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How to get your Rental Bond back

I should start by saying this blog will not be breaking news and that I have no insider secrets to getting your bond back – because there are none. What I do have is experience in this field and I know what it involves. It involves effort and communication on everyone’s part and it can start back at the beginning of a tenancy.

Effort, communication, and planning, along with some common sense and cooperation should end off a tenancy in the most amicable way possible, with a quick and easy bond refund being the end goal for everyone.

As I do, I’m going to break into down into subheadings and sub/subheadings to keep me on track.

Giving Notice & Other Disclosures

Your notice advising that you are vacating needs to be in writing, email is sufficient and the notice period if you are on a continuing agreement is 21 Days. If you are still in a lease and going to vacate on the lease expiry date or just after the lease expires then the minimum notice period is 14 Days if still provided within the agreement term.

If there is still some time remaining on your lease and you wish to vacate you are therefore breaking the lease. In this case, giving us as much notice as possible is advisable so your break fee can be calculated and a final inspection can be pre-booked. Ample notice is of course appreciated and helpful.

In this notice, you could include/confirm any outstanding maintenance and disclose any damages or issues that haven’t been addressed so that those issues can be worked through sooner rather than later. This can speed up negotiating on any issues following the final inspection. Any good Property Manager should know the property well enough to know its pre, during, and post-tenancy condition beyond relying on the condition report alone.

Preparing to move

In preparation for your move, you should receive instructions from your Property Manager detailing their process for managing your vacating. It should cover their expectations, recommendations for cleaners and other trades you might need, and the final rent balance. Be sure to read this so you can familiarise yourself with how the process will work.

Before your move, be sure to make arrangements for your final rent payments so that rent is paid up to the vacate date beforehand. Rent claims from the bond are not encouraged and “can” resurface down the track as a claim being made on your bond when reference checks are completed, even if the claim was agreed on. It doesn’t happen often but it isn’t worth risking and it can be seen on your rental ledger for that tenancy.

Now is also a good time to think about the final inspection, and speak to your agent or landlord about a good time to meet to do the handover. If you choose not to be there you should hear about the outcome within a reasonable time frame after you hand over possession by returning keys. On that, make any key handover arrangements before the vacate date if you don’t plan to be present for the final inspection so that you know when and where to drop them off. Returning keys late will result in rent continuing to be charged as until the keys have been handed over you are still in possession of the property. My tip is to be present for the final inspection so you know the outcome then and there.

Things to do, know & some tips

– Redirect or change your mailing address, because it is rare that anyone will forward it on for you.

– As mentioned, make a plan for the final inspection, set a day and time with your Property Manager, or make key handover arrangements. I think being there is the best idea. Keep in mind that the agent or owner may need some time to inspect each area of the property.

– Before you move get quotes and arrange cleaners including from those recommended by your Property Manager as your Property Manager can then send them back if they’ve missed anything, that’s how we work anyway. If you choose to use another cleaner, don’t accept the lowest quote, and be sure to check their work on completion as they may not be given an opportunity to return, regardless if they have a bond guarantee or not.

– How you hand back the property is deemed how you feel it is acceptable so the agent or owner does not need to provide an opportunity to reattend for further cleaning or make good. This is why it is highly recommended to use a cleaner your property manager has recommended as the property manager can manage the cleaning issues directly with the cleaner.

– The Ingoing Condition Report and accompanying photos are crucial here, review them before moving and keep your copy. Do not leave the paperwork at the property with the agent or landlord.

Final Inspection and Handover

Bonds in NSW, for some time now, are lodged using Fair Trading’s Rental Bonds Online platform. A normal and full bond release should be initiated by the Property Manager or Landlord within 7 days of vacating the property, ideally sooner. Tenants are notified of the release via email and through your Rental Bonds Online account. Once initiated by the agent or landlord a refund takes 2 – 3 working days.

This platform is also used for tenants to agree to any claims made on the bond or review their dispute options, more on that to follow.

