Monday, December 19, 2011

A morning in court

Just got back from a morning in court at VCAT (Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal).


The real estate agent from our old rental has been trying to stitch us up with claims against the bond for things like cracked windows (that were already bloody well cracked when we moved in), pest control etc.  I told ‘em to go jump or I’d see them in court.  They took me to court.  Fair enough.  Interesting place (Moorabbin Justice Centre), a mix of professional staff, members of the public on civil and minor criminal business, and an absolutely amazing set of low lives I'd more normally associate with Noble Park train station.


The magistrate was a tough old bird rather reminiscent of Judge Judy, and churned through 6 cases before mine, all REAs making claims against delinquent or eloped tenants.  She was a lot easier with the one member of the public who turned up for his case though, the professionals were definitely expected to have their act together.


When she asked me to swear myself in, I recited the oath of affirmation from memory, which got me a peer over the glasses.  I explained I was a Justice of the Peace and had thus long since memorised it, and I think I head a quiet groan from the REA at the other table.


Point 1 – cracked windows.


REA did his little song and dance and sat down.  I got up and pointed out that there was no mention of the condition of the windows in question one way or the other in the entry inspection report, and the photos were useless – too grainy to see anything, and were taken with the venetian blinds down at the time too!.  Here’s my nice, full colour, full screen closeups of the windows in question showing they were cracked at the time of occupancy, all that’s happened is the cracks have grown over time.  Here’s more photos of half a dozen other windows in the house with the exact same problem, all caused by the rotten putty allowing water entry which rusts the frames out so they swell and crack the glass.  In a moment of pure glory, the magistrate observes yes, just like that one – and points at a window in the court with temperature-related cracking.  Indeed your honour, exactly like that.


I then pointed out that the windows and progressive cracking had been discussed several times at inspections during the tenancy, none of which the REA had documented, and the beak then directed a four-letter stare at the REA for not bringing that person along to the hearing as well.


Result – claim dismissed, respondent has produced much better evidence and documentation than the claimant, who doesn’t have a leg to stand on.



Point 2 – alleged flea infestation.


REA claims fleas found at premises by new tenants only a week after entry, must have been caused by our cats, flea control quotes and invoices etc etc.


I point out that:

•             We had one flea problem two years ago that the cats got from a kennel, which was treated and eliminated.

•             The cats get treated monthly for fleas because we don’t want them in the place either, and I’d rather prevent than deal with it afterwards.

•             Every single adjoining property has pets and some of them roam onto the property.

•             We actually vacated the property a week prior to handover, so it’s 2 weeks, not 1 – rather a long time for something the size of a pinhead to go unfed.

•             The house was professionally exit cleaned and the carpets steam cleaned which would have eliminated any fleas.

•             Nothing was noted on the exit inspection.

•             The cats have been living inside for two months in the new hours with no fleas, they more often than not sleep in our walk in wardrobe.  If they were fleas, we’d notice.  I also doubt the fleas elected to stay at the old postcode.

•             If the landlord believed the fleas were due to the cats, why did he initially offer to go halves on the cost?  Or is that a way of getting me to fund a pest control for the house to deal with the spider and termite issues it has?  No your honour, I don’t see that in the documentation the REA has supplied either.  Here’s a copy of the e-mail I just happen to have handy.  Another quiet groan from the REA's table.

•             I've gotten fleas from the seat and carpet on a Jetstar plane before from whatever filthy hippie was there before me, and while I'm not disputing the prescence of the fleas, I do dispute that they had anything to do with our tenancy.


Result – REA told to GTFO, it might be a convenient solution for them to blame the fleas on me, but that doesn’t make it the fact.  REA also given a serve from the bench about being so used to just turning up and getting what they want that when a respondent turns up and represents their point of view properly, and backs it with evidence and a reasonable explanation of events, they had better lift their game if they expect to get anywhere.



Outcome – VCAT order issued discharging all claims by the claimant, and costs awarded to the claimant.  Respondent currently enjoying a celebratory glass of shiraz.

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