Farm ‘tenants from hell’

By Dominique Tassell

A Stanthorpe and Cottonvale property owner has sustained what he described as “malicious damage” to his property by overseas workers he rented his properties to.

Robert Booker rented two properties to a man who then housed and managed farm workers they brought into the country from overseas.

He says he was forced to kick the group out after sustaining extensive damage to his properties.

“I kicked them out of Cottonvale because they did a lot of holes in walls and things, theft. There’s $2700 plus worth of damage down there.”

Robert says he was forced to cut the lock off his own property after his renter left him with no keys.

“They’re the tenants from hell.”

He says he has “been renting houses since 1980, and this is the worst I’ve struck“.

“I even let them run a little shop (at the front of the property) and everything, and that’s the way you get repaid. Not very nice.”

Robert rented the properties to the man from September 2020 to June 2021.

He gave notice of eviction when it became apparent the group had deserted the property.

The group left the property at least four weeks prior to Robert re-entering the house.

In the short time they stayed at the property, Robert says there were multiple altercations between the residents including a stabbing.

“Everywhere you look, there’s damage, there’s theft. It’s just unbelievable.”

Robert says the group worked for a couple of farms in the area.

He says many of the items he’s come across in the house are not his, and he believes they are stolen from other properties. Some items have been moved between his properties by the group as well.

“They’ve got no respect for other people’s property.”

Robert has been left with a large mess to clean up, and says he won’t waste time picking through it.

“Everything goes to the tip. You don’t pick through it, you just send it to the tip.”

Robert says he’ll send items such as the fridges straight to the tip, as they can no longer be used.

“You don’t bother going through it, you don’t know what you’re going to find.”

Robert says there were supposed to be four adults and a child in the house, but it was unclear how many people were actually on the property.

At one point he was informed there were only two adults and a child in the house, so lowered the rent.

Since the tenants have left, Robert has been hit with an electricity bill of “600 odd dollars”.

“When I came in here yesterday there were lights left on.”

Robert says upon entering the house he realised he couldn’t even access all parts of the house.

“They’ve put locks on doors and didn’t give me a key, that’s illegal,” he says. “You can’t do that.”

“So I have to cut that (lock) off and see what’s in there.”

The inside of the property is filled with discarded clothes, food packaging, and other rubbish.

“There’s rubbish everywhere. Everywhere you look there’s more rubbish.”

Due to the fridges and freezers not being cleaned, large amounts of mould were found in the house.

Robert says he wasn’t advertising the property and wasn’t considering renting it out due to illness, but rented it to the man after receiving a phone call from him.

“He said ‘I’m a provider, a workplace provider. I’ve got all these people’.”

“He said ‘we can’t find anything, can you help us’?”

Robert says he helped them against his better judgement.

He says he quickly realised there were more people in the properties than there should be, and threatened to evict the group.

They then caused damage to his Cottonvale property so he evicted the group, but tenants remained at his Stanthorpe property until recently.

Robert says he wouldn’t recommend that anyone taking in renters accept anyone from a provider not authorised by the government.

While in a normal provider situation, the site manager or general manager would act as supervisor and translator, Robert says the man he rented to wouldn’t even stay to look after the group.

“He puts them at the farm and takes off.”

Stanthorpe Police were contacted and “at this stage, police have been informed the complainant has withdrawn the complaint” so could give no further comment.

They did however state that this was certainly not a trend in the area.