Some tenants assume that agents don’t like to refund a bond at the end of a tenancy. But this could not be further from the truth.
When an agent can refund a bond in full, it means the property has been left the way the tenant received it when they moved in and all rent and invoices have been paid. Being able to refund the bond in full reduces the workload of the agency drastically as it becomes very time consuming to arrange cleaners, gardeners and negotiate the bond claim. Most importantly it’s very satisfying knowing that both landlord and tenant have enjoyed a successful lease term and all parties are happy in the end.
The Fair Trading NSW website states that if you do not owe the landlord or agent money at the end of your tenancy, the bond that you paid at the beginning of your tenancy should be refunded to you in full. However, if the landlord or agent believes you owe them money, they are able to make a claim against your bond.
Refund by agreement
Before you leave and hand back the keys you should contact the agent or landlord to arrange a mutually agreeable time to conduct the final inspection. This is where you both go over the property to determine if there is any damage or any areas that have not been adequately cleaned. If a minor issue is raised, it may be something you are able to deal with on the spot. The official Outgoing Condition Report must be completed at this inspection.
If you agree with the agent or landlord on how the bond is to be paid, ask them to complete and sign a Claim for Refund of Bond Money form and give it to you there and then so you can lodge it with Fair Trading. This way, the bond can be paid immediately. Never sign a blank Claim for Refund of Bond Money form. Always make sure the bond refund amount is filled in before you sign the form.
If you disagree with a decision
If you cannot come to a mutual agreement with the agent or landlord about how the bond should be paid out, or if you feel that they are taking too long to reach a decision, you can lodge a Claim for Refund of Bond Money form yourself without the need for their signature. This will start the ball rolling, however it’s important to understand that the bond will not be released immediately. Fair Trading NSW will post a notice to the agent or landlord giving them 14 days in which to contest your claim by applying to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal. If they fail to apply within the required 14 days, the bond will be paid out as per your claim. If they apply to the Tribunal in time however, Fair Trading NSW will hold onto the bond until the dispute is settled. The landlord or agent will need to attend a hearing at the Tribunal and present evidence to back up their claim. You will receive a notice from the Tribunal if they apply. You should also attend the hearing and bring evidence to support your claim.
Challenging a landlord’s claim
If the landlord or agent lodges a claim first, without your signature, Fair Trading will send you notice giving you 14 days in which to contest the claim. You can start by contacting the agent or landlord and attempt to get them to change their mind. If successful, you can lodge a new claim form signed by both of you. If unsuccessful, your only option is to apply to the Tribunal within the 14 days. Failing to do so will result in the bond being paid as per the landlord’s claim.
If you lodge a claim with the Tribunal, make sure you complete and return the Notice of Claim slip to Fair Trading NSW as mentioned in the form. Fair Trading NSW will then hold the bond until the Tribunal makes a decision. They are required by Law to send you copies of the final inspection report, along with any estimates, quotes, invoices or receipts relating to the claim within 7 days of lodging the claim. If they fail to do this you should raise it at the Tribunal hearing. You should also advise the Tribunal if you were not given a reasonable opportunity to be present at the final inspection and if you disagree with any or all of the notes made on the final condition report. In addition, you should show any evidence you have to support your position.
Claim by your landlord
The main reasons a claim may be lodged against your bond are:
- You still owe rent or have unpaid water usage bills.
- You broke the lease early and haven’t paid the break fee or other compensation payable.
- You failed to hand all copies of the keys you were given and the locks needed to be changed.
- You caused damage or didn’t leave the premises in a reasonably clean condition, compared to the original condition report, apart from normal and fair wear and tear.
This is not an exhaustive list. There may be other legitimate reasons for the landlord or agent to make a claim against your bond, such as the cost of disposing of goods you have left behind.
At Home Specialist Property Management we always issue our tenants with the ‘Bond Back Booklet’ to assist them in getting a full bond refund upon vacating.