North Fremantle: landlady changes locks on dying tenant

Stock image.
Stock image.

A LANDLADY who conducted renovations and changed the locks while her elderly tenant was gravely ill in hospital has been ordered to pay $11,097 in fines by Fremantle Magistrates Court.

The incident happened in February 2015.

The 87-year-old tenant, who had rented the property since 1985, died in June 2015.

Munster woman Marlene Pavlovich, a former real estate agent, was found guilty of contravening two offences under the Residential Tenancies Act.

Ms Pavlovich entered and took possession of a rental property in North Fremantle without a court order.

She changed 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, or the tenant’s power of attorney who was at work.

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 while the lease was in place and the tenant was still paying rent.

The tenant, or 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 the actions of Ms Pavlovich were opportunistic by taking advantage of the tenant being in hospital in order to undertake bathroom renovations.

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.”

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