47% Of NSW Renters Lose Some / All Of Their Bond: Here’s How To Save Yrself

I’ve been pulverized by the long dick of the renting game more times than I care to mention. Be it roommates or the fuck-me-dead cost of keeping a roof over my head, renting has pushed its knob (sans lubrication) into my soul and then, in a jackhammer-like motion, destroyed all faith I have in humanity. 
Having heard several tales of scenarios more cooked than mine, I imagine you probably all share my hunch that our nation’s most detested sect of professionals, real estate agents, are willing participants in a “c’mon guys, we can see what you’re fkn doing there?!” rental rort. Given the frequency we get screwed – coupled with how often we hear stories of others getting piss-farted around – it begs the question: are us youngsters in NSW getting taken for a ride by landlords and real estate agents?

“I suspect so,” Senior Policy Officer at Tenants’ Union of NSW, Ned Cutcher, told PEDESTRIAN.TV. “But the rest of the population isn’t immune to being taken advantage of either.” 
The Statutory Review of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010: Discussion Paper (October 2015) states 47% of renters in NSW either lost some or all of their bond during the previous financial year. Just for the cheap seats down the back, that figure was FORTY SEVEN FUCKING PERCENT. 
FYI: if 47% of people who were refunded a partial bond during that period only had $100 deducted (which is low-balling the average likely taken off it), that’d amount to a sum just under $35.5 million being injected straight into the wallets of agents and landlords. 
From where I’m sitting, it looks like the most problematic divide between tenants and real estate agents / landlords is obviously the bond – a divide that’s caused by an uninformed attitude by the latter parties.
“I get the sense, seeing what I see in my job, that a lot of landlords assume that the bond is there for them to use to bring the property up to whatever standard they believe it ought to be when they’re in between lettings,” says Cutcher. 
This would be fine if the judiciary viewed all parties involved in a lease as equals, because they’d shutdown claims prompted by an uneducated, “IMMA DO RENNOS ON ME BATHROOM,” claim for a bond. But Cutcher believes that NSW’s rental tribunal leans in favour of property owners / agents. 
“Just the mere process of claiming or disputing a tenant’s bond, and allowing the matter to get into the tribunal, means that the landlord’s going to get something out of it. $100, $200, $1000, whatever it is, landlords – and I think they know this – if they have a crack at it, they’ll get something.”
So, should we just give up and accept we’re going to get taken advantage of for the rest of our lives considering the whole home ownership thing is, y’know, never going to happen? Nope. Cutcher has shared some pretty game-changing advice to help prevent all of us from getting fucked out of our cash. 
The thing is, as a tenant in NSW, you’re well within your rights to make a claim for your bond first. The landlord doesn’t *have* to start this process. 

“If you’ve left a tenancy and you’re having a discussion with the landlord or their real estate agent about the state of the property and whether or not the bond is going to be released, tenants need to know that they can actually initiate the refund process without the landlord’s signature on the form,” says Cutcher. “Just as landlords can do so without the tenant’s signature on the form.”

Typically at the end of a lease, if everyone involved agrees with the realtor’s assessment of the property – including any deductions to the bond they think should be made – all parties would sign a ‘Claim for Refund of Bond Money Form’ and your agent would submit it to NSW Fair Trading‘s Rental Bond Board. They’ll release the bond to the tenant within a few days, minus any deductions claimed / agreed to. 
If you don’t sign this form with them, they’ll strike out on their own. Fair Trading will get in touch informing you that the landlord’s submitted a ‘Notice of Claim’ (AKA a claim with just their signature). You have 14 days to dispute this, and if you don’t, the bond will be paid out as described in the Notice of Claim (e.g. whatever the fuck the landlord’s put down). 
If you choose to dispute the Notice of Claim, however, you’ll then initiate the tribunal process. Because you’re the one disputing the claim, you’ll have to cover the cost of beginning these proceedings (roughly $50 in NSW). 
So why does the ability to lodge a claim for your bond without the signature of the landlord make such a difference? It all boils down to who pays that $50 tribunal fee.   
HYPOTHETICAL TIME: Say you didn’t notice that there was a lightbulb missing in your laundry at the beginning of your lease and subsequently didn’t note it in your condition report. If you submit your bond claim form without the landlord’s signature, they’re not going to initiate tribunal proceedings over the cost of a lightbulb because the $50 fee is a larger amount. 
For legit, above-board tenants who aren’t trying to screw the landlord around, this is a god send – the property is in the exact same position as it was when you moved in and real estate agents aren’t going to come after you for petty costs that should realistically fall on them anyway. 
In a more hectic hypothetical, imagine if you had a complete ass-wipe of a landlord (which probs isn’t that hard to imagine, tbh). If they submitted the bond claim first, there’s nothing stopping them going HAM and requesting random deductions just for the sport of it. In addition to the lightbulb, they could come after you for scratches on floorboards, stains on carpets – pretty much whatever they want that you didn’t note, or didn’t give enough detail about, on your condition report. 
If they don’t have to fork out $50, then there’s literally nothing stopping them from trying to get most, or all, of your bond. They’d enter into biased legal proceedings, most likely be awarded an amount more than what they’re entitled to, and wouldn’t have to pay a single cent. Even if their claims were shot down in flames, the whole thing would’ve been worth it to have a crack at getting, what could potentially, thousands of dollarydoos.
So yeah, it might just be $50, but it’s got a heap of protective weight behind it that we should all be using to protective ourselves for a system that’s arguably been positioned to fuck us out of our money. Oh, and when you initiate the refund process solo, the expiry period of 14 days that applies to your landlord’s Notice of Claim applies to yours too. If the landlord doesn’t dispute the claim for the bond, you’ll get your cash in a fortnight. Good shit, right?
Unfortunately this isn’t applicable nation-wide – if you’re reading this and you don’t live in NSW, be sure to get in touch with your local tenants’ body for more info. If you’re in NSW and reckon you’re getting the dirty pulled on you, get in touch with one of your local / legendary groups:
  • Tenants’ Union of NSW – HERE
  • Inner Sydney Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Service (Redfern Legal Centre) – HERE
  • Eastern Area Tenants Service – HERE
  • Inner West Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Service (Marrickville Legal Centre) – HERE
  • Northern Sydney Area Tenants’ Service – HERE
  • Southern Sydney Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service – HERE
  • South West Sydney Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service – HERE
  • Western Sydney Tenants’ Service – HERE
Good luck fighting the good fight, fellow broke-ass renters <3.

Photo: The Simpsons.