UniLodge Australia Pty Ltd will pay almost $90, 000 to the Residential Tenancies Fund and Victorian Consumer Law Fund following an investigation which found its A’Beckett St location breached tenancy and consumer laws.
The investigation began after a complaint from a resident in November 2014, alleging that residents were asked to pay their bonds directly to UniLodge instead of to the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RBTA).
The complaint alleged that UniLodge told students it did not lodge bonds with the RBTA for the A’Beckett St property that holds 109 hostel beds and 77 self-serviced apartments.
CAV also found that occupancy agreements provided by UniLodge “contained some terms which misrepresented the rights and remedies that were available to the company and to tenants of the property”.
The terms included UniLodge having unrestricted access to rooms or apartments while a student was leasing them, although the document also stated “no tenant suffered a disadvantage by the use of the occupancy agreements”.
UniLodge said it incorrectly thought it was exempt from the RTA because its building was associated with an educational institution before it was purchased.
CAV has since received a formal pledge from UniLodge stating that it will contribute $47,024.90 to the Residential Tenancies Fund within 60 days from the date the formal pledge was made.
The sum equates to a repayment of all interest on bonds earned by UniLodge from July 9, 2008 when it first acquired the property until February 20, 2015 when it first became aware of its violations.
UniLodge has also promised to contribute an additional $40,000 to the Victorian Consumer Law Fund “to address its failure to comply with consumer and tenancy laws”, also within 60 days.
CBD News contacted UniLodge for comment and received the following statement from UniLodge Chief Executive Officer, Peter Bates.
“The circumstance at UniLodge on A’Beckett property which has been reported, arose due to the property being operated by UniLodge under the presumption of an exemption to the RTA because of a formal affiliation of the property with an education institution.”
“It was found by CAV that this exemption did not apply and in fact RTA documentation and practices should have been used, among them the lodgement of bond money with the bond authority and use of RTA template lease agreements.”
“UniLodge confirms that at no time were tenants’ rights compromised in any way and were in fact respected, including the treatment of bond money.”