Okay, here’s my VCAT story.
Several years ago, my father went into hospital following an accident. There were complications, and he was there for quite a few weeks. Eventually it became apparent that things had changed permanently: he was getting old (older than ever before!) and would no longer be able to live on his own in his flat in Brunswick. We found him a place in what is called an Independent Living Unit, which basically involves having your own small flat in a complex where there is someone around all the time to call on for help if you need it.
Since I was managing his affairs at the time, it fell on me to sort out the move. I had been managing the rental payments, and the lease on the flat was almost up, so in December (1999 I think — my memory is admittedly hazy), with the rent cheque I slipped in a note to say the lease would not be continued beyond January. Plenty of notice as per the laws, all cool.
Dad’s stuff was moved out, and the place cleaned. Well, cleaned a bit. It was a bit of a pigsty, and by the end of it wasn’t exactly in pristine condition. Oh well. At some stage I must have dropped in the key, and expected to hear back about the condition report and bond.
But instead come January, I got a call from the agent asking why the rent hadn’t been paid. I said I’d given notice. He said no I hadn’t. I said yes I had.
Eventually things got underway properly to finish the lease, but they decided to go to VCAT to claim part of the bond: for loss of rent due to notice not given, and for damage to the front door lock and the blinds. They didn’t seem concerned about the cleanliness of the place since they intended to renovate.
I did a bit of digging through my records, and found a copy of the letter to end the lease, and also my bank statements showing that although I hadn’t sent the letter by registered post like I should have, they had obviously received it since they cashed the cheque that accompanied the letter.
I didn’t quite know what to expect at the VCAT hearing, so I was a little nervous beforehand. Mr Tribunal Dude was very straightforward, no crap, almost brusque in his businesslike approach. He quizzed me on the lack of registered post, but I pointed out the cheque had been cashed. The agent claimed they had received the cheque but the letter wasn’t in the envelope. Uh huh. Mr Tribunal Dude took one look at the letter and said “Well this seems pretty clear” and promptly threw out the claim for lost rent.
The front door and blinds claims were partially upheld, but since I knew nothing about what condition the place had been in before dad moved in, I wasn’t in a position to fight that. I was just happy that they’d lost on the main point of contention.
My conclusion then, as on Wednesday with Tony & Rae’s hearing, is that VCAT seems to work quite well. They do see through the crap (wherever it comes from) and in these two cases, came to a satisfactory conclusion.
And my opinion on real estate agents? Well these guys (Nelson Alexander of Brunswick) were incompetent. They’d obviously mislaid the letter terminating the lease in their eagerness to pull the cheque out of the envelope, then tried to cover it up, and go chasing after an old sick man for some money. Like any industry, real estate is full of good and bad people. People like these help give the industry a reputation for the bad. My current mob (Wilson Pride, Caulfield) have been good so far, and hopefully will continue to be.