This week’s question comes from Jessica re the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill (paraphrased):
I read somewhere that the Bill criminalises certain landlord breaches and that if we make a mistake we will become criminals. Is that true?!
Great question Jessica! That said, settle down, NO.
The Bill creates this concept of an infringement offence giving an executive body (presumably the Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team) the power
to issue landlords with infringement notices or file charging documents for specific breaches of the RTA. While these offences sit within the criminal
jurisdiction, the Bill explicitly states that, ‘… no conviction can be entered for the offence regardless of whether the offence is dealt with
by infringement notice or by filing a charging document.’ Instead, the landlord will be made to pay a fine and a fee.
Essentially we are talking about strict liability offences. This is where an act/omission that technically falls under the criminal jurisdiction
is committed. The act/omission itself is enough to attract liability (i.e. a $ penalty) and that your intention/state of mind behind the act/omission
is not relevant. These offences are dealt with quickly with the imposition of a penalty but the notice itself does not lead to a criminal conviction.
We can go on but you are not reading this to get a law degree.
Think of it this way. Speeding also falls under the criminal jurisdiction. To speed is to commit what is technically a criminal offence. But when you
are caught speeding and get an infringement notice, you are not a criminal. Oh, you still have to pay the fine but you will not be a criminal,
at least not for speeding.
For a fuller understanding of what the changes the Bill is proposing (simply because we feel that the government’s summary falls short at fully informing
the public), take a look at our latest members-only resource: The Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill – Explanatory note for landlords.
Suffice to say that we consider this a bad bill. We urge landlords and other interested parties to make a submission against the Bill before midnight Wednesday the 25th of March. APIA members are invited to
make use of our How to make a submission – a toolkit for landlords resource.