How to get your bond back in 6 steps

While most people would prefer not to move, the reality is that tenants tend to move every 4,5 years on average. Among the many stresses involved in the moving process is the fear of not getting your rental bond returned at the end of the lease. 

According to the Tenants Union of Victoria, renters must leave the property in “a reasonably clean condition” in order to receive their bond back. 

The vagueness of the phrase “reasonably clean condition” is open to many different interpretations, but the general rule is to leave the property in the same condition it was in when you moved in. Wear on soft furnishings, such as carpet, is expected. 

Here is a checklist of what you need to do to ensure you get your rental bond returned. 

  1. Compare your property to your condition report

When you decide to move, start thinking about how you will leave the property. Get out the property condition checklist you received when you moved in and compare it to what the property is like now. Fix anything that you can fix as early as you can in the moving process to reduce your stress in the end. 

Note that you do not need to get the property in exactly the same condition as it was when you rented it, especially if it was brand new, as normal wear and tear is expected. 

You will receive more leeway on wear and tear if you have rented the property for a long period. It also depends on the condition of the property when you moved in. 

Using your condition report as a reference point is very useful. It provides a checklist for what the real estate agent will check before releasing the bond. 

The condition report includes photos and lists any faults that were present when you moved in. Checking the photos will let you know what areas to spend time on in your deep clean.  

  1. Report issues as they arise

Even careful tenants can have accidents. If you have put a hole in a wall or broken a towel rail, it is best to tell the property manager about it at the time. You will still have to pay to fix it if the issue goes beyond normal wear and tear. However, sorting out the issue immediately with the property manager means you won’t have to wait for the return of your bond while the property manager gets tradespeople in to fix the issues.  

Normal wear and tear

It is normal for minor damage to occur as a house is lived in. Landlords and property managers can expect to see the following in terms of normal wear and tear on a property that has been tenanted for several years. 

  • Paint that is faded, cracked, or peeling
  • Flooring with worn patches, especially in walkthrough sections of the property
  • Carpet and curtains that have faded in sunlight
  • Tiled or wet areas with loose grout 
  • In older places with old pipes, clogged pipes may be expected
  • Cracks in the walls due to house movement in older properties.

Unexpected damage

However, if there is damage that landlords and agents do not expect, you are more likely to lose your bond. Unexpected damage shows a tenant has not cared properly for the property. Damage can include:

  • Obvious stains or burns on walls, flooring, and surfaces
  • Broken windows
  • Chipped sinks, toilets or bathtubs
  • Unapproved renovations

It is important to communicate with your rental agent about damage as it occurs. 

If an issue is raised during a routine property inspection, talk about it and fix it or allow the agent to organise a tradesperson to fix it then. Don’t wait until the end of the lease, as you want to avoid delays in getting your bond back. If you do damage something, talk to your agent straight away.  

  1. Obtain a checklist from your property manager

Property managers will each have a checklist of the things they particularly check when inspecting a property to release the bond. If you ask your property manager or agent for the checklist, it is much easier to know what they expect. If you tick off each item on the checklist in terms of cleaning, you will be likely to get your full bond back. 

Negative things on the checklist that will prevent you from getting your bond back include leaving a property dirty, damage that is not considered wear and tear and if the property does not match up to the condition report.  

  1. Have a pre-vacate inspection

It makes sense to have the property manager inspect the home before you vacate to get advice on the areas you need to address to get your bond back. The agent could have a different interpretation of “good condition” than you do, so getting information before you move can help speed the return of your bond. 

The agent or property manager can raise any concerns about the condition of the property, and the tenant knows the issues to address before vacating the premises.  

  1. Hire a professional cleaner

While hiring a professional cleaner will cost you money, you could save time and money. Many tenants do not clean to professional standards and end up having to pay for a professional cleaner when the agent is not satisfied with the cleaning anyway.  

Professional cleaners can ensure everything is covered, including the steam cleaning of the carpets, which is mandatory on many lease agreements. Some professional cleaners will guarantee the clean will get the bond returned and will negotiate on your behalf with the agent if the agent complains about the standard of cleaning. 

Choosing a cleaner recommended by the property manager could streamline the process further, as the cleaner knows what that agent is looking for in terms of end of lease clean.

