Bond disputes and how to resolve them

Nanette asks:
(updated on Wednesday, December 13th 2006)

5 months ago the property we are renting changed hands for the 3rd time in 9 years. We didn't pay a bond to either of the previous landlords and they were very happy with us as we improved the property. The new owners inspected it and insisted we pay a bond, which we did. Now they want the place for their relatives and they are saying they want to see the place vacated before they will inspect it and return our bond. We think the inspection should be the same as when they bought it, which was full of our things and looking very nice. We know that when it's empty it will look awful. How do we stand? They are looking for ways to keep our bond and we need it to transfer to the new rental. Also they have never cut the lawns in 5 months, although they were always tended before and after an outside flood, the water collected under the house requiring a giant hole to be made in the wall which exposes the piles dirt etc and they have never put the wall back. We have put up with enormous dampness. Please advise.

Our Experts Answer:

When a landlord requires their rented property so members of the landlord’s family can move in, they must give a minimum of 42 days notice. When the landlord collects a bond from their tenants, they must lodge it with the Department of Building and Housing within 23 days of receiving it. When the tenancy ends, the tenant or the landlord can apply to the Department to have the bond refunded to them. The tenant and landlord can also apply jointly for a bond refund. In some cases the tenant may contest the landlord’s bond refund application, and vice versa. If this happens, the parties may need to go to the Tenancy Tribunal to get the dispute over the bond determined. For information and advice about how to resolve bond disputes, call 0800 TENANCY (0800 83 62 62) or visit

To avoid disputes over bonds, it is best for both the tenant and landlord to go through the house or flat together at the end of the tenancy, using the property inspection report (if one was completed at the time the bond was lodged with the Department of Building and Housing), to check that nothing is damaged or broken. The tenant is not responsible for normal fair wear and tear to the house or flat or any possessions let with it. The tenant is responsible for any intentional or careless damage. Some or all of the bond can be claimed by the landlord for anything left undone by the tenant in relation to the tenancy, such as unpaid rent, intentional or careless damage to the property, items missing, cleaning or gardening (only if the tenancy agreement states that the tenant is responsible for gardening).

•No claim (full refund) – If the inspection shows everything is in order, complete the bond refund form and send it to the Department of Building and Housing for the refund of the bond money to the tenant.

•Agreed claim (part refund) – If there is some damage or other claim which the tenant agrees to have taken out of the bond, fill out the bond refund form to reflect this. The bond is divided, giving the landlord the cost of the repair or other claim, and the tenant the balance. For instance, if a bond is $400 and the cost of window repairs is $150, then the bond refund form would say 'pay tenant $250 and pay landlord $150'.

The Department of Building and Housing provides information and guidance on building law and compliance, services including weathertight homes, and advice for tenants and landlords.

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