How are Renters Affected by Kolmeo and other Third Party Apps?
Skirting of responsibility of Real Estate agents
Unnecessary complications of the renter-real estate agent arrangement;
Operation of a private tenancy outside the bounds of the Residential Tenancies Act.
As renters we don’t really care how the job of an REA is done as long as it is done
professionally. It is of no concern to us if the REA wants to use some kind of platform service to manage their workload.
Third party apps like Kolmeo presents no useful or new services to tenants.
It is fairly clear that this is a service aimed at property managers, with landlords as a secondary target, maintenance services (like electricians) as an aspirational target, and renters as an afterthought, despite the fact that all of the money comes from us.
We are concerned that renters have been presented with this third-party rental payments platform and told that we must sign up to it.
This activity is outside the Residential Tenancy Agreement (Victorian renting legislation, the Terms are limited to Vic law in s.23(c)). Agreeing to use this platform is also an agreement to use the platforms upon which Kolmeo depends. Trawling through all of this material and fully understanding its implications is beyond the capacity of any renter alone.
The REAs present the switch to the new system as being mandatory. This is not the case and is in violation of the rent payment terms as specified in the lease.
Privacy & data collection
Kolmeo, to the “maximum extent permitted by law,” is not liable if it leaks your data, de-identified or not.
In section 12 (3) (c) (iii) Kolmeo has anyone who agrees to the Terms waive their right for Kolmeo’s Hosting Service Provider to obey relevant Australian privacy laws. To state this more plainly, by using Kolmeo’s service you waive your privacy rights to your personal information. The Hosting Service Provider is currently Microsoft hosting on Australian servers, but can change at any time, and your data can be moved offshore.
As it stands, Kolmeo are waiving BPAY fees. Other platform providers require fees for every transaction. If renters are forced to use direct debit to pay rent, the more vulnerable of us will incur bank fees for dishonour of rental payments. This is despite the changes to the RTA in March 2021 to allow 4 instances of arrears per year with no fault. The payment gateway provider Zai, on which Kolmeo depends, is explicit about the use of ‘pull’ payments like direct debit in this blog post here.
Different platforms use different fees. ‘Rental Rewards’ seems to have zero options for fee-free payment of rent.
Kolmeo reserve the right to alter the fees at any time by providing 30 days notice.
Why is it an Issue?
Your real estate agency wants to use these apps to further automate their business to increase their profits. The legislation which governs rental payments doesn’t understand this new service, so your REA wants you to agree to using third-party (and beyond) services to achieve the increase in profits
they are after. It is unclear how you may be affected by agreeing to these terms and conditions.
Do I Have Fewer Rights?
No. Your REA is still obligated to discharge their duties to the tenancy with regards to
repairs, etc.—all of the legislation still stands. The issue is about what will happen on the
day-to-day. The problems we face currently with REA negligence, incompetence, naivety,
or maliciousness will persist—these are human problems with the sector—but they will be
mediated by an unaccountable layer of strange software.
Can I Opt Out?
Renters who have asked to opt-out so far have had the buck passed between Kolmeo
and their REA. Nelson Alexander REAs are telling renters that they will have to go with
Kolmeo but it’s not going to happen last year. One of our members took their REA straight
to VCAT and got an apology, a new lease and didn’t have to use Kolmeo. This shows us
that some kind of escalation will be necessary.
What shalle we have instead?
These are the requirements from the union. For any new system to facilitate property management, rent payments, etc., there shall be:
It should remain free to pay rent. If arrears occur they should be dealt with as per the
CHOICE OF PAYMENT TYPE
Renters should be able to select from a range of free payment types.
There shall be no penalty, financial or otherwise, if a renter chooses not to agree to
participating in these services [rental payment platforms et al].
REAs shall not coerce a renter to sign up to these services. If these payment
platforms are a gift to renters then we will decide to engage with them on their merits.
FREELY OPT OUT
Renters should be able to opt-out of the service with no hassle