Doing a quick clean yourself after moving your furniture and items out can save a tenant money on a professional cleaner. The cleaner will still come and ensure everything is right and will do the jobs that you cannot do, such as steam cleaning the carpets, but cleaning first can cut the hours you pay for the professional cleaner. 

A professional cleaner will charge $80 to clean the stove and could charge over $600 to complete a clean where the tenants have left the property in a disgusting or dirty state for a two-bedroom apartment. Larger properties cost more. However, cleaning prior to getting the professional in can cost only a couple of hundred dollars.  

  1. Pay your last month’s rent in full

Remember that rent is not connected with the bond. Despite many renters thinking that the last month of rent will be deducted from the bond, it is actually illegal to withhold paying rent. You can run the risk of being blacklisted on a tenancy database, which can make it very difficult to get future rental accommodation.  

How renters can avoid getting blacklisted

Most people recognise that seriously damaging property or not paying rent can get you blacklisted, but there are other reasons property managers may blacklist you on a national database that landlords can check before renting properties to you.

Not complying with the lease is a reason a landlord may blacklist you. 

Private companies run tenant databases, collecting information about tenants and sharing it with landlords for a fee. Real estate agents will subscribe to one or more databases. The National Tenancy Database is the largest tenant database for both residential and commercial properties. It contains tenant information, including public records and tenant history files. Landlords or their agents use this information when assessing rental applications. 

How long will I be blacklisted?

If you are blacklisted, your details remain on the database for three years, and then the information is deleted. You can dispute the information and get the reference removed if it is inaccurate or there is a change of circumstances. If you are listed for not paying rent, you can request the list be altered to reflect you have settled the debt once you pay the outstanding amount. 

How can I find out if I’ve been blacklisted?

You can contact the database companies directly for information, but as most will charge a fee, it can be expensive. When you make a new tenancy application, the agent will check to see if you are listed on a tenancy database before you get to rent. If they discover you are blacklisted, they should let you know within seven days. They will provide the information on which agent listed you and the reasons you were blacklisted. 

At this point, approach the agent who blacklisted you to provide the information the database holds on you. They have 14 days to comply with this request. 

How do I get off the database?

It is easier to avoid being blacklisted in the first place, but if you are blacklisted, you can do things to resolve the issue. The first step is to rectify any issues you can, such as paying outstanding debts. 

Once you have done this, write to the real estate agent or landlord, asking them to remove the listing. They must contact the database company, which has 14 days to take action to remove the listing against you. 

If you think the initial listing is unlawful, you can request the state tribunal to review the case. Directly contacting the database company is not recommended. 

 As a renter, what else should I know?

Did you know that landlords are not the only ones who can blacklist you? Utility providers can also make reports to the NDA. 

A renter who hasn’t paid a phone bill for several months is likely to struggle to pay rent, which is why utility providers can make reports and blacklist potential tenants.

While this is an unusual and extreme action, it can and does happen. The amount you owe a landlord must exceed the amount of your bond, whether that is in rent or payment due for damage. 

Before a landlord or utility provider can list you on one of the tenancy databases, they must advise you in writing or make a reasonable attempt to notify you before they can list you. 

If you receive a letter of intent, do not ignore it. Try communicating with them and if need be, negotiate a payment schedule that will enable you to repay the debt. Pay what you owe within three months of the due date, and you can get the listing removed. However, if you take longer to pay, you can get the listing changed to inaccurate after you have paid the debt, but it cannot be removed for three years. 

As a landlord, why should I use the database?

An NTD tenancy check costs a very small amount, less than $20 in most cases. Considering the peace of mind this simple check provides, it is worth protecting your investment. 

While the majority of tenants do the right thing and are never listed on the database, many of those who do get listed are repeat offenders. 

 How to survive a rent rise

It’s unavoidable for tenants to hear: that rent is going up.

While no one wants to deal with paying more for rent, it is possible to survive rent. You just need to approach it realistically and with some planning.

Tenants should budget for possible rent hikes and not choose a property that is more than they can afford.

Consistently putting money away can also help create a buffer, as is an emergency fund. Aim to save up at least three months’ living costs to cover rent, bills and groceries.

You can also offset rent rises by watching other costs like insurance, internet and energy bills.

Try and save money above and beyond rent for emergencies and long-term goals like a home deposit.

There are advantages of renting. Still, in the long-term, homeownership may provide peace of mind and is a good way to build wealth.

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