Rental markets across Australia are extremely tight right now, and the last thing you need is a black mark against your name.
This is why it is so important to ensure you get your entire rental bond back when you move out of your rental property. If your landlord or property manager withholds your bond refund, this will be evident on your rental history - and it doesn’t look good.
There are a couple common reasons rental bond can be withheld, such as money owed or damage to the property. Not only could it impact your future rental applications, it can also mean thousands of your hard-earned dollars down the toilet.
But there are things you can do to make sure this doesn’t happen. Here are a few tips and tricks to always ensure you get your bond back, coming from someone who was once in the real estate game.
In this article, we’ll discuss:
What is a rental bond?
Your rental bond is essentially a security deposit - usually equal to four weeks' rent - that you need to put down on the property before you move in. Paying a rental bond when moving into a rental property isn’t mandatory, but a lot of the time, you will be asked to.
While your landlord or property manager may organise for you to pay your rental bond through them, they don’t actually hold onto the money. Instead, they need to submit it to the relevant state bond trust along with all your paperwork where it is held throughout the duration of your lease agreement.
The reason most landlords require a rental bond is because it acts as a security blanket. Their rental property is an asset, so it’s no wonder they want to protect themselves in case anything goes wrong. In many cases, it’s smooth sailing and tenants receive their full bond refund back once their lease has ended.
If the tenants leave the property damaged, haven’t paid up on their rent or utility bills, or any other reason that the landlord would require financial compensation - the landlord has the rental bond there to cover some (or hopefully all) of their losses.
When do you get your rental bond back?
You will usually get your rental bond back after you have moved out of your rental property at the end of your agreed lease term. Once you have completed a bond refund form, your landlord or property manager should submit this to the relevant state body, and they will issue the refund directly into your bank account.
It will usually take a few days for your rental bond refund to hit your bank account. But if it ends up taking a bit longer, as long as you have done everything on your end, your landlord or property manager should be sorting things out on theirs. You can also likely lodge your bond return through your state’s tenancy authority, and you’ll get your bond back provided your property manager/landlord agrees to the release. This can help speed-up the process.
A few things you may need to check off your list before you receive a rental bond refund include having a bond clean done, a vacate inspection, paying off any outstanding money owing, and completing an exit condition report on the property. However if the property is in the same condition as you noted on the entry report, you might not need to do an exit report.
Remember, the bond is there in case you don’t do these things, so you won’t usually get it back until your landlord knows the property is empty and in good condition.
If your landlord or property manager finds that the property hasn’t been left in a reasonably good condition, they could decide to hold onto some or all of your bond, depending on what needs to be done. While this can be disputed through the relevant state body if you disagree with it, this can take time and a lot of effort - but we’ll get into that later.
What happens if you don’t get your rental bond back?
If your landlord or property manager decides to hold onto your rental bond refund, it’s not necessarily an immediately doomed rental future. Sometimes, tenants will say to their property managers “just take the bond clean out of my bond” and be done with it. If someone asks why your bond was withheld and that is your answer, most of the time that will be okay.
In a rental market with record-low vacancy rates and lots of competition for any remaining stock, you should be doing everything you can to make yourself the ideal tenant - and that means not having anything in your rental history that could raise eyebrows.
A lot of the time when someone hasn’t received their bond refund it’s because they did something really bad. If your reason is fairly benign, such as a grimy cooktop, you don’t want your laziness to be confused with you cooking meth in the house and stripping the paint from the walls (which happens more often than you’d think).
Most times when you apply for a rental through a private agency, they will complete a rental reference. With this they’ll receive a tenancy ledger with all your past rental payments and behaviour. If they see that you were making late payments all the time, forgetting bills or anything along those lines, chances are your application is going in the bin.
If you don’t get your rental bond back because you damaged the property or owed a lot of money to your landlord - enough that your bond payment wouldn’t cover it - the bond will likely be the least of your problems. You may find yourself blacklisted on a national tenancy database like TICA. If you show up on a TICA search, chances are you were one bad egg.
You can be taken off TICA, but it takes time and likely rectifying whatever situation that saw you wind up on there in the first place. Generally, private real estate agencies will never rent to a person that is currently on TICA, so it’s something you’d need to get on top of pretty quickly.
On the other hand, if you didn’t get your rental bond back because your landlord or property manager was an absolute nightmare and couldn’t distinguish typical wear and tear from property damage, there are things you can do to get your money (and good rental history) back. Unfortunately, it can happen, and it’s always a good idea to cover your bases.
