This information is a guide and should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice.

Bonds

A bond is money you may be asked to pay at the start of your tenancy. It is a security in case there is a dispute at the end of your tenancy over things like damage, cleaning or unpaid rent. By law, if you pay a bond it must be held by the bond authority until your tenancy ends. It is your money.

The law on paying a bond

There are strict laws the rental provider (landlord) must follow if they ask you to pay a bond.

The rental provider must:

  • complete and sign a bond lodgment form
  •  give this to you to sign at the time you pay the bond
  • give you a copy – you should also ask for a receipt, especially if you pay by cash
  • lodge the form and your bond money with the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA) within 10 business days. You should receive confirmation within 15 business days. If you don’t contact the RTBA on 1300 137 164
  • give you a signed condition report, either electronically or two paper copies. You must be given this before you move in – see our page Starting a tenancy.

The rental provider must not:

  • ask you to pay a bond that is worth more than one month’s rent if your rent is $900 or less, a week.

In most cases, you cannot be asked for both a bond and a guarantee. If you are, contact us, your local Tenancy Assistance and Advocacy Program (TAAP) service, Tenancy Plus provider, or community legal centre for advice.

If any of these laws are not followed you can report the rental provider to Consumer Affairs Victoria, which can fine them for breaking the law. You can also apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for an order that your bond has to be lodged with the RTBA.

When you should pay a bond

You should only pay your bond after you have:

  • a signed rental agreement
  • been given a completed condition report and a bond lodgment form signed by the rental provider

If you pay any money before these things happen, Tenants Victoria recommends you make it clear in writing that it is a ‘holding deposit’ and not a bond, as holding deposits must be returned within 24 hours if you decide not to sign the agreement to go ahead with the rental.

Protect your bond

Moving in: condition report and photos

You have 5 business days from the move-in date in your agreement to complete and return your condition report.

You should use this time to have a really good look around your rental property and include lots of detail in your condition report.

If you do not agree with what the rental provider has written, make your own notes in the condition report.

We also recommend taking plenty of photos, both when you move in and then again when you move out.

A detailed condition report and lots of photos can help you protect your bond against claims by the rental provider at the end of your tenancy.

You can also send a copy of your photos to the rental provider if you think there are substantial differences between the rental providers’ statements and your statements in the condition report.

For more information about condition reports when you move in, see our page Starting a tenancy

Top tips when you move in

IF I COULD SAY ONE THING: TOM MCDONALD | The Checkout – YouTube

Credits: The Checkout and Redfern Legal Centre Tenants’ Advocate Tom McDonald (Published 5 June 2014)

Moving out: final inspection

You have the right to attend a final inspection with the rental provider, or their agent, after your tenancy has ended, while the rental provider, or their agent, completes an exit condition report.

For more information about condition reports when you move out, see our page Ending a tenancy

Getting your bond back

No need to wait

You do not have to wait for the rental provider, or agent, to prepare a claim form, and you do not need their agreement either. You can make your own claim direct to the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA).

Making a bond claim to the RTBA costs nothing, and it also costs nothing to make a bond application to VCAT if needed.

RTBA claims

The RTBA accepts three types of claims – those made by the:

  • renter
  • renter and rental provider, jointly
  • rental provider or their agent.

The RTBA is moving to an online system.

Renter claims

You can make a claim as soon as your tenancy is over, and you have given back the keys. You can put in a claim for the bond to be:

  • paid to you
  • paid to someone else, either partly or fully
  • divided between you and the rental provider, or
  • paid to the rental provider.

Joint claims

If you and the rental provider agree about how the bond should be repaid you can put in a joint claim. Joint claims can be made at any time, even before your tenancy ends. But, if you both agree that the rental provider can have any of your bond, a claim cannot be made earlier than 14 days from when your tenancy will end. Note that it is against the law for rental providers to ask you to sign a bond claim form that does not say how the bond is to be refunded.

Rental provider claims

The only claim the rental provider can make to the RTBA without you is one that says all of the bond is to be paid to you. They can make this sort of claim at any time, even before your tenancy ends.

But if the rental provider wants any of your bond, and you do not agree with them, they will need to apply to VCAT.

