Surry Hills, Sydney: Landlord boasted his shakedown of a tenant was ‘worthy of Quentin Tarantino’

Landlord boasted his shakedown of a tenant for unpaid rent was ‘worthy of a Quentin Tarantino’ movie after ominously presenting him with a chained bike lock and threats of a ‘worse guy called Johnny’

  • Landlord has pleaded guilty to assault and intimidation over a housing dispute 
  • Mario Venneri found out his tennant had secretly been subletting the home
  •  Mr Venerri boasted that his shakedown was like a Quinton Tarantino moment

A landlord who joked his shakedown of a tenant over unpaid rent was a Quentin Tarantino moment worthy of nostalgic retelling in later years has pleaded guilty to assault and intimidation.

Mario Venneri, 57, placed a chained bike lock on the table and made a fake phone call to a ‘worse’ guy called Johnny during the heated, half-hour meeting in his Surry Hills home in June 2020.

‘You have two ways to go, the good way and the wrong way,’ he warned tenant Brice Gouillou, then 24, on the afternoon of June 17.

Landlord, Mario Venneri (pictured centre) has pleaded guilty to assault and intimidation over a dispute with the tennant, Brice Gouillou

‘Give me your phone, you are going to be in trouble if you don’t pay me.’

Documents tendered in Venneri’s court case state he’d uncovered days earlier Mr Gouillou’s secret subletting of the two-bedroom terrace home for $700 a week.

That flew in the face of the young Frenchman negotiating his rent well below that amount the previous month due to supposed financial constraints induced by the COVID-19 pandemic

After evicting the sub-letter and changed the locks, Venneri waited inside the unit for Mr Gouillou, who arrived with a friend, aged 23.

He texted ‘come now mate’ to Anthony ‘Tony’ Joseph Mowad, 57, and ordered the younger men place their hands on the table.

Explaining he knew of the secret sub-letter and the rent she’d paid, Venneri demanded $6650 rent owed to him – moving zip ties and a bike lock he’d placed on the table.

When little changed, Mowad asked Venneri to ‘get your other friend to come here’, prompting Venneri to threaten ‘if you think I am bad, he is worse’.

‘Johnny, it’s your time now,’ he spoke into his phone before making aggressive demands for the unpaid rent.

The tennant was secretly subletting of the two-bedroom terrace home for $700 a week. Pictured: CCTV footage

The tennant was secretly subletting of the two-bedroom terrace home for $700 a week. Pictured: CCTV footage 

Mowad said: ‘You French guys … want to come here and rip people off during COVID and think you are going to get away with it. You are f***ing stupid’.

Venneri then said: ‘We will solve this problem’.

The fearful Mr Gouillou soon after transferred Venneri the full amount before all left the home.

‘This has been a Quinton (sic) Tarantino moment for us to talk about in our later years,’ Venneri texted his mate, in celebration that evening.

‘I’m happy you tough with them straight away. It put them in a spin and flooded them with fear,’ Mowad replied.

Arrested the next day, Venneri had made full admissions to police.

The pair on Thursday pleaded guilty through their lawyers to intimidation charges, with Venneri also admitting to assaulting each man.

Prosecutors withdrew charges of detaining a person for advantage.

Each is expected to be sentenced in the Downing Centre Local Court on March 5.

Mr Venneri had made full admissions to police and was arrested. Pictured: Downing Centre Local Court

Mr Venneri had made full admissions to police and was arrested. Pictured: Downing Centre Local Court


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Australian Open 2021 | Landlord comes to the aid of Tennis Australia

Tennis Australia is both a major tenant and venue partner with The Melbourne and Olympic Parks Trust, which has given rent relief to all tenants – including AFL clubs Collingwood and Melbourne, NRL premiers Melbourne Storm and A-League club Melbourne Victory – in 2020.

