The RAHU Guide To Getting Your Bond Back (Victoria edition)
What is a bond?
A bond is a lump sum payment held by the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA) in trust as an insurance on your lease. Your bond cannot be more than a month’s rent for that property unless your rent is more than $900 per week.
Faster bond repayments: You can apply to the RTBA at the end of the tenancy to have all or part of the bond released with or without the Landlord’s consent.
Allow early release of bond: You can apply for your bond to be released before the end of the lease. If the Landlord agrees, the RTBA releases the bond 7 days before the end of the lease.
What’s Apportionment? Simply, it’s a portion of the total bond. Usually, it is in cases where the Landlord is attempting to claim costs out of your total bond.
How do you claim your bond back?
Renting directly from the Landlord: If you’re renting directly from the Landlord, you can take control of the bond’s return by downloading a completed Bond Claim form for you and your Landlord to sign before forwarding it to the RTBA.
Note: It is an offence for a landlord to request or obtain your signature on a bond refund application form if the application does not specify the amount of bond to be refunded and the apportionment, if any, of the bond.
If the bond is to be paid back in full, ensure the bond amount is recorded in the ‘Renter payment details’ section before signing.
If the bond amount is agreed to be paid to the Landlord, then the Bond Claim form must be signed by the renter not earlier than 7 days before the termination date.
Renting through a Real Estate Agency: Agents must electronically lodge, claim, and transfer renters’ bonds. The agent and renters should agree on the division of the bond before the agent submits a bond claim.
You can check that your bond has been lodged at rentalbonds.vic.gov.au
What if the Landlord wants to make a claim on the bond?
The Landlord has 14 days from when either you vacate the property or the Landlord becomes aware that the property is now vacant.
If the Landlord has not consented to the bond being paid out, the Landlord has 14 days to dispute it by making a claim on the bond. Usually, this is to claim you for damage or cleaning. The RTBA will notify you with an SMS and email, and you can challenge the Landlord’s claim within 7 days.
If the renters do not respond to the link within 7 days, the Landlord and renters will receive a reminder. If no response is received in 14 days, the bond claim will be cancelled, and the RTBA will return the bond to the renters.
What are the allowable reasons for a bond claim?
Landlords can attempt bond claims for anything. However, a reasonable claim may be:
• damage caused to the property by the renters other than fair wear and tear;
• any goods stolen or not reported lost to the Landlord by the renters;
• the property being in an unclean condition, fair wear and tear excepted;
• abandonment of the property by the renter;
• an amount of rent that has accrued due and is unpaid.
My agent/landlord expects professional cleaning before I receive my bond back.
Tenancy agreements often contain clauses around steam cleaning or professional cleaning services. Renters are only required to hire professional cleaners if the Landlord had the property professionally cleaned immediately before you moved in, told you so, and provided a receipt. Otherwise, you can leave the property in a “reasonably clean” condition. The Landlord or agent cannot request you to do more than the law states, even if it is in the tenancy agreement.
You can refer to your copy of the condition report you received at the start of your tenancy.
What’s considered “fair wear and tear”?
The normal deterioration of the house from it being lived in. Examples include faded curtains or carpet, scuffed floors from walking, chipped/cracked paint or loose hinges or handles.
Depreciation: Every fixed item in a house has a depreciation value. Some examples of fixed items are the cupboards, bench tops or cabinets. You can calculate annual depreciation by subtracting the ‘salvage’ value from its purchase price and dividing it by its useful life (the number of years it is used). As a rough guide, most fixed items over 10 years old have a depreciated value under $100.
My agent/landlord is claiming part of my bond for damages. What can I do?
Landlords and agents often claim part or all of the bond for damages that can be considered fair wear and tear and often don’t account for depreciation.
Example: Tim and his partner are moving out of their house, and there is a stain on the bathroom cabinet. Tim has downloaded and completed the bond form from RTBA, but the Landlord refuses to sign it. Five days after Tim moved out, Tim received a notice from the RTBA that his Landlord was claiming Tim’s total bond of $1,400 to replace the whole cabinet. The Landlord has been leasing this property for over 10 years, and the bathroom cabinet has never been renovated or replaced.
Tim applies at VCAT for the bond’s return and equates the cabinet to be worth $50 after depreciation. The cost of repairing the stain could be fixed with a spot remover.
VCAT must consider fair wear and tear and the cabinet’s depreciated value to decide whether any or all of the bonds should be refunded to the Landlord.
VCAT decides that the stain on the cabinet is not fair wear and tear but considers the depreciated value of the cabinet to be $50. VCAT orders Tim to receive his total bond of $1,400 minus $50 apportionment to the Landlord.
RTBA: 1300 137 164 rentalbonds.vic.gov.au
Don’t forget Renters’ rights are only as strong as our willingness to enforce them. Talking to your housemates, neighbours, friends and other comrades about your plans, concerns, and successes helps us all grow stronger.
Join RAHU: rahu.org.au/join