After a claim is made

If you make a claim without the rental provider, the RTBA will send them, and anyone else on your rental agreement who has not been included in the claim, a notice to tell them about your claim.

Claim is disputed

If the rental provider, or anyone else from your agreement who was not included in the claim, wants to stop the RTBA from paying out the bond to you they will need to apply to VCAT. They will need to give the RTBA proof that a VCAT application has been made within 14 days of getting the RTBA’s notice that you have made a claim.

If a VCAT application is made within 14 days of the tenancy ending, you will need to wait for VCAT to decide how the bond is to be paid.

Applications to VCAT for bonds should be made within 14 days of the tenancy ending. In exceptional circumstances this time limit may be extended with VCAT’s permission. If the rental provider does not have a good reason for the delay you can ask VCAT to dismiss their application.

This time limit only applies to VCAT applications. There is no time limit on making a claim direct to the RTBA.

Claim is not disputed

If 14 days go by after the RTBA has sent out their notices and no-one tells the RTBA they have applied to VCAT about the bond, or everyone consents to the bond being paid out according to your claim, the RTBA will pay out the bond to you.

VCAT applications

Renter VCAT applications

You don’t need to apply to VCAT to ask for your bond back. because you can now make a claim for your bond direct to the RTBA.

But if you think the rental provider or other interested party, such as another tenant, will dispute your claim you can still apply to VCAT and make a claim to the RTBA at the same time.

If you want to apply to VCAT you have 14 days to make your application from the time your tenancy ends. In exceptional circumstances, this time limit may be extended with VCAT’s permission.

Bond applications to VCAT are free.

If you want to apply to VCAT for your bond see our page Bonds – guide to renters’ VCAT applications.

Rental provider VCAT applications

A rental provider cannot make a claim direct to the RTBA if they want any of your bond paid to them. The only way a rental provider can get your bond is:

  • with a VCAT order, or
  • if you agree, either in your own claim or in a joint claim

Time limits

If the rental provider wants to apply to VCAT for your bond they must apply within 14 days of your tenancy ending. If they apply after this you can object to VCAT accepting or hearing their application.

What a rental provider can claim for

A rental provider can apply to VCAT for part, or all, of your bond for costs such as:

  • cleaning, if you haven’t left the property reasonably clean. However, the rental provider cannot expect you to leave the property cleaner than when you moved in
  • repairs, if you, or your visitors, have caused any damage. This does not include usual wear and tear from living in the property
  •  rent, or other charges that are your responsibility, that you owe
  • replacing locks if you altered, removed or installed any without consent

Proving their claim

If the rental provider wants your bond, it is up to them to prove their claim. They need to prove to VCAT that:

  • they have suffered financial loss or property damage, and
  • the loss or damage was caused by you breaching your lease or the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, and
  • the amount they are claiming is reasonable.

Defending your bond at VCAT

If the rental provider applies to VCAT for your bond, Tenants Victoria recommends you attend the hearing, especially if you do not agree with the rental provider’s claim.

You will get the opportunity to defend your bond at the hearing.

For more information see our page Bonds  – guide to rental providers’ VCAT applications and our page Preparing to defend your bond at VCAT.

Renters often get better results if they attend the VCAT hearing. If you don’t appear VCAT can make a decision about your bond, and any other claim in the rental provider’s application, such as a claim for compensation, without you.

Generally, there are no other costs beyond the claims made in the application. This is regardless of whether you win or lose.

Family and personal violence

Where a rental provider is making a claim for a bond in situations involving family or personal violence VCAT can make orders that protect a victim-survivor’s bond if the loss, including rent arrears, or damage the rental provider is claiming for, was caused by a perpetrator of family or personal violence.

It is also not always necessary for the victim-survivor to have an intervention order in place for VCAT to make these orders.

For more information, see our page Family and personal violence and your tenancy.

Bond loans

At the start of your tenancy

If you need help to pay the bond, you may be able to borrow the money from the Department of Housing with a RentAssist bond loan. If you are approved for a bond loan a voucher will be emailed directly to the rental provider or their agent. This voucher acts as a lodgment form and will be used by the rental provider, or agent, to lodge the bond with the RTBA. The bond lodgment form will need to state the amounts paid and who has paid the bond, which will be the Director of Housing, and you if you are paying part of it.

