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How to always get your bond back

By George Hadgelias

In a perfect world, we’d never have to move house but in reality, renters relocate around every 4.5 years on average.

The time, tension and financial pressure involved in moving all our possessions from one location to another combine to make it an experience most of us would rather avoid.

For renters, there’s also the added stress of bonds.

Simply put, the Tenants Union of Victoria states that renters need to leave the property in “a reasonably clean condition” to get their bond back.

It’s a phrase that will mean different things to different people, but a good rule of thumb is to leave the property in the same condition as when you moved in, less wear and tear.

So here’s what you need to do to get your bond back every time, in full.

1. Compare your property to your condition report

As soon as you decide to move you should start thinking about the property’s condition. Don’t leave things to the last minute as this will just cause stress later on.

The good thing is that the home will have an expected amount of wear and tear after each tenant moves out – so it doesn’t have to look brand new.

The leeway you’re given on the “wear and tear” front will depend on how long you’ve lived in the property and its condition when you moved in.

To provide a clearer picture of what you need to do when you vacate, Belle Real Estate senior property manager Candice Deane advises tenants to use their condition report as a reference point.

Your condition report should list any faults your property had when you moved in. It should also contain photos, which will go a long way towards helping you put in the elbow grease needed during your deep clean.

Read more: The complete guide for first-time renters

2. Report issues as they arise

Accidentally put a hole in a wall or break a towel rail? Tell the property manager about it at the time, rather than waiting for the end of the lease.

You’ll still have to pay to fix it if it’s damage beyond simple wear and tear, but sorting out the issue then and there means you won’t be kept waiting to receive your bond back at the end of your lease while the property manager hires tradesmen to repair the damage.

Normal wear and tear

Homes by their very nature are places meant to be lived in. So it’s natural for them to incur wear and tear as they house people.

Below are some examples of what landlords and property managers should expect from a home that’s been lived in and enjoyed over a number of years.

  • Faded, cracked and peeling paint
  • Worn flooring
  • Faded carpet or curtains
  • Loose grout in the wet areas
  • Clogged drains if the pipes are old
  • Cracking in walls due to the natural movement of an older property

Unexpected damage

On the other hand, the damage that’s occurred as a result of a tenant that hasn’t looked after the house usually means money will be taken out of the bond if it’s left unrepaired. This can include:

  • Unapproved renovations
  • Stains or burns in walls, flooring and surfaces
  • Broken windows
  • Chipped sinks, toilets or bathtubs

“Always be upfront if you damage something throughout the lease,” Deane advises.

“At the routine inspections, if it’s raised, talk about it then and fix it then, don’t wait until you move out because then it will delay your bond, and obviously you want to get your bond back as quickly as possible. If you damage something, contact us and we’ll refer you onto a tradie so you can get it fixed. At the end of the lease if everything’s perfect you’ll get your bond back.”

3. Obtain a checklist from your property manager

Deane also says it’s helpful for tenants to obtain a checklist from their property manager so that they know exactly what they are expected to do when they vacate.

“For them to get their full bond back, if they tick off every single thing on the checklist, in terms of cleaning, things will be ok,” Deane says.

“Things that will prevent them from getting their full bond back are leaving a property dirtier than when they moved in, if the property doesn’t match up to condition report and if there’s any damage to the property that we don’t consider to be wear and tear, like holes etc.”

Read more: Rental inspection checklists

4. Have a pre-vacate inspection

Your interpretation of “good condition” and an agent’s interpretation could be very different.

So it makes a lot of sense to have the property manager inspect the home before you vacate, to advise you on areas you’ll need to address in order to receive your full bond back.

“At that time, we’ll have a look through the property to see what condition the tenants have got it in and things we need to prepare ourselves for when the tenant vacates. We can then raise any concerns with the tenant about the condition of the property,” Deane says.

5. Hire a professional cleaner

Yes, hiring a cleaner will cost you a bit of money, but it’s money that you’ll likely have to spend anyway if the property manager takes issue with parts of the property you’ve cleaned yourself.

A professional cleaner will steam clean the carpets, for one, which is mandatory for many rentals and often guarantees their work so the agent can go back to them if they’re not happy with the job.

You can hire your own cleaner, or use one the agent recommends, which often streamlines the process as the cleaner knows the standard the agent expects and requires.

Deane says you can also cut the cost of the cleaner significantly by first giving the property a quick clean yourself.

“If the tenants move their things out and do a quick once over, when our cleaner goes in it can be up to $200, just to go over the top and steam clean the carpets,” she says.

“But if we have a tenant vacate and they leave it in a really disgusting state, cleaning can cost up to around $600. And that’s just for a two-bedroom apartment, doing walls, power points, floors, windows, blinds, full kitchen, full bathroom. Just to clean the stove, if we had our professional cleaner do it, they charge $80.”

6. Pay your last month’s rent in full

Many renters believe their final month’s rent will be deducted from their bond, but your bond is a separate issue from your rent.

You shouldn’t withhold rent simply because you think you may have future difficulties getting your bond back. If you do so, you run the risk of being blacklisted on a tenancy database, which would wreak havoc on future rental applications.

What’s more, in some states, withholding your rent will be deemed a violation of the law.

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