What to do if your landlord unnecessarily withheld your bond
If you disagree with your rental bond being withheld, there are things that you can do to rectify your situation. I’ve heard horror stories of bad landlords doing their tenants dirty, from houses full of untreated mould to baseless claims that the tenants set the carpet on fire.
If you need to dispute your bond, how you need to do so will be different depending on where you live. Below are the following organisations across Australia that deal with bond disputes:
NSW: Fair Trading NSW
QLD: Rental Tenancy Authority (RTA)
TAS: Consumer, Building and Occupational Services
VIC: Consumer Affairs Victoria
WA: Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety
Your landlord needs to have proof to withhold your bond. For example, if they have claimed you still owe them rent, they will need to supply ledgers/bank statements to prove it. But this also means you may need to provide proof that they shouldn’t withhold your bond refund. This is why doing a detailed entry condition report and exit condition report is really important, but we’ll touch on that in a moment.
How to ensure you always get your bond refunded
Now for the juicy part: how to make sure you get your bond back. I’m assuming this part is the real reason you clicked on this article. Maybe your landlord or property manager is a piece of work, or maybe you’re about to move into your first rental property and want to be prepared for the worst. Either way, knowing these pretty simple and easy tips can help ensure you always get that hefty deposit back in your wallet.
Keep records of EVERYTHING
This might be the most important tip of all: you should be keeping track of everything to do with your rental property. That includes the long-winded email chain organising getting your shower fixed and copies of all your entry documents. At least keep records of these things until your lease runs out and you have received your rental bond back.
Keeping records of everything can literally save you hours of back and forth trying to argue who is right and how a situation really went down. Maintain records of emails, physical documents, even phone conversations if your landlord is really trying to be shady. Try to cover all your bases as much as you can so, if it comes time to bring out the evidence, you have it all ready to go.
Hire a bond cleaner
If you aren’t a great cleaner or you just want peace of mind, hire a bond cleaner for your vacate. Bond cleaners specialise in making sure the property is left in a clean and tidy state so that you get your entire bond back. It also saves you needing to go back and fix anything before you get your bond back. Usually if there are any problems with the clean, the cleaners will go back free of charge and can liaise with the property management or landlord directly.
Organising the bond cleaner yourself, rather than letting your landlord or property manager take the cost out of the bond, is a good idea for a few reasons. Firstly, you can ring around and get some quotes to make sure you are getting the best deal. And secondly, you will then get your entire bond refund back (duh). It just looks better to have your bond refunded in full, even if the reason some of it was taken was completely harmless.
Make sure you keep a copy of the receipt and send it to your property manager or landlord. This way, they know that you did your part in leaving the property clean and they have no reason to withhold your bond.
Insist on an entry and exit condition report
If your landlord tells you that you can skip over the entry and exit condition reports, they’re not necessarily doing you any favours. You may think they’re just super cool and chill and not like other landlords. Maybe they are, but it’s always best to just get it out of the way - for both parties.
Complete detailed and thorough entry and exit condition reports. Comment on anything that isn’t in the photos, take your own photos for records, double check everything and send your photos with any differences along with your entry and exit condition reports.
Doing an entry and exit condition report shields you from any false allegations. Say there was a carpet stain there when you moved in but your landlord tries to claim you made the stain. You can simply show your before photo and clear your own name. It might take time and seem like a pain in the bum, but it could save you some headaches later down the track.
Compare ‘before and after'
When you are about to vacate, actually compare your entry condition report to your exit condition report. This way, you can see any differences in the state of the property. It’s easy to miss a scratch on the wall or a stain on the carpet you may not have noticed – you are only human. By comparing before to after, you can easily notice anything you need to fix up, and do it before you vacate and avoid any allegations.
Keep track of rental payments and bills
You may find it helpful to keep track of your weekly/fortnightly/monthly rental payments on your end to compare with your landlord’s records. That way, if they try to claim that you still owe them money, you can cross reference with your own records to confirm. If your records show that you are, in fact, paid up to date - you can provide this information to your property manager or landlord and clear up any confusion. In any case, you can request a rental ledger to see how much money is owed or paid, and when.
Know your rights
Above all else, make sure you understand your rights as a tenant before you move into a rental property. Know what leg you have to stand on and what your responsibilities are. Understand the difference between wear and tear and damage. Always pay your rent as scheduled and, above all else, just be a good tenant. If you always do the right thing, there should be nothing that can be misconstrued or used against you.
Image by Edra Estremera on Unsplash