At the end of your tenancy

Renter claims

If you have a RentAssist bond loan from the Department of Housing you will be expected to pay this loan back. At the end of your tenancy you can make a claim to the RTBA for the bond to be repaid to the Department of Housing. If you do not include the Department of Housing in your claim the RTBA will send them a notice to let them know about your claim. They will be able to apply to VCAT for orders that the bond be paid to them to pay back the loan.

Rental provider claims

If the rental provider gets a VCAT order that entitles them to any, or all, of your bond, and it was paid with a RentAssist bond loan, you may still need to repay the bond loan to the Director of Housing. If you have an unpaid debt to the Director of Housing this will not affect any future applications that you make for public housing. However, you may be asked to enter into an agreement to repay the debt.

Bonds and share houses

At the start of the tenancy

All renters who have paid money towards the bond should make sure their name and the amount they paid is included in the bond lodgment form at the start of the tenancy.

During the tenancy – transfers

It is common in share houses that people will move in and out while the same tenancy continues.

If renters want to change who is on the lease this is referred to as a ‘transfer’, legally described in the law as an “assignment”.

Transfers can happen in several ways. For example, a renter can leave and be replaced by another renter, or the numbers of renters can increase or decrease.

To change who is on the lease you need either the rental provider’s written consent, or an order from VCAT.

For more information on transferring (assigning), see our page Lease transfers and subletting.

Assuming you have permission to change who is on the lease, you will also need to change the names listed on the bond held by the RTBA.

Example

A, B and C rent a property together and each paid an equal share of the bond. A and B want to stay at the property, but C wants to move out and D wants to move in.

The bond paid by A, B and C at the start of the tenancy acts as a security over the property until the entire tenancy ends. As only C is moving out the tenancy is not ending so C’s bond will not be refunded by the RTBA.

For C to get their bond back they will need to arrange a bond transfer with D, with C being paid their share of the bond by D and D replacing C on the bond held by the RTBA.

To tell the RTBA about the change, and to make sure C is removed from the bond, and D listed on the bond, a tenant transfer form needs to be submitted to the RTBA within 5 days of the change.

If the rental provider or their agent are registered with the RTBA to deal with bond transactions online the Tenant Transfer form can be submitted electronically.

This example assumes there are no problems with the property and that C would receive a full refund of the bond they paid at the start of the tenancy if the tenancy were ending.

At the end of the tenancy

Co-renters can make a claim to the RTBA to have the bond refunded at the end of their tenancy.

However, if a renter makes a claim to the RTBA at the end of the tenancy, without including a co-renter, the RTBA will send a notice to anyone on the rental agreement who has not been included in the claim to tell them about the claim, including current and past co-renters if they are listed on the bond.

If a co-renter has paid part of the bond but not been included in the claim they could put in their own claim or could apply to VCAT for orders on how the bond should be paid out among all renters.

Applications to VCAT should be made within 14 days of the tenancy ending. In exceptional circumstances this time limit may be extended with VCAT’s permission. For more information on making a VCAT application see our page Guide to renters VCAT applications – bonds.

Disputes

We cannot give advice in shared household disputes because many situations are not covered by the Residential Tenancies Act, and we cannot take sides between tenants.

One way of resolving disputes is by mediation through the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria. However, all tenants in the dispute must agree to mediation.

Pet ‘bonds’

Some rental providers ask renters to pay a ‘pet bond’ if they have a pet. They may say that this is to cover costs if the pet causes damage to the property.

There is nothing under the law requiring you to pay a ‘pet bond’ if you have a pet.

Under the law, if your weekly rent is $900 or less and there is no VCAT order in place saying otherwise:

  • you cannot be asked to pay a bond that is worth more than one month’s rent
  • the rental provider cannot demand an additional or subsequent bond from you.

Further, all bonds are required by law to be lodged with the RTBA.

If you pay a bond at the start of your tenancy then that is the bond a rental provider can apply to VCAT about if they believe they are entitled to any of your bond if your pet caused damage to the property. A second ‘pet bond’ cannot be requested and does not need to be paid.

Resources

Related Pages

Was this page helpful?

Cookies and Privacy:This site uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.

Find out more Accept