Bond lodgement and refund processes are regulated by the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (RTA). The terms of your tenancy are set out in the RTA and Standard Lease and are known as the ‘standard tenancy terms’ (STT).
If bond is charged it must be lodged.
Bond cannot be more than the equivalent of 4 weeks’ rent!
THE BOND IS YOUR MONEY! Don’t just give it away!
There is no requirement for the agent or lessor to submit your bond claim form to the ORB at the end of your tenancy.
To speed up your bond claim, you can submit your bond refund claim form without the signature of the lessor or real estate agent.
What is a bond?
A bond is a landlord’s security in case a tenant leaves owing rent or does damage to the property that has to be repaired. A landlord does not have to ask for a bond. However, if they do, the bond cannot be more than 4 weeks’ rent (s 20 RTA).
At the start of your tenancy
How is bond lodged?
If your landlord or their agent requires a bond, you can pay it directly to them (cl 20(a) STT). A receipt must be provided.
If you pay your bond directly to a landlord, they have 2 weeks to lodge the money with the Office of Rental Bonds (ORB) (cl 20(c) STT). If you pay it to a real estate agent they have 4 weeks to lodge it. You can lodge the money yourself, although the landlord/agent can refuse you possession of the premises until you produce evidence that you have lodged it with the ORB (s 24 RTA and cl 19 STT).
The bond should be lodged in the names of all tenants who paid a proportion of it. The ORB will provide a receipt. If you don’t receive a receipt within a few weeks contact ORB to check that it was lodged, for ORB contact information see our links page.
If the landlord/agent hasn’t lodged the bond the first step is to contact the Office of Rental Bonds and request that they write to your landlord or real estate agent to remind them that the bond must be lodged. If this is not successful you can apply to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) for an order requiring them to lodge it. The landlord can also face a maximum penalty of $2200 for failure to lodge it (RTA s 23(3)).
Condition reports (‘inventories’)
No later than the day after you move in, the landlord/agent must provide you with 2 signed copies of a condition report
(or “inventory”) stating their assessment of the condition of the property, and any goods leased with it (s29 RTA).
You have 2 weeks to return 1 copy to them.
Take the time provided because it gives you an opportunity to live in the property and identify problems that are not immediately visible. If you agree with the report, simply sign it and return the copy to the landlord/agent.
If you don’t agree with part or all of the statements, add your own comments, sign it, make a copy, and give them a copy.
It is very important that you keep a copy of the report with your comments. Keep it with your lease and other documents.
The condition report is viewed as evidence of the condition of the property at the beginning of the tenancy (section 30). The landlord, or their agent, may use the lack of detail to claim for damage done before you moved in.
It is very important to complete the condition report in as much detail as possible. It is also advisable to take photos or video the premises at the same time.
If you don’t receive a condition report you should document this, and advise the landlord/agent in writing that it hasn’t been received. You should also download or do your own Condition Report:
If, at the end of the tenancy, no condition report is produced by the landlord/agent, then what you say should be accepted by the ACAT as evidence of the condition of the premises at the start of your tenancy.
At the end of your tenancy
As a tenant you are expected to return the property in substantially the same condition and level of cleanliness
it was in at the beginning of the tenancy (as noted in the condition report), allowing for fair wear and tear (cl 64). You cannot be made to improve the property (cl 65 STT).
Do I have to have my place professionally cleaned?
No. The methods you use to achieve this are entirely a matter for your discretion. NOWHERE in the RTA or the STT is it stated that you have to use professional cleaning or carpet cleaning services at the end of your tenancy.
However, the Tribunal accepts that carpets have to be professionally cleaned at the end of your tenancy if your tenancy agreement says that they do AND if they were professionally cleaned at the beginning of the tenancy. In these cases the agent/landlord MUST provide a receipt showing that this was done.
The Final Inspection
The final inspection takes place in the last month of your tenancy at a time agreed between you and your landlord/ agent. It is important that you attend this inspection.
Return all keys at the inspection and ask for a receipt. You may be held liable for rent and any damage while you retain access to the premises. If your landlord/agent refuses to accept the keys, the safest method for returning them is by registered mail. Include a note stating the address of the rental premises you are leaving and the date you were last on the premises, as the tenancy ends on the date you vacate (cl 97(2) STT). Add that they refused to accept the keys.
!!!!! NOTE THAT THE PROCESS FOR THE FINAL INSPECTION HAS CHANGED, SEE DETAILS AT – RTA CHANGES – FINAL INSPECTIONS AND CONDITION REPORTS – NEW END OF TENANCY REQUIREMENTS
A landlord/agent cannot add items that need repairing, restoring or cleaning after the final inspection has been conducted and you have vacated the premises and have no control over what is happening there. Despite what some agents claim, a landlord cannot do an inspection after you have vacated, if they want to do an inspection it has to be with you at the final inspection. Read our Frequently Asked Question: Additional Final Inspections.
When you move out make sure the landlord /agent has your forwarding address and contact the ORB to confirm they also have your forwarding details.
What can the landlord claim?
