Renters must fight back against dodgy landlords who strip them of their bond money with bogus claims of damage and repairs, consumer groups and tenants rights advocates have urged.
“Bond theft” is costing tenants hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, they believe.
Almost half of tenants get only part of their bond back and 10 per cent lose their entire deposit. Yet, according to NSW Fair Trading figures, of the 273,038 bonds returned in 2015-16, only 1.6 per cent were fought over in the NSW Administrative Review Tribunal.
The unrecorded statistic, advocates claim, is the numbers of renters who didn’t put up a fight when their landlord wrongfully withheld their bond.
Erin Turner, acting director for the consumer group Choice, said: “We found there is a culture of fear among renters and that the number who have had problems getting their bond back would be much higher than the 1.6 per cent of people who fight it out in the tribunal.
“So many people don’t take up the fight because they are concerned about being able to put a roof over their head in the future,” Ms Turner said.
“They don’t want to be black-listed and some agents ask specifically if you have ever fought a tribunal claim on questionnaires to prospective renters.”
Tenants’ Union senior policy officer Ned Cutcher said: “Landlords know how to game the system; they always get something by over-estimating costs of repairs.”
Mr Cutcher said tribunals will rarely find bond claims by landlords completely spurious and disputes can be caused by ignorance and malice.
“It may be canny landlords engaging in sharp practice, but in most cases it’s amateur landlords bumbling through and asking for too much,” Mr Cutcher said.