If a tenant opts to claim their bond before the agent or landlord it can be held up if the other party doesn’t approve of your claim and if there is discussion occurring surrounding pending matters following the final inspection then the other party can only freeze the bond release by applying to NCAT, meaning a hearing must take place to resolve the pending release or claim of the bond. In short, things get delayed and messy. Having seen simple issues that can be resolved between parties get dragged out I can’t recommend tenants claiming their bond. That is unless you have been advised there are no outstanding matters following the final inspection but the bond hasn’t been released. Even then, however, if the claim made by the tenant isn’t approved by the other party then the wait time is 14 days until the bond is released. If a dispute isn’t raised of course.

Most bond disputes revolve around cleaning, being unsatisfactory cleaning followed by damage. This is where a thorough Ingoing Condition Report with supporting photos is key, as it all falls back to the Ingoing Condition Report and the importance of tenants using the opportunity they have to complete it within 7 days of the lease commencing.

Any later than the 7 days and the agent or landlord do not need to accept any amendments made.

So, if there is an issue, rely on the condition report and photos along with any records maintained during the tenancy where you may have reported an issue or damage. Herein also lies the importance of reporting things in writing but also reading up about wear and tear as that may have some bearing here based on the length of your overall tenancy.

Is the key here avoiding the Tribunal? I say yes, but that all depends on the principle of the issue and how much it means to the parties involved.

Agree with the findings of the final inspection?

Then from here, all parties need to discuss and negotiate an outcome between themselves. Agents and landlords should make offers and give estimates of the cost for any damages, cleaning costs, or outstanding issues at this time and these should be worked through quickly. Many issues surrounding damage may involve agreeing on a compensation amount and further cleaning quoted on, so it can be sorted quickly. Don’t expect multiple quotes though.

As mentioned earlier, there is no obligation for access to the property to be given once you have handed over possession but if it is granted it must be done quickly. In many cases, it can’t be granted because new tenants are lined up to move in.

Don’t agree, at all?

Then it is quite likely any dispute surrounding a bond claim will be referred to NCAT (NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal) to be heard there and an outcome sought. For those not familiar, the NCAT process is heavily geared towards conciliation, mostly via a mediator, so that parties can try to agree on an outcome without it being ordered to you by a member which becomes binding. The NCAT process is not as daunting as it might be made out to be but what it does result in is outcomes that neither party will be 100% happy with if conciliation is not successful as the first step. These ordered outcomes usually are a compromise where it is not clear cut and doesn’t go one person’s way or the other altogether. Unfortunately, this process does take some weeks from the outset to get to an outcome. Complicated cases can take months, that’s simply the reality of the process due to the demand for the service and time frames to get from stage to stage.

But also,

I think a very important tip for tenants here is to seek impartial advice. the Tenants Union & Fair-Trading NSW can advise based on the lay of the law where you stand so you’ll be well equipped to decide on whether to go with it or argue further for your bond. You can be guided on considerations like wear and tear, and your general obligations and these are free services there to help and give advice so utilise them. They may also tell you what your likely chances of success are based on precedent already set across other cases.


Lastly,

While writing this blog I realised there are so many variables and outgoing inspections are rarely ever the same but I hope it serves as a guide of the many steps needed to ensure you get your rental bond back after you vacate.

I do want to end with this though, despite popular belief, as a Property Manager;

  • I don’t want your bond.
  • I don’t want disputes about rental bonds.
  • I don’t want to end an amicable tenancy on a negative note.
  • I don’t want to be rushing to get cleaning or repairs done before the next tenant moves in.

I want to go to a final inspection and see a property that has been professionally cleaned, where any scuff marks and damage are a result of age and wear and tear that I have documented over routine inspections etc. No disputes, no issues and I can go back to my desk and release the bond. That’s the dream and honestly, it mostly falls short because people are understandably time-poor during a move, believe they can clean as well as a professional, and want to move on to focus on setting up their next home. It just calls for being super organised and seeking help when and where it is needed.

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– Antonio

Director & Property Manager