Ten Top Tips for Renters: How to get your deposit back




Tenants coming to the end of their rental agreement undoubtedly want to get their rental deposit back at the end of their tenancy. Usually this a fairly substantial sum of around four weeks’ rent, representing a significant outlay especially for younger renters.


However, there can be situations where your landlord is able to keep a portion, or the total, of your rental bond. Luckily there are ways to avoid this from happening or to salvage as much of your bond refund as possible.


Here are 10 steps towards getting your bond refund.


1) Check your initial condition report before applying for a bond refund


Find the condition report provided to you by your property manager when you entered the house. This will quickly allow you to assess the condition of the house relative to when you moved in. Your property manager will be using this same report to determine whether they need to deduct funds from the bond.


Take the report room by room and note down anything that’s substantially different from the original report.


Include areas where damages has occurred, or the condition has changed significantly, including the gardens. Take care to allow enough time prior to your departure that you can repair, replace, clean or account for all the items you uncover.


2) Be honest about what counts as damage


Not everything you have noted down is likely to count as damage. In fact, some may fall under the category of ‘fair wear and tear’. While it is up for debate what may count as ‘fair’, rest assured that if you have used the property with care and consideration it’s unlikely that much of the general wear would have caused damage.


However, accidents do happen. It’s time to be honest with yourself about what is actually damaged or broken, and account for this in writing. If the property manager does ask you to pay to replace or repair these items you can seek your own quotes to ensure that they are realistic.


3) Speak directly to your property manager


At this point you need to get in touch with your property manager about any of the damage. Some of it may be fixable. In fact, if your property manager suggests that you may need to pay replacement costs then you may want to keep in mind that a repair job is usually less costly and, under tenancy regulations, should be the first consideration.


For instance, stains on the carpet can usually be repaired – if the stain is so bad it cannot come out, the piece of carpet with the stain on can be cut out and replaced by a professional. This will be a far smaller outlay than the cost of re-carpeting a whole room.


Being honest with your property manager will also put them on side. If they come for the final inspection to find a number of items broken or damaged then you may find them less willing to negotiate a favourable outcome. Remember, if you attempt some of the repairs yourself and they are not up to standard, you may see yourself paying even more.


4) Remember your obligations as a tenant


It is a requirement under the Tenancy Act that you provide the correct notice to vacate, even towards the end of a fixed lease agreement. If you break the lease or fail to provide adequate notice then you will find yourself paying the costs as a result. This will usually come from your bond.


5) Bring in the professionals


Now it’s time to bring in the professionals. One of the crucial parts of retaining your bond is ensuring you leave the property clean. Some lease agreements require professional steam cleaning of the carpets and even pest treatments if you have had pets.


Depending on your own personal abilities, it may also be worth hiring gardeners and even window cleaners to get the property back into shape.


6) Undertake other cleaning as necessary


Of course, much of the cleaning work can be done yourself. With a bit of elbow grease, some spare time and some cleaning products, you should be able to bring the property back up to scratch.


Remember to get into the areas you don’t clean as often. The dishwasher, if provided, and oven need to be clean. The top of doors and picture rails should also be free of dust. It can also be worth cleaning out the vents of air conditioners and heaters.


7) Properly vacate by the due date


While it’s common sense to be vacated by the agreed upon date, some tenants overstay by a few days for a variety of reasons. This will incur extra rental costs.


Many tenants also believe they can leave things behind, like old furniture or white goods. Avoid this at all costs as the removal expense might be deducted from your deposit.


If you are keen to leave things behind or do need extra time to vacate, communicate clearly with your property manager as soon as possible. They will appreciate your honesty and can discuss with you the available options and costs.


8) Return all keys and household items


Tenants are expected to return all of the keys they were initially given and any other items (such as garage remote controls and doorbell functionalities). Failure to do this may incur the cost of not only replacing those keys or items, but often replacing the locks. Missing keys may be a sign that you have kept one and the house may be seen as insecure.


9) Attend the final inspection in person


When your landlord or property manager comes for the final inspection of the property, ensure that you attend.


If you uncover a few outstanding items that need to be cleaned or damages that need to be discussed, you can try and resolve these issues straight away.


10) Understand the bond refund process


Lastly, know the process for the bond to be returned. These vary slightly by state but in NSW, your property manager will submit a claim to Rental Bonds Online (RBO) to return the bond in whole or in part to you. 


You will need to include financial details for where the bond should be returned to and your contact details.


If yourself and the property manager can’t agree on the bond refund amount then you may be heading to mediation and to Tribunal. Ultimately, you will be asked to provide evidence that backs up your dispute and justifies why you should be entitled to the return of the bond.


Points to remember:

  • Check your condition report
  • Be honest about damage
  • Speak directly to the property manager
  • Understand your obligations
  • Consider professional cleaning services
  • Undertake other cleaning yourself
  • Vacate by the due date
  • Attend the final inspection yourself
  • Understand how the bond refund process works



Julie Rodgers is a highly experienced real estate agent and independent business owner based in North Turramurra, skilled in local real estate knowledge and property. She is available for expert comment.