The exact amount for Tennis Australia is currently unclear but TA’s 2019 annual report, showing a profit of $10.7 million – up from $6 million the previous year – reveals operating leases cost more than $3 million.

“Under the property lease with Melbourne & Olympic Parks Trust the company is required to pay $1,947,296 which includes the Tennis HQ and National Tennis Centre and annual CPI adjustment,” the report said.

“During the financial year ended 30 June 2019, $3,230,717 was recognised as an expense in the income statement in respect of operating leases (2018: $3,166,673).”

The amount for the property lease in the previous year, 2017-2018, was $1,622,408.

Revenue for the Open will be cut on several fronts: reduced crowd numbers due to COVID-19, while host broadcaster Channel Nine, owner of this masthead, is expected to receive a discount for a tournament staged in February instead of January.

Taxpayers are set to play their part, too. Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas said the state would help with the “ongoing viability” of Tennis Australia, but that pledge came with a caveat. “I’ve made it clear that I expect to get some value back for the state of Victoria as a consequence of those engagements,” he said.

Tennis Australia started “scenario planning” for the 2021 Open earlier this year as the coronavirus pandemic caused havoc with global sport. But its initial plans for players to start arriving in early December were scuttled when it emerged the government would recommence the hotel quarantine program for returned travellers at the same time. As the result, players were prevented from arriving in Melbourne – and beginning a compulsory two-week period of quarantine – until any earlier than the start of January.

Victorian health authorities and Tennis Australia are continuing negotiations to finalise quarantine arrangements. They are set to include frequent tests for COVID-19 and players being confined to their hotel rooms except for a five-hour period each day when they can complete practice, go to the gym, receive treatment and dine.

Significantly, tournament boss Tiley has pledged to pay the players the “full $71 million prizemoney and are working with the tours on redistribution with large increases to the early rounds and a likely first-round purse of $100k”.

Tennis Australia also has a separate annual payment to MOPT – close to $4 million in 2019 – to maintain the rights to 100 per cent of revenue for merchandise sales, some catering and ticketing.

“The company is required to make an annual fixed payment of $3,769,000 to Melbourne & Olympic Parks Trust that is adjusted for CPI through to 2036,” the report says.

“This payment is to obtain the right to 100 per cent of merchandise revenues and a portion of catering and ticketing rebates payable to Melbourne & Olympic Parks Trust during the Australian Open.”

While a note from Tiley to players this week outlined the strict quarantine rules set out by Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services and indicated the Open was set for a three-week delay, the Women’s Tennis Association says it plans to start the 2021 season in early January outside Australia before players travel to Melbourne.

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Hotel Chocolat demands landlord cuts its rent

A row has broken out between Hotel Chocolat, the upmarket chocolatier, and Great Portland Estates, the London property company, souring hopes of a ceasefire between retailers and landlords.

Hotel Chocolat is locked in a stalemate with Great Portland Estates over its Regent Street store, where trading is 60 per cent below last year’s levels because tourists and office workers have stayed at home. The chocolatier, founded in 1993 and listed four years ago, has reached compromises with most of its other landlords.

The dispute is the latest in a series between retail companies and their landlords during the pandemic, which has forced store chains to demand rent reductions, waivers or a switch to rents linked with turnover to cushion them from the high street downturn. The value of property companies has tumbled in tandem with the issue, with Shaftesbury, another London landlord, last week tapping investors for £300 million.

Hotel Chocolat said that it had lost £149,000 in sales on the Regent Street store, or more than £20,000 a month, despite offering discounts. “It is abundantly clear that we do not meet the ‘able to pay’ criteria for this property,” the company said. It has asked its landlord for rent to be waived for the period that its shops were closed during lockdown. Great Portland Estates has offered a rent holiday, but only if the chocolate retailer pays a higher bill next year.

Peter Harris, 65, Hotel Chocolat’s co-founder and executive chairman, wrote in a letter to Steven Mew, 52, Great Portland Estate’s portfolio manager: “You dismissed the efforts of other landlords who have already helped us as being naive and not as sophisticated in their financial analysis as GPE.”

