Profound Evil, or First World Problem?

Some of you will regard this story as utterly outrageous.

Others may perceive it as just another First World Problem…yawn.

My wife (the wonderful Kazzie) and I have an investment property in Sydney. A few months ago, we learned that the tenant was not living in the unit but was renting it out as an Air BnB. This was absolutely not allowed under the lease (nor the property by-laws).

Our first instinct was to evict the tenant immediately, but upon being contacted he swore he did not know such behaviour was illegal and promised (cross his heart) not to do it again.

Against our better judgment, we allowed the tenant to stay.

A week ago, we attended at the apartment for a routine inspection and our suspicions were aroused immediately. There were a number of indications that the property was not being used by a couple – as per the tenancy agreement. The main indicator being four beds stuffed into a one bedroom apartment.

Then the clincher. Sitting on a shelf, in plain view, was a Retail Tenancy Agreement executed by our tenant – as landlord – covering the period from March to August – with two strangers signing the lease as tenants.

The rent our tenant was charging these strangers was slightly more than double what we were charging him.

This is fraud.

It is fraud to pretend to be a landlord for premises which you do not own or have agreement in writing from the owner to sublet.

That much ought to be fairly clear. And yet, when we said to our property manager that we wanted the tenant evicted immediately, she said we couldn’t do it. What’s more, she contacted the Real Estate Institute (REI) who told her we could not evict the tenant due to the new COVID 19 provisions in the Residential Tenancies Act (NSW).

On what bizarro world planet is this reasonable?

I told the property manager that there were exceptions to the COVID protections, including that an eviction notice can be issued where it is reasonable to do so, including where premises have been used for an illegal purpose (such as fraud).

On top of that, surely the COVID protections are to protect people actually staying at the premises – to keep a roof over their heads during a period of hardship.

Our tenant is not staying at the premises! He has illegally and fraudulently sublet the premises to others (possibly four others in a one bedroom flat) and yet the advice of the Real Estate Institute is that he cannot be evicted in less than 90 days!

How on earth can that advice be correct?

I know that the Residential Tenancies Act (especially during the COVID crisis) is heavily geared towards the rights of tenants. I have no problem with that.

But I have a massive problem with legislation that rewards fraud!

Is the government seriously telling me that our tenant is allowed to commit fraud and that, if he does, they will protect him?

That can’t possibly be right and yet it is the advice of both our property manager and the Real Estate Institute.

As I said at the start, some will not give a rat’s about my First World Problem, but if you agree that this situation is utterly ridiculous – even a complete abdication of judgment and reason by the state government (OR the Real Estate Institute), then please share this story and tell the idiots in charge what you think.

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