The challenge: Maria Bekiaris
There are reasonably simple steps for tenants to follow
Leaving a rental property can put some money back in your wallet. Sure, the money was yours already but you haven’t been able to touch it since you signed your lease. Yes, I’m talking about your rental bond.
A rental bond – which is usually four weeks’ rent – is essentially a security deposit to protect the landlord in the event of unpaid rent or damage to the property.
If the landlord or agent believes you owe them money, they are able to make a claim against your bond, explains the NSW Office of Fair Trading website, which says the main reasons a claim may be lodged against your bond are if you still owe any rent or have unpaid water usage bills; if you broke the lease early and have not paid the break fee or other compensation payable; if you didn’t hand back all the copies of the
keys and the locks needed to be changed; or if you caused damage or did not leave the premises in a reasonably clean state, compared with the original condition report, apart from “fair wear and tear”.
So how do you claim your bond? The process is fairly similar in all states and territories but we will use NSW as an example. You can also check with the department of consumer affairs or rental authority in your state or territory.
The first step is for the landlord or agent to conduct a final inspection. It’s a good idea to agree to a time so that you’re there too. That way you can deal with any issues that may arise on the spot. If you both agree on the refund amount then the landlord/ agent can fill in the relevant form, which you will also need to sign before it is lodged. The NSW Office of Fair Trading warns you should never sign a blank form. Always make sure the bond refund amounts are filled in. You may also be able to lodge a claim online if an online account was set up when you paid the bond.
If you can’t agree about the amount or they are taking too long, you can lodge a form yourself without their signature on it or submit an online claim if applicable. The agent or landlord will be notified and have 14 days to contest or agree with your claim. If they agree they can sign the form and the money will be in your account in a matter of days. If they don’t they may discuss the claim with you but if an agreement can’t be reached they can apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal to contest your claim.
It may also work in reverse – if the landlord or agent lodges a claim to deduct some money, you will be notified and have 14 days to contest the claim. Try contacting the landlord/agent first to see if you can come to an agreement. If not you should contact the tribunal within the 14 days, otherwise the bond will be paid out as per the landlord’s claim. Make sure you notify Fair Trading that you are disputing the claim.