The FTSE 250 property company has highlighted that Hotel Chocolat’s last update to the City revealed a £15 million profit in the first half, although the retailer has said that it will make a loss in the second half of the year because of the cyclical nature of the business when it has to conserve cash for the run-up to Christmas.

A Great Portland Estates spokesman said that the property company had been working closely with smaller independent retailers that had been unable to pay their rent and had provided measures including rental holidays, but the company believed that Hotel Chocolat was able to pay and that in line with government guidance it should pay

“Despite the financial health of Hotel Chocolat, and in the spirit of co-operation, we have previously offered to defer some of the rent which they declined to accept,” he said.

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Big box landlord upgraded by analysts after solid results

“We reinstate coverage with a Buy rating,” Mr Day said.

For the fiscal 2020 year it posted a 4.2 per cent rise in funds from operations, the more accurate measure for real estate investment trusts, to $100 million. Net profit was $57 million, down from $110 million, reflecting the lockdown impacts.

Aventus chief executive Darren Holland said the large format retail concept has become popular with shoppers as the stores are generally very large at 900 square metres, allowing for social distancing and given the stores have separate openings, there are no communal areas or food courts.


Macquarie Equities analysts said Aventus’ operating metrics have held up well relative to peers, with the best retail cash collection to date and minimal exposure to Victoria of 16 per cent. They said while gearing remains elevated, “we expect Aventus will use COVID as an opportunity to reduce financial leverage”.

The group will focus on its development pipeline with a $1.2 billion land bank on the books. It recently acquired a former Kaufland site next to its existing property in Epping, Melbourne which can be developed into a mixed-use site as it comes with office, residential, medical and retail zoning.

The full year distribution was 16.57¢ with the last quarter’s 4.18¢, to be paid on August 30.

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Are you a tenant or a landlord in Victoria? Help’s available and here’s how to get it

The Victorian Government has announced a series of measures to support landlords and renters amid extended coronavirus restrictions imposed on the state.

A big change is extending a moratorium on rental evictions and rent increases for another three months.

But other measures range from extra cash relief for landlords to supporting services that help tenants.

So what’s new, and how do you get help if you need it?

What’s been announced?

In brief, the measures announced yesterday include:

  • Extending the temporary ban on evictions and rental increases until December 31
  • Creating a Commercial Landlord Hardship Fund to pay up to $3,000 per tenancy for small commercial landlords
  • Rental Relief Grant payments increased to $3,000 for eligible residential tenants
  • Land tax discount doubled from 25 to 50 per cent for eligible landlords
  • New land tax discount of 25 per cent for owner-occupiers with annual turnover under $50m
  • $600,000 funding for advocacy groups that work with vulnerable tenants

Another big change means commercial landlords are now required provide rent relief “in proportion” with tenants’ drop in turnover when negotiating rental reductions.

How will that last rent relief one work?

The change is expected to help commercial tenants suffering massive falls in revenue to negotiate with landlords who refuse to budge on rent.

It’s not law at the moment, but the Victorian Government says it’s encouraging landlords and tenants to negotiate in good faith.

“Changes will need to be made through legislation, and we’ll have more to say about that in future,” a spokesperson said in an email.

The Treasurer Tim Pallas said before now, the proportionality principle had simply been “aspired to”.

“But we will now make it a very clear and expressed intention that, if you’re identifying a downturn in your capacity, your turnover, then you should have an expectation that that is similarly reflected in terms of the rent relief that you get,” he said yesterday.

It should be noted that this “intention” isn’t targeting all landlords.

Small business owners and landlords have been able to reach common ground in 90 per cent of rental reduction cases the Victorian Small Business Commission has mediated.

Commercial landlords are required to provide rent relief “in proportion” with their tenants’ drop in turnover.(ABC News: Margaret Burin)

What’s this new fund for small commercial landlords?

