At the end of your tenancy, under the Residential Tenancies Act 2010(NSW) (the RT Act 2010) your obligation is to:
- Remove all your goods ( section 51(3)(a));
- Leave the premises as nearly as possible in the same condition as at the start of the tenancy, except for fair wear and tear (section 51(3)(b));
- Remove all rubbish, and leave the premises reasonably clean, having regard to the condition of the premises at the start of the tenancy (section 51(3)(c) and (d)); and
- Return all the keys to the landlord or agent (section 51(3)(e)).
‘Fair wear’ is any damage done by the ordinary use of a thing (for example, carpets becoming worn by walking on them); ‘fair tear’ is any damage done through the action of the elements (for example, curtains fading in the sunlight).
After you’ve packed and removed your things, but before you return the keys, take photos of the premises for your records.
Once your tenancy is terminated, your bond can be paid out – either to you or to the landlord, or split between you. If your tenancy was terminated by order of the Civil and Administrative Tribunal, the Tribunal may have also made an order dealing with the bond; otherwise, either you, or your landlord, or both of you together, can start the process for getting the bond paid out.
You should first do a final inspection of the premises with your landlord or agent, referring to the condition report from the start of the tenancy. The landlord and agent are required to give you a reasonable opportunity to attend the final inspection (section 29(4) and (5)).
If the premises need any further cleaning, the landlord or agent might give you access to the premises to do the work yourself. They are not, however, obliged to do so (they can get a cleaner in and add the bill to what they claim you owe). Similarly, you are not obliged to do this work yourself (you can let the landlord sort it out and send you the bill). Make sure the landlord understands that the tenancy is still terminated and you are not liable to pay any rent for the period in which these last bits of work are done.
If you and the landlord agree about the amount of money (if any) you owe, complete the Claim for refund of bond money form available from NSW Fair Trading together. Make sure the agreed amount is written on the form before you sign it. Upon receiving the form, NSW Fair Trading will pay the agreed amount to the landlord and the remainder to you.
If you and the landlord disagree about the amount owing, complete a claim for refund of bond money form yourself and submit it to NSW Fair Trading. The landlord will probably do the same. NSW Fair Trading will process the first form received. It will notify the other party that the bond will be paid out after 14 days for the amount claimed, unless the other party tells NSW Fair Trading to hold the bond and applies to the Tribunal to resolve the dispute.
If your landlord makes a claim on the bond, they must give you a copy of the condition report from the final inspection, and copies of any estimates or receipts relating to the claim. Be aware that these papers, as well as the notice of claim from NSW Fair Trading, will probably be sent to your previous address.
If you lodged your bond using the Rental Bonds Online facility, you and the landlord can each use that facility for making claims on the bond.
Once the matter ends up in the Tribunal, the onus is on the landlord to prove that you owe what they claim (regardless of whether it was you or the landlord who had to apply to the Tribunal for the hearing). Be prepared to respond to the landlord’s case with evidence of your own. Also, if the landlord is claiming that they have had to replace old damaged items with new items, be prepared to argue that the cost should reflect the depreciation of the old items (for example, if the carpet you damaged was 10 years old and near the end of its life anyway, you should pay only a fraction of the cost of a brand new carpet). The Australian Tax Office’s depreciation tables are useful for making this argument.
Before you do the final inspection, get a ‘claim for return of bond’ form, just in case. You may not need it, but if there’s disagreement about whether you owe any money, it’s good if you can get your claim form in before the landlord or agent gets their form in. This way, the landlord or agent will have to apply to the Tribunal to dispute your claim – and pay the Tribunal’s application fee.