QLD Owed Arrears - Dispute through RTA/QCAT?

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16 August 2014
Good evening. I would love some legal advice to an issue that is causing me a great amount of stress.

Recently (27th July) I moved out of an apartment that I was co-renting with two women (associates) T & P. I wanted to move in with a good friend, and had grown tired of T's controlling behaviour. So I offered to let their friend, L, replace me on the lease. L moved in on the 31st of July. I thought that she would pay two weeks in advance, so before the 31st. So I only paid one week of rent on the 15th of that month. T refused to return the bond because the room had dust on the skirting boards and some shelves, but it was eventually returned to me minus $100 for cleaning. I had no concerns with this. Now, L moved in before she was approved by the real estate and owners, but T demanded I hand over the keys and swipe card. She was becoming rather demanding and histrionic, so I handed them over expecting that they would do the right thing and sign me off the lease.

Two weeks ago the real estate advised that we were in $260 arrears. I immediately thought I had made an error, and paid two weeks rent. But T went through the rental ledger and claimed that I had pocketed $388 rental money (twice) in April and May this year. I was able to provide evidence that this was not the case and cited bank deposits where I had made a large transfer to the real estate (we had an arrangement that they transfer the rent to me and then I pay a total of three person's rent - me, T & P; this was done simply to avoid complications, and I was maybe late paying once or twice, and T & P a few times). T could not work out how come we were behind in two weeks rent, and so resumed searching for evidence. Her text messages (which I still own) are becoming histrionic and accusatory.

Last week she then works out that the rent had been increased in February, 2012, but the combined total rent was $4 short of the weekly amount. This equates to 127 weeks of less than the required rent. Now, I have been at the apartment six and half years, and according to my ledger I increased my rent by $8, the other tenants at the time by $8 and $6. However, unbeknownst to any of us, we were still underpaying. Perhaps the notice of rental increase was incorrect; I cannot work out how I missed that we were underpaying. We never received a warning that we were in breach, and the payments continued smoothly. One of the housemates in 2012 moved out, and T moved in. She was advised to pay an amount, and signed the lease. A year later, another housemate moves out and P moves in. She was advised to pay an amount, and signed the lease.

Now and then we would go into arrears, but immediately make a payment. From our perspective we thought it was due to the rent money being 'out of sync'. Hence, everyone starts to transfer money into my account.

However, at no point do I or T or P notice on the signed lease (2012, 2013 and 2014) that the total weekly rent was $4 more than what we were paying. We just missed it. Had we noticed it, we would have split the difference 2, 1 & 1.

Back to last week. I had switched off my mobile as I needed a break from T's text messages. After two nights I turn it back on, and find a series of aggressive messages. Threatening to take me to small claims and the RTA, threatening not to sign me off the lease, until I pay the 127 weeks worth of $4. This amounts to $508. In good faith, I transfer $230 to the real estate. However, I issue a cease and desist email to T, as I could not deal with her texts. However, I noted that I was willing to negotiate through the real estate and ensure that the arrears issue was no longer a problem. T complies with my request. However, a week later (Friday) P sends me a formal email with an attached document noting that the 127 weeks of $4 is my problem. I have to pay the entire amount, as both her and T were not at fault for when the signed on to the lease they were told what to pay. P threatened to take me to small claims unless I pay the remaining $330. I refuse to transfer any money to the real estate in my reply, and note that when a new lease is signed it is up to the tenants to discuss the rent and to ensure we meet the required amount. My email noted that none of us were aware we were underpaying, and hence it was all of our responsibility. I then note that I have no issue if we mediate the issue through QCAT or RTA, and note that I will pay once I am provided adequate reasoning that it was my responsibility.

Now, a barrister has offered to provide legal counsel if it goes to small claims/QCAT. However, I am sick with stress and considering just transferring the $330 to end the dispute and move on in peace. My barrister noted that I am not in the wrong and that a court will not find me solely at fault. Is that correct?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Sarah J

Well-Known Member
16 July 2014
Melbourne, Victoria
Hi Wilfred,

Currently, it is L, T and P living in the property, is this correct? You were renting with T and P and moved out on July 31, whereby, L took your place, is this correct?

Are each of you renting the property individually as separate tenants or as joint tenants? Also, is L sub-letting off you or have you terminated your lease and L then entered into a separate lease with the property owner (through the real estate agent)?

How is the rent calculated on your lease agreement? Is there a specified amount $X, or is there a calculation method? How is the rent increased throughout the years? Is the increase in rent indexed each year?

Are you disputing the fact that the rent was incorrectly calculated and disputing the fact that you owe $508 (now $330) at all? Or is it that you accept the rent was incorrectly calculated but due to lack of notice etc, they should not be claiming back-pay of the missing amount now? Or are you happy to pay the full amount, just in instalments?