Media Release: Brisbane Renters Alliance Launch Party

29 June, 2018

Brisbane City Councillor Jonathan Sri will name and shame a local real estate agent tomorrow during the launch party of the Brisbane Renters Alliance.

Brisbane Renters Alliance (BRA) is a new community group pushing for government policy change to ensure greater stability for renters, and will also apply direct pressure on landlords and real estate agents to deliver a higher quality of service to tenants.

BRA is calling for government-imposed limits on how much rents can rise by, and for a ‘right to remain’ so that tenants who have been paying their rent on time are entitled to have their lease renewed unless the landlord wants to move into the property themselves.

Councillor Sri says existing laws to protect tenants are insufficient. “Most tenants are too scared to lodge complaints with the Residential Tenancies Authority or the Office of Fair Trading because it’s too easy for a landlord or real estate agent to take revenge by refusing to renew a lease or blacklisting you. Why would you risk making a complaint about someone who has the power to make you homeless?”

“The recently released Australian Homelessness Monitor report shows that homelessness in Brisbane has increased by 32% since 2011. Queensland’s weak protection of renters’ rights is a key factor behind people becoming homeless, as well as a major barrier to getting off the street and back into housing – we need to change this,” Councillor Sri says.

“This doesn’t need to be a tenants vs landlords debate. When tenants have greater long-term stability, they tend to take better care of their home and build stronger connections with the broader community, which is in everyone’s interests.”

“The way our property market is currently structured, a lot of people are going to be stuck renting for a lifetime, so we need to change our rental law framework to ensure people can lead happy, stable lives even if they don’t own property.”

Mark (surname withheld), a West End resident and an organiser with Brisbane Renters Alliance, says that not all real estate agents are bad people, but that tenants need more info about which ones they should avoid. “In any other industry, if a business is behaving badly they will quickly lose customers, but many tenants are too scared to publicly criticise their real estate agent because that agent can make your life miserable by blacklisting you maliciously and making it harder to rent in future.”

“We are calling on the State Government to rectify the power imbalance between tenants and landlords, by making it harder for landlords and agents to end a tenancy for no reason. If you’ve been paying your rent on time and complying with your lease conditions, they shouldn’t be able to refuse to renew your lease just because you had the audacity to ask for basic maintenance and repairs,” Mark says.

The Brisbane Renters Alliance launch party kicks off at 6:30pm on Saturday, 30 June at Kurilpa Hall on Boundary St in West End, and will feature live bands, DJs, performance poetry and a free vegetarian BBQ. Facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/208873889726629/

Councillor Sri will name and shame a Highgate Hill real estate agent during the event, and says he has already reached out privately to the agent on multiple occasions to discuss complaints.

 

“I’ve heard from a lot of tenants who are too scared to speak out, so I’m standing up on their behalf. Hopefully this will help prompt a change of behaviour and the Brisbane Renters Alliance will feel comfortable removing the agency from their wall of shame sometime in the future. But for now, my advice to the thirty thousand renters in my electorate is: don’t rent from these guys.”

For further comments, contact Jonathan Sri on 3403 2165.

 

The draft text of Councillor Sri’s name and shame statement can be found below with the real estate agent’s name removed.


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Earlier this year, I published an explanation of why I’ve decided to name and shame real estates who I believe are unnecessarily making life more stressful for tenants who are trying to do the right thing.

Based on conversations with dozens of local residents who’ve had him as an agent, I’ve formed the opinion that ___ of ___ does not prioritise the best interests of his tenants, and is not someone that I personally would want to rent a property through (either as a tenant or an owner).

___ is currently the principal agent of the ___ franchise at Highgate Hill. While I believe his negative attitude towards tenants probably influences the culture of the other staff at ___, this statement should not be understood as a criticism of other ___ agencies around Brisbane, and specifically relates to _____ at Highgate Hill.

Before publishing this statement, on 13 June, 2018, I called and emailed ____ to seek a face-to-face meeting, but found him to be dismissive and unwilling to meet with me. I have called him previously about specific tenancy complaints and received a similar response. Brisbane Renters Alliance also emailed ____ and received a similarly dismissive reply, telling them that it was none of their business.

I’ve been struck by how many current and former tenants of ____ say they have had negative experiences with him, and I believe those negative complaints are not outliers, but are indicative of a broader pattern of disrespect towards tenants. There are several more negative online reviews of this real estate agency, and I’ve found that he is quite notorious among local renters for patterns of behaviour which I would personally describe as bullying.

I have formed the opinion that for various properties under his management, ___ has:

- failed to respond to tenants’ reasonable property maintenance requests in a timely manner

- visited rental properties or sent staff or contractors to rental properties without notifying tenants in advance

- pressured tenants not to have guests over for more than three nights

- issued Form 11 Notices to Remedy Breach about minor issues in circumstances where such a notice was not necessary

- blacklisted a tenant in circumstances which I believe to be unreasonable

I am sure there will be some tenants who have had positive experiences with this agency. However the general impression I’ve formed is that ____ mainly cares about maintaining positive relationships with the owners/landlords, and feels that his duty is to stick up for their interests rather than the tenants’. In the long-term though, this approach is not necessarily good for landlords either, because when tenants have hostile relationships with their real estate agent and feel they could be kicked out at any time, they may be less likely to respect and take care of the home.

My personal opinion and my advice to all Brisbane residents is that you should not allow ___ to manage your property, and you should not rent your home through ____.