Tenants charged to pay the rent

DEBATE has erupted over the costs faced by some of Wagga’s tenants just for paying the rent.

Some tenants have been charged nearly an extra $100 a year on top of rent, or $1.60 each time the weekly rent payment is debited directly, often through a third-party business.

The NSW Department of Fair Trading specifies renters need to have access to at least one, fee-free method of paying their rent.

NSW Tenants Union senior policy officer Ned Cutcher said renters should be contacting Fair Trading NSW if they were not.

Mr Cutcher said in a previous version of the Tenant’s Act, a lack of fee-free payment options were quite common leading to changes in 2010 enforcing the at least one option for renters.

“It became such a problem because there were companies being set-up to handle direct debit payments,” Mr Cutcher said.

“If they want to use that kind of system, that’s fine, some people will be happy, but they shouldn’t be forced to.

“Once you’ve entered into a tenancy agreement, it can be difficult to get out of.

“If someone’s running a rental book of 200 properties its quite a nice little earner for them,” Mr Cutcher said.

Wagga Property Management director Dave Skow said there were advantages and disadvantages for using a third-party businesses to collect rent.

“It’s a lot easier to keep arrears at a minimal level,” Mr Skow said.

“From a risk management point of view, insurance companies look very poorly on receiving cash.

“Even from an insurers point of view, it reduces the risk from theft, both internally and externally.

“There’s not many benefits to the tenant, but it’s advantageous for the owner and agency.”

Mr Skow said it meant property owners received a regular stream of money.

“Agencies are doing less work through reconciliation and chasing tenants for arrears,” he said.

“The cost should be borne by those receiving the benefit.”

Mr Skow said all of Wagga Property Management’s tenants paid straight into a trust account using internet banking services while others paid cash through the branch office.

“We make contact with tenants as soon as they’re a day late.”

Tenants can seek advice from the Tenants Union from their website or by calling 1300 483 786.

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