The Commercial Landlord Hardship Fund will offer eligible landlords grants up to $3,000 per tenancy.

If you’re a commercial landlord and suffering financially because you’re reducing the rent for your tenants, you may qualify.

The State Government is still ironing out the finer details, however you can register your interest for the fund on this website.

More information should be available on that website soon.

A closed shop front with a seagull in the foreground.
Many small retail businesses have had to move online during Melbourne’s stage 4 restrictions.(ABC News: Freya Michie)

I’m a renter — how do I get the $3,000 payment?

The Rental Relief Grant is a one-off payment for residential tenants who have reached a rent reduction agreement with their landlord.

Once you’ve lodged your new agreement with Consumer Affairs Victoria, you can apply for the grant on the Victorian Government’s website.

The Government will make the payment directly to your landlord, and it’s essentially treated like a rent payment.

If you’ve already received the $2,000 grant under the program, you might be eligible for an extra $1,000.

But you shouldn’t need to do anything — the Government says it will contact you to check if you still qualify.

How do I qualify for the land tax discount?

To be eligible landlords must have reduced the rent for their tenants, or not be able to secure a tenant because of the pandemic.

Landlords also must have given their tenants a rent reduction of 50 per cent or more to qualify for the full 50 per cent discount.

Owner-occupiers of commercial properties can also now apply for a 25 per cent land tax discount.

Pubs, bars and other licensed venues qualify if their revenue has declined more than 30 per cent since March.

Other owner-occupier businesses qualify if they’re getting the JobKeeper payment.

You can learn more about land tax reductions on the State Revenue Office’s website.

At the time of writing applications were on hold while the system was being updated, but it should open again soon.

Why is all this being announced?

The moratorium on rental evictions and rental increases was originally introduced in late March and due to expire at the end of September.

But the second lockdown in Victoria has left many renters uncertain and struggling to pay rent.

Treasurer Tim Pallas said extending the bans would give worried tenants some security.

“Nobody should be worried about losing a roof over their head right now,” he said.

The extra support for landlords is being introduced to help those who have lost rental income, the Treasurer said.

“It’s also about making sure that we strike the right balance and we provide support and assistance to landlords who do the right thing by their tenants,” he said.

So what do tenants and landlords think of this?

The reactions to the announcements have been mixed.

Struggling tenants, including residents who feared eviction or businesses owners trying to survive, have described the measures as a huge relief.

Stavros Konis, who estimates revenue at his Richmond restaurant has plummeted more than 90 per cent because of the pandemic, says the changes are a “massive win”.

“It’s given us time to breathe. Given us time to just regroup and have a frank discussion with the landlords and move forward in the correct direction,” he said.

Jarrod Farr, who lost his job in the entertainment industry earlier this year, said he almost had tears in his eyes when he heard the moratorium on residential evictions was getting extended.

“We don’t know when our industry is going to come back up and running,” he said.

“I need to go find a job elsewhere and because of so many other people looking for work, it’s very difficult to get a job.”

A young man stands in a room.
Melbourne renter Jarrod Farr feels greatly relieved the moratorium on evictions is being extended.(Supplied)

The Property Council of Australia, which advocates for the property industry, has welcomed the additional land tax relief but says the moratorium’s extension will push “many landlords to their limits”.

“As the crisis goes on, we will need goodwill and action from both banks and governments to ensure that these businesses do not go under and take down the economy with them,” the council’s Victoria executive director Cressida Wall says.

The Property Council also wants more direction from the Government to help landlords deal with tenants who have stopped paying rent.

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Bunnings landlord shows resilience in tough market

BWP’s managing director Michael Wedgwood said the continuing economic uncertainty in relation to COVID-19 may require the trust to grant further rent abatements and/or rent deferrals to those tenants affected by enforced closures.