The RTA clearly states the only grounds for claiming amounts from your bond (s31 RTA). The most common are:
- The cost of repairing damage other than fair wear and tear that was caused by you;
- Rent owing under the lease at the time it terminates (This doesn’t include compensation for rent if you leave the fixed term lease early);
- If a tenant does not return the keys for the premises at the end of the tenancy, the lessor may claim the reasonable cost of securing the premises. This will usually mean changing the locks.
Remember that the bond money is your money. The landlord or agent must be able to support any claim they make on your bond money with evidence.
What is ‘fair wear and tear’?
‘Fair wear and tear’ is a very old phrase that has been used in tenancy agreements for centuries. There are two parts to its meaning:
- ‘Fair’ relates to the cause of the damage. It says that for damage to be excused, it must have occurred in the course of fair use of the property for residential purposes. Something like carpet deterioration in high traffic areas of the premises (e.g. hallways) could definitely occur in the course of fair use and be excused. On the other hand, it would be hard to argue that motor oil stains on a lounge room carpet occurred during fair use. This type of damage would almost certainly be considered to fall outside fair wear and tear.
- ‘Wear and tear’ refers to the effect of the damage, and limits the severity of allowable damage. Minor scuff marks on walls, sun-fading of curtains and minor oil stains on a concrete driveway would all likely constitute fair wear and tear. On the other hand, a large red wine or cordial stain on the carpet would probably be considered to be more than merely wear and tear, even though such a stain clearly could have happened in the course of fair use.
What is ‘fair wear and tear’ depends on the facts of each case. If you and the landlord can’t agree, it will be decided in the ACAT. The Member will consider the condition of the property at the start and the end of the tenancy, as well as the general age and condition of the property.
Evidence of the condition of the premises
The best evidence that you can have is visual evidence, video and/or photographic. Take the time to record all rooms inside the premises, and (if applicable) the outside too. If any areas are raised as an issue at the final inspection (eg an area of carpet, or a crack in the shower screen) then take additional close up photos of these areas. So, take your camera and download a blank Condition Report to take to the final inspection in case there are disputes:
You could also arrange for a reputable third party—eg, a work colleague, friend, or neighbour— to go through on the day of the final inspection and make a written statement about the state of cleanliness and general condition of the premises on the date you vacate.
This extra effort could make all the difference when it comes to getting your bond money back!
Bond Release Process
Bond release process
The Act sets out the steps in the bond release process. Bond release application forms are available to tenants and lessors through the ACT Revenue Office: Office of Rental Bonds website here.
Lessor’s obligations (section 34):
When a tenancy agreement ends, the lessor (or agent) must:
- give the tenant a signed bond release application form, and
If a lessor is making claims from the bond they must provide:
- a written statement of the reasons for the deduction; and
- if claiming for the reasonable costs of repairs or for the reasonable cost of securing the property if the tenant fails to return the keys at the end of the tenancy, the lessor must also provide a written estimate of the costs.
When does the bond release application form have to be provided by the lessor?
- the lessor must provide the form within 3 working days after the tenancy agreement ends; or
- If the lessor is claiming for repairs, restoration or securing the property, the form must be provided within 10 working days after the tenancy agreement ends.
Lodging the bond release application form with the Office of Rental Bonds (ORB)
Under the new provisions, a bond release application can be lodged by:
- the tenant/s and lessor jointly (s34A),
- the tenant/s (s34B), or
- the lessor (s34C).
When the tenant/s agree with the lessor’s claim:
If a tenant is provided with a form signed by the lessor and the tenant/s agree with any deductions the lessor is claiming, the tenant/s can sign the form and either the lessor or tenant can lodged the form with ORB. All tenants must sign the form.
Only 1 tenant agrees:
If a tenant is provided with a form signed by the lessor and the tenant agrees with any deductions the lessor is claiming, but the other tenants do not agree, the tenant can fill in their own bond release application form and lodge it with ORB.
If the tenant/s do not agree with claim:
If a tenant is provided with a form signed by the lessor and the tenant disagrees with any deductions the lessor is claiming, DO NOT SIGN THE FORM. The tenant can fill in their own bond release application form and lodge it with ORB.
WHEN NO FORM IS PROVIDED BY THE LESSOR:
The tenant can fill in their own bond release application form and lodge it with ORB.
It is worthwhile to write to the landlord/agent when you lodge your claim, advising them of your actions and stating why you are not legally liable for the damages they are claiming (sign, date and keep a copy of the letter). This may be enough to deter them from disputing your claim.
If tenant does not return the signed form:
If the tenant does not return the form within 10 working days, the lessor can fill in their own bond release application form and lodge it with ORB. A lessor can also lodge a bond release application form if they have taken all reasonable steps to try and give the form to the tenant but have been unable to do so.
What happens when the bond is disputed?
If ORB receives a bond release application form that is not signed by the lessor or all tenants:
- ORB will notify the other party that a claim has been lodged;
- The other party will have 10 working days to dispute the release;
- If they do not receive notice of dispute the bond will be paid in accordance with the application
- If the other party disputes the claim, the matter will be referred to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT).
You can also check our FAQ on defending a bond claim, available here.