Trust Account Compliance when using the RTA Bulk Payment System

Journal,  Property Managers

The Queensland Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) has launched an online Bulk Bond Lodgement Web Service (bulk lodgement system) that enables agents to lodge multiple bonds and bond increases at one time, with transactions occurring through the online payment platform, ‘BPAY’.[1]  

The system seeks to provide a convenient, time-effective and efficient method by which property managers can fulfil their legislative obligations pertaining to bond lodgement, including the requirement to lodge bonds within the 10-day timeframe legislated under the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 (Qld) (RTRAA). Property managers are still able to submit bulk bond lodgements via paper, if this is preferred.[2]

Payments from Trust Accounts

The introduction of the bulk lodgement system raised concerns amongst agents in relation to payments made through the system from trust accounts.

This is because, prior to the amendment of the Agents Financial Administration Regulation 2014 (Qld) (Regulations) on 3 December 2021, property agents who used the bulk lodgement system to pay rental bond deposits from a trust account would have been unable to properly comply with their reporting obligations such as to have been exposed to penalties of up to $1,370 per transaction.

That is, the previous iteration of the Regulations required property managers to maintain a transaction report statement from the financial institution with which the trust account was held which recorded the names and numbers of accounts into which trust money was paid. However, online payment platforms like BPAY do not receipt transactions based upon account names and numbers, but rather biller codes and customer reference numbers.[3]

To support the use of the bulk lodgement system, the Queensland Government amended the Regulations.[4] Specifically, sections 14 and 16 contain amendments which now reference the payment of trust money ‘using a bill payment platform without stating an account number’ and require that the following particulars be recorded if such a platform is used:

  • the name of the person to whom the money is paid;
  • the name of the bill payment platform utilised; and
  • the unique transaction reference for the payment.[5]

These amendments came into force as of 3 December 2021 and have the effect of enabling trust money to be used to make bond payments through the bulk lodgement system (which uses BPAY).

In the interim period following the introduction of the bulk lodgement system but prior to the amendment of the Regulations, the RTA collaborated with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to provide information to customers about paying for bulk bond lodgements from trust accounts.[6] Accordingly, the OFT implemented a temporary compliance monitoring and enforcement policy (approved by the Attorney-General) in respect of the bulk lodgement system.[7]

The policy applied to property agents who hold trust accounts under the Agents Financial Administration Act 2014 (Qld) (AFAA) and who sought to use the bulk lodgement system (and the online payment platforms associated with the use of this system) to make lodgement payments from a trust account.[8] The policy introduced a temporary position in respect of sections 14 and 16 of the Regulation, providing that enforcement action would not be undertaken in relation to good faith use of the bulk lodgement system.[9]

The Importance of Compliance

The introduction of the bulk lodgement system highlighted the risks posed by the implementation of new technology which is not contemplated by the current legislation.

Agents who fail to comply with their trust accounting obligations will be exposed to penalties which are often not indemnifiable under a policy of insurance. It is therefore crucial that agents carefully consider how they may ensure their ongoing compliance with those obligations when contemplating the implementation of modernised practices (such as the use of online banking platforms) and to take early legal advice before implementing those updated processes.

References:

[1] https://www.rta.qld.gov.au/news/2021/11/18/rta-to-launch-bulk-bond-lodgement-web-service

[2] https://www.rta.qld.gov.au/news/2021/11/18/rta-to-launch-bulk-bond-lodgement-web-service

[3] https://www.publications.qld.gov.au/ckan-publications-attachments-prod/resources/22d13766-eb4a-4eff-9050-48a39b7097f7/rta-bulk-bond-lodgement-system-policy-2021.pdf?ETag=e1d5789b8f01ec3912dfaa35444d5871

[4] https://www.rta.qld.gov.au/news/2021/11/18/rta-to-launch-bulk-bond-lodgement-web-service

[5] Agents Financial Administration Regulation 2014 (Qld) ss 14, 16.

[6] https://www.rta.qld.gov.au/news/2021/11/18/rta-to-launch-bulk-bond-lodgement-web-service

[7] https://www.publications.qld.gov.au/ckan-publications-attachments-prod/resources/22d13766-eb4a-4eff-9050-48a39b7097f7/rta-bulk-bond-lodgement-system-policy-2021.pdf?ETag=e1d5789b8f01ec3912dfaa35444d5871

[8] https://www.publications.qld.gov.au/ckan-publications-attachments-prod/resources/22d13766-eb4a-4eff-9050-48a39b7097f7/rta-bulk-bond-lodgement-system-policy-2021.pdf?ETag=e1d5789b8f01ec3912dfaa35444d5871

[9] https://www.publications.qld.gov.au/ckan-publications-attachments-prod/resources/22d13766-eb4a-4eff-9050-48a39b7097f7/rta-bulk-bond-lodgement-system-policy-2021.pdf?ETag=e1d5789b8f01ec3912dfaa35444d5871

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