Overall, the trust collected 98.9 per cent in rent from its tenants from March to June 2020, as Bunnings was deemed an essential business. The like-for-like rental growth was 2.4 per cent for the year to June 30.

Mr Wedgwood told analysts on a results call that while Bunnings was under pressure in Melbourne with the new stage 4 restrictions, the business was solid.

“We think the business is likely to remain stable and any change in that is more likely to be macro driven,” Mr Wedgwood said.

“We see the Bunnings business is still in pretty good shape and as a business model it is still strong.”

Mr Wedgwood said that in terms of current rent reviews he was not expecting any big swings either way.

When asked about the exit of the German Kaufland business from Australia on releasing large assets back into the market, Mr Wedgwood said the trust sold four sites to the business and expected the owners to take their time before putting them back up for sale.

Aaron Payne from Moelis Australia said in the coming financial year, the trust’s primary focus is on filling any vacancies in the portfolio, progressing store upgrades and extending existing leases with Bunnings through the exercise of options.

There will also be completion of market rent reviews, and the continued rollout of energy efficiency improvements at its properties.

UBS dealing desk manager Tim Leahy said the result highlights the resilience of the portfolio in light of COVID-19, albeit with some uncertainty about the longer-term impact of the global pandemic on the Bunnings warehouse business.

A final distribution of 9.27¢ per ordinary unit has been declared and will be paid on August 21. That takes the full-year payment to 18.29¢, up from 18.11¢ per unit.

Mr Wedgwood said investors can expect a similar distribution for the 2021 year, but warned that it may be reviewed in the event the COVID-19 impacts are “more severe or prolonged than anticipated”.

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Canberra landlord who sued former tenant for broken coffee plunger, missed rent ordered to pay thousands

A Canberra landlord who sued her former tenant for almost $6,000 over a broken coffee plunger and alleged unpaid rent has been told to pay $2,629 to the tenant instead.

The owner of the Kingston “luxury apartment” had taken her former tenant to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT), seeking about two months’ rent money she believed she was owed, as well as compensation for missing and broken items.

But the tenant claimed that money was not owed to the landlord, because the bank had taken possession of the property in the final months of his tenancy.

The tribunal heard the Bank of Queensland was awarded possession of the apartment in 2013 after the owner defaulted on her home loan.

The bank had held off from enforcing its possession to give the owner a chance to sell, but in late 2018 decided it would seize the property.

ACAT heard the bank wrote to the tenant in January last year, notifying him of its intention to possess the home, and saying that he would have to vacate the apartment.

From that point, the tenant stopped paying rent to his landlord.

But the owner argued she was still owed that rent, which amounted to $5,723, because, as the registered owner, she remained the lessor.

She said the bank was not entitled to rent payments until it physically had possession of the property.

She also argued that even if she were not entitled to the rent, she should be entitled to compensation as the owner of the property for Mr King’s “occupation and use” of it.

But the tribunal ruled her lease with the tenant ended the moment the bank notified him of its intent to possess the apartment.

Former tenant says landlord failed to repair oven, air conditioning

The former tenant then launched a counterclaim in ACAT over three weeks’ rent he had “accidentally” paid to the owner after the bank had served its notice.

He also claimed compensation for failures to repair an oven, air conditioning unit and tiles in the en suite bathroom.

The tribunal awarded the tenant $700 in compensation for the fallen tiles, as they resulted in a “diminution in condition” below what could reasonably be expected for a luxury apartment.

But ACAT found the bank wrote of its intention to possess the property before the timeframe for the owner to repair the air conditioning and oven had ended.

The owner’s claim for unpaid rent was dismissed and she was ordered to pay $1,929 for rent paid to her after the bank’s enforcement letter.

The tenant agreed to pay $40 for the broken coffee plunger.

The owner told the ABC she intends to appeal the decision, as the bank ultimately did not take possession of the property.

Whether the bank wrongfully attempted to take possession of the property is being invested by the Banking Ombudsman.

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