Tips to help get your rental bond back

when it comes time to move out of a rental property, one thing which often makes even the most well-behaved tenant nervous is getting back the rental bond. Simply paying the bond for a rental property is very expensive, usually costing 4-6 weeks’ worth of rent, so naturally you would like to get as much back as possible, especially if you had to invest in a rental bond loan in the first place. If you have been a good tenant then you should be ok. The NSW Department of Fair Trading states that as long as you don’t owe money and you leave the property in good condition when your tenancy is over, you are entitled to get a full refund of the bond you paid.

The rule is that anything beyond “fair wear and tear” can (and probably will) result in a claim against the bond by your landlord. Unfortunately it can be hard to say exactly what counts and what doesn’t. Here are a few tips that will help you get your bond back in full.

1. Document your rental thoroughly when you move in.

Moving into a new place is exciting — but don’t let the excitement conceal existing flaws when you fill out the condition report. In order to protect both your bond and yourself, you’ll need to note any marks, spots, scratches, and other flaws that exist when you move in.

It can be very helpful to do this with photographs and video as well as in a condition report. When you move out, you’ll want to take photographs again that clearly show the property condition as you’re leaving it at move out.

2. Understand “fair wear and tear,” and fix anything that isn’t.

If you do not leave the property in good condition, compared to how it was when you moved in, your landlord can make a claim against your bond for the cost of repairs. The exception is “fair wear and tear,” which is the normal deterioration that occurs despite reasonable levels of care and maintenance. You do not need to worry about fair wear and tear — but you should fix any problems that do not fall under this category.

For example, scuffed up wooden floors and traffic marks on the carpet are considered fair wear and tear for which you are not liable. Burn marks and stains on the carpet or a badly gouged and scratched wooden floor, on the other hand, are considered damage which you are liable for repairing.

3. Plan your clean-up and do it thoroughly.

Once you put in notice that you’re leaving, honestly go over the property and see if any areas need improvement. Some areas may need more attention, so make a note of these and add the cleaning into your schedule.

Too many tenants leave cleaning until the last minute. Unfortunately this tends to result in an overall poor cleaning performance or you may end up missing major flaws. Carefully work through each room, cleaning your carpets and floors, bathrooms, kitchens, as well as dirty appliances. If there are minor repairs, you will need to take care of them — this includes those red wine stains on the carpet!

Keep in mind that any areas you miss may result in having the price of a professional cleaning deducted from the bond.

4. Do the final inspection with the landlord or agent.

Before you hand over the keys, contact the landlord or agent and arrange a final inspection — together. Go over the property with them and see if there is any damage or areas in need of cleaning. It’s quite possible you’ll be able to deal with minor issues on the spot.

You should complete the official final condition report during this inspection. Provided you and the landlord or agent agree on the bond payout, have them fill out and sign off on a Claim for Refund of Bond Money so that you can lodge it. This will let you get your bond paid out immediately. (You should never sign off on a blank Claim for Refund of Bond Money.)

In the event you cannot agree on the bond, you can take the case to your state’s tribunal. However in most cases issues can be resolved by directly negotiating with the agent or landlord.

Wear and tear as well as the occasional mess are facts of life for any living area, and there is no reason they should cost you your bond. The main way help you keep your money (and to help pay off any rental bond loans) are to take care of areas which are your responsibility. Also, if you take a pro-active approach to the final inspection and move-out process you will be in the best position for a full refund.