Bond. Rental Bond.

Landlords often require rental bonds as security to make sure that tenants meet the terms of their rental agreement. These days, bonds are usually collected by the landlord (or agent acting on their behalf) and held by a statutory authority. In the ACT, for example, bonds are lodged with the Office of Rental Bonds (ORB); in Victoria, the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA); in NSW, NSW Fair Trading.

Bond lodgement

The bond is collected at the commencement of a new lease. The landlord is required to give the tenant a completed bond lodgement form that records the amount of bond paid. Once the bond is lodged, a receipt is sent to both parties.

Condition report

Before the tenant moves in, they and their landlord must complete a condition report. This report is important because it notes the condition of the property prior to the lease. If, at the end of the lease, there’s a dispute about the state of the premises, the report can be used as evidence.

When you complete the condition report, be as detailed and specific as possible, especially if your observations differ from that of your landlord. We also recommend that you take a good set of date-stamped photos of all the rooms, fixtures and fittings. And don’t forget the outside areas as well.

Damage and repairs

The tenant is responsible for keeping the property reasonably clean, with an allowance made for ‘fair wear and tear’. Tenants are also responsible for:

  • notifying the landlord of damage and defects, including those that could cause injury
  • paying for damage caused by occupants and visitors
  • replacing light globes and batteries for smoke detectors.

The landlord is responsible for making sure that the property is in a reasonably clean condition on the day the tenant moves in. They’re also responsible for keeping it in good repair and attending to requests for urgent and non-urgent repairs in a timely manner.

Each Australian state and territory has different Acts that govern residential tenancies. These Acts distinguish between urgent and non-urgent repairs.

In Victoria’s Residential Tenancies Act 1997, urgent repairs include burst water services, gas leaks, blocked toilets and drains, serious roof leaks, dangerous electrical faults, damage due to weather (for example, flooding, storm, fire), failure and/or breakdown of essential services and/or appliances (for example, hot water, cooking, heating, water supply) and faults or damage to the property which render it unsafe or insecure.

The landlord, or their agent, must attend to these repairs immediately. If they do not, the tenant can arrange the urgent repairs (in Victoria, for up to $1800) and claim the costs back from their landlord. Make sure you keep records of your attempts to arrange urgent repairs and the related receipts.

It’s recommend that both the tenant and the landlord communicate all requests and responses in writing and keep copies in case of a dispute.

Moving out

Before you move out, talk to your landlord or agent about how the bond money should be divided. If you believe that you’ve kept the property in good condition — with fair wear and tear only — and that no damage has been caused, you can claim the full bond back.

If there’s some damage to the property, the parties should get a quote for the costs of the repair and discuss who will pay.

Bond claim

Both the tenant and the landlord must complete and sign a bond claim form. This sets out the amount to be repaid and the tenant’s bank account details for the bond’s return. The tenant cannot use the bond for their final rent payment; bond and rent are separate items.

 A landlord may claim some or all of the bond in circumstances where:

  • the tenant has left or abandoned the property and owes rent
  • the tenant has failed to pay bills they were responsible for, such as water usage, and has left them for the landlord
  • items such as fixtures or fittings are missing from the property
  • the property has been damaged
  • the tenant has failed to clean or repair the property (beyond ‘fair wear and tear’) and the landlord incurs cleaning/repair expenses.

Bond dispute

Tenants can dispute a landlord’s claim by applying to the relevant tribunal in their state or territory; e.g. the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) or the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT). Similarly, the landlord can also apply to the tribunal if they and the tenant are unable to agree on the division of the bond.

As the bond money is the tenant’s money, the onus is on the landlord to prove their claim. Documents such as condition reports, dated photographs, repair quotes and receipts can be used as evidence. The more documentation, the stronger your position, so do yourself a favour: know your rental rights and responsibilities and start your new lease on the right foot.

Trang van Heugten is a senior associate in Maurice Blackburn's Melbourne office.

TOPIC: Consumer protection
RELATED LEGAL SERVICES: Consumer protection

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Trang van Heugten

Maurice Blackburn Melbourne
Trang van Heugten is a Senior Associate who practices exclusively in the Public Liability and Faulty Products department at Maurice Blackburn, based in Melbourne. She is also a Law Institute of Victoria Personal Injury Accredited Specialist who has a particular interest in bringing claims for the survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Trang is specially trained in trauma informed practice which ensures she works with clients to access justice in a way that recognises the complex trauma they have suffered. Trang has substantial experience across a wide range of public liability and faulty product matters, including successfully representing people who have been injured after landlords, councils, schools, shops, manufacturers and other businesses and organisations failed to take reasonable care to members of the public. Some of Trang's successful cases include a: tenant who fell five metres to the ground when the balustrade of his rented property collapsed disabled man who sustained severe burns to over half of his body when he was trapped in a shower facility of a nursing home homeowner who free fell several metres in the defective lift which was installed in her home shopper who was almost crushed by a defective shopping trolley while travelling on an travelator, and mum who sustained serious back injuries when she was crushed under the weight of unsecured soccer goal posts Trang also has substantial experience across a wide range of commercial and civil litigation.                 Before joining the Public Liability department, Trang worked as a senior lawyer for Maurice Blackburn Commercial, assisting in the conduct of a large Supreme Court action between pharmaceutical corporations. Trang was the Associate to Mr Justice Peter Buchanan of the Victorian Court of Appeal from 2000 to 2002 and worked as a lawyer at another leading law firm from 2002 to 2008. Trang graduated from La Trobe University with a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) and was admitted to practice in 1999. She also holds a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) from the University of Melbourne. Trang is a member of the Law Institute of Victoria. She speaks fluent Vietnamese and is actively involved in the Vietnamese community. ...

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