by xu_selene  17/11/2012  867 Page Views
2 Comments  Commercial law, litigation, contracts, IP, property law
My husband and I have bought a house and have to end our fixed term tenancy agreement (signed till 6/02/2013) early. We bought house in August 2012, then we verbally notified the landlord and started looking for new tenants for him in attempt to get our bond back. In mid October 2012, we have found tenants who agreed to move in on the same day as we move out, and sign contract with the landlord directly. The date we set was 11/11/2011, the landlord agreed with it on the phone.

1 week before we moved out, the landlord sent his cousin (who manages the house for him) to check what we need to do before we move out and they saw white mark on the timber floor in the study room and three small cut on the vinyl floor in the kitchen floor. They wanted us to pay for repolishing of the whole timber floor ($350) and replacement of the vinyl floor ($1600). We felt we were being ripped off, so we sought advice from the Consumer and Business Services. We also got professional timber floor personal to assess the floor and cause of white marks. And we were told:
- We only need to pay for the repair/replacement of the area we damaged on the vinyl floor, not for the whole floor.
- The white mark on the timber floor was caused due to problem underneath the varnish, not from us, we should not pay for it.

We told the landlord what we were advised on, he refused to believe the professional floor man, stating that he has high court witness power and can overwrite any professional opinion. We were very upset and said if he insisted it, we’ll take the case to the tenancy branch to settle it. He said he’s been to the tribunal many times, and has never lost a case.

On 11/11/2012, his cousin came again to assess the house, they want to retain all of our bond plus extra. For the following:
1.     water bills ($1100 including murray river levy + sewage)
2.     repolishing the timber floor $350
3.     Â½ of the vinyl floor replacement $800
4.     $150 deposit for possible blockage in the drain because we ignorantly put engine oil into the drain.
5.     Fees to remove huge palm tree branches that have fallen off in the garden during our stay, which we have explained that there were branches piling around the tree trunk when we moved in, and we just kept piling up the branches as they fell off. The branches were 3m long and we could not clean them ourselves. They insisted to have it cleaned to the “original condition”. God knows how many branches there were when we moved in!
6.     Hire professional cleaners to clean the carpet again because of the discoloration in the high traffic area. My husband was a professional cleaner for 3 years and he hired proper machine to clean the carpet, but they do not believe him. We also explained that the discoloration was there when we moved in, but we have no evidence, we naively ticked all the boxes in the assessment sheet before we moved in.
We could not reach an agreement at the end, they left with anger and said that we’re liable for the condition of the house as well as the rent until our contract ends.

The next day, we sought advice from the Consumer and Business Service again, they suggested us to lock the key in the house with witness and write the landlord a letter to confirm that we have moved out. Her advice was based on the fact that we have found new tenants to replace us. She also suggested us to apply for our bond refund without the landlord’s signature. And we took her suggestion.

However, the new tenants told me on the phone that she didn’t want the house anymore because the landlord’s cousin was too rude to her and her family during their inspection.

Now the landlord not only wants to dispute to have all of our bond, he also wants us to continue paying rent until he has relet the house. We’ve been advised by the Consumer and Business serviced that there is no way out of a fixed term contract, and we can choose either continue to pay rent now or wait until he claims for “compensation for loss of rent”. We haven’t paid him any rent since we’ve moved out.

This case is stressing me out and I have a lot of questions in my mind:
1.     I’ve been told that he could only claim for compensation of loss of rent if he has taken reasonable steps to relet the property ASAP, so I can wait until he has shown the evidence. But I can’t stop wondering if I continue to pay rent, would this case settle down quicker and easier because this is too much stress for me. On the other hand, I don’t know when he has found a tenant and when to stop paying rent.
2.     I’m quite sure that he will take us to the tenancy tribunal, what shall I prepare for the tribunal to minimise the loss?
•     We have taken photo of the timber floor sending emails to different companies for cause of damage on timber floor. But I’m not sure if email evidence is sufficient in the tribunal.
•     We’ve taken a small piece from the left over Vinyl sheet and get quote for repair/replacement
•     We are also keeping an eye on the advertisement on rental properties to see if he has taken reasonable steps to relet the house.
•     We tried to get written statement from the tenants we found to describe what happened at the inspection day and why they decided not to move in, but they didn’t answer our sms, phone or email. I’m not surprised that she doesn’t want to be involved.
3.     The landlord has a record of suing people at court who have moved out of the house for almost a year, just to claim $3300 of damage repair and loss of rent. I don’t want that to happen. Will tribunal settle this? Is the tribunal decision final?
4.     The evidence we have now that might be beneficial to us are:
•     The water bills he gave us only has the front page, he has been dishonest about what we should be paying by regulation, according to the consumer and business services.
•     We’ve had two email replies regarding the timber floor: due to water underneath the varnish, not from our usage.
•     It cost about $600-800 to replace the whole vinyl floor in the kitchen with the same material they used.
5. Is it reasonable to raise the rent from $330 to $350/wk after 6 months of tenancy? Our first contract ended after 6 months, then he raised the rent to $350/wk when we signed the new contract. We could not argue because we were on honeymoon and there was no way that we could move out in 2 weeks. But I saw something like dispute for unreasonable raise of rent. Could it be relevant/used in our tribunal to reduce our cost?

Sorry for the very long post, I’m in desperate need of advices.