • Talk to the person or agency doing the listing and try to reach an agreement.
  • See Residential Tenancies Authority Dispute Resolution Service to try and negotiate an agreement.
  • Apply to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) to order the person not to list, to change (vary) or delete the listing. The tribunal will make an order where:
    • the information in the database is incorrect or misleading
    • it is unjust in all the circumstances eg you were in hospital or you were a victim of violence.

You can get assistance from Tenants Queensland.

After renting

What happens to my belongings if I leave them with my landlord when I leave?

If you finish your rental agreement and leave your belongings with your landlord the Residential Tenancies Act allows the landlord to sell them or throw them away if they are worth less than $1500, they are unsafe or the cost of removing and storing and selling them would be more than they are worth.

If that does not apply, then the landlord must store the belongings safely for one month or if they relate to a caravan for three months. If the goods have not been reclaimed at the end of that time the landlord may sell the goods by auction or get an order from the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal to sell them or throw the goods away.

What if I leave documents or money with the landlord?

If you finish your rental agreement and leave documents or money with your landlord, the landlord must either return the documents or money to you or give it to the Public Trustee. It is an offence not to do this.

Can I sell or throw away a friend's or flatmate's belongings if they won't take them away?

When someone leaves their belongings with you this is called bailment. The law of bailment says that you have an obligation that you must take reasonable care of the goods and not do anything to damage them or take them from the owner.

If you get rid of someone's belongings you may find that you are responsible to the owner of the belongings for their value, or perhaps even to a charge of theft. There is no quick and easy way to apply to the court to determine ownership or to get an order to get rid of the belongings. This is particularly a problem when the goods are of little or no value.

If you have somebody's goods who is refusing to come and get them, legally you will be responsible for the goods unless you reach an agreement with the owner. You should get legal advice about your options.

How long can I be pursued for outstanding rent?

Six years from the date the rent is outstanding.

What do I do if I have problems with a tenancy of the Department of Housing?

The Department of Housing (sometimes referred to as the Housing Commission) provides access to secure, affordable and appropriate housing for people who meet the necessary criteria.

If you have problems with public housing tenants (whether or not you are yourself a public housing tenant) you may lodge a complaint with the Department. The Department may need a petition signed by several other people and/or a Peace and Good Behaviour order to consider the complaint.

The Department has similar rights to other landlords and may evict a person who failed to pay their rent. The Department may be willing to enter into an arrangement which allows you to stay in the property if there is a reasonable excuse for not paying and it is likely that you will be able to pay again in the future. You should contact the department immediately if you cannot pay your rent and see if you can come to an arrangement.

If you are not happy with a decision of the department:

  • You need to contact the department to discuss it.
  • If you are still not happy, most decisions made by the Department can be appealed internally by a senior officer. You should lodge your appeal within 28 days of the decision being made. In exceptional circumstances an appeal can be accepted outside this timeframe.
  • If the appeal is unsuccessful a complaint can be made to the Minister for Housing and Public Works or the Queensland Ombudsman

Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if you

  • are having a dispute about a tenancy and the Residential Tenancy Authority is unable to assist
  • have questions about a commercial tenancy
  • have a dispute with another tenant or flatmate and are considering going to court to resolve it.

Get legal advice

Legal Aid Queensland cannot provide legal advice to landlords or provide advice on commercial tenancy.
We may provide general advice to tenants about residential tenancies.

Legal Aid Queensland cannot provide specialist advice on tenancy matters, but can refer you to the following services who may help:

Tenants Queensland provides free specialist legal advice and assistance for tenants regarding residential tenancies in Queensland. Tenants Queensland also provide free information kits and factsheets.

Caxton Legal Centre - Park and Village Information Link (PAVIL) provides legal information, advice, assistance and referrals to residents and prospective residents who have purchased into a retirement village and or have purchased a manufactured home which is in a manufactured home park in Queensland. The do not provide advice about disputes relating to caravan park tenancies.

Tenants Queensland - Caravans and Manufactured Homes provides advice and advocacy to carvan park tenants and manufactured homes residents.

LawRight Self Representation Service (QCAT) provides legal advice and assistance at QCAT about residential tenancies, retirement villages, manufactured homes and resolving disputes. May assist with drafting documents related to QCAT tenancy matters. Eligibility requirements apply. They do not provide representation.

Gold Coast Legal Centre and Advice Bureau gives legal advice to both landlords and tenants in relation to rent owing, notice to leave, breach of lease, bond disputes and general duties and responsibilities of tenants and landlords.

Queensland Law Society can refer you to a private solicitor who can advise tenants and landlords on residential or commercial tenancies.

Who else can help?

The following organisations may also help you with your tenancy problem. They do not provide legal advice.

Residential Tenancy Authority provides information to all tenants, lessors, agents, residents and service providers in Queensland, and also provides additional services including a dispute resolution service.

TICA maintains a list of tenants who have defaulted in their obligation.

Department of Housing and Public Works provide retirement village services, including information about types and lists of retirement villages, dispute resolution and general information for residents and potential residents.

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