A landlady who entered a rental property illegally to conduct renovations and change the locks while the elderly tenant was in hospital has been convicted and ordered to pay $11,907 in fines and costs by the Fremantle Magistrates Court.
Marlene Ruzica Pavlovich of Munster, who is a former real estate sales representative, was found guilty on 30 June 2017 of contravening 2 offences under the Residential Tenancies Act by entering and taking possession of a rental property in North Fremantle without a court order and changing the locks without the consent of the tenant and without a reasonable excuse. Ms Pavlovich was convicted of those offences, fined $3,000 and ordered to pay $8,907 in costs.
In February 2015, Ms Pavlovich had contacted the tenant’s power of attorney to organise a viewing of the property by prospective buyers and to undertake bathroom renovations. No consent was given by the tenant, who was very ill and in hospital at the time, nor the tenant’s power of attorney who was at work on the nominated date.
Despite the tenant’s refusal, Ms Pavlovich organised for the locks to be changed and illegally took over possession of the property to carry out extensive renovations whilst the lease was in place and the tenant was still paying rent.
Because of the illegal actions by Ms Pavlovich in changing the locks without the knowledge or agreement of the tenant, neither the tenant nor her power of attorney could access the property to recover personal belongings such as clothes and medication. An application to the Magistrates Court had to be made by the tenant’s power of attorney for access to the property.
Consumer Protection lawyers told the Court that the actions of Ms Pavlovich were opportunistic by taking advantage of the tenant being in hospital in order to undertake bathroom renovations. Ms Pavlovich’s illegal actions caused unnecessary stress, inconvenience and expense for the 87 year old tenant who had to purchase personal belongings such as nightwear and medications as a result of not being able to access her rental property.
Very sadly, the elderly tenant who had rented the property since 1985 died in June 2015.
Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said this case demonstrated the necessity of the strict laws governing the owner’s access to a rental property.
“The laws which control a property owner’s ability to access the property while it is subject to a tenancy agreement are necessary in order to give the tenant peace of mind and allow them quiet enjoyment of their rented home without undue harassment by the owner,” Mr Hillyard said.
“Being a former real estate sales representative, the landlady in this case had no excuse for not knowing or following the laws that apply in these circumstances and, by breaking the rules, she has caused unnecessary stress and inconvenience to an ill elderly tenant and her carers.
“All owners of rental properties and their agents are required to know the tenancy laws that apply in WA and ensure that they are followed without exception.”
Information on tenancy laws can be found on the Consumer Protection website: www.dmirs.wa.gov.au/consumer-protection and enquires can be made by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1300 30 40 54.