Bond claims and refunds

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Bond money is returned to renters when they move out at the end of the agreement, unless there is a reason for the rental provider (landlord) to make a claim.

If you can’t agree on the bond, either the renter or the rental provider can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for a decision. Most applications to VCAT are free.

Bond cannot be used to pay rent.

On this page:

Reasons for claiming bond

Bond is refunded to the renter unless the rental provider makes a claim for compensation. This might be because the renter:

  • damaged the property
  • owes the rental provider for rent or charges
  • has not left the property reasonably clean
  • made certain changes to the property without asking.

Rental providers cannot claim bond for fair wear and tear.

Final inspections

A rental provider, property manager or agent will do a final inspection at the end of the rental agreement. The condition report should be used to compare any changes to the property during the agreement.

The renter must be present during the final inspection, or have been given a reasonable opportunity to be there.

Damage and changes to the property

The rental provider might be able to claim bond if there have been changes to the property such as:

  • new damage that is not normal wear and tear
  • the property needs further cleaning
  • missing items
  • certain changes to the property that the rental provider did not approve.

The condition report is used as evidence for any changes to the condition of the property. It is filled in at the start of the rental agreement to record the original condition.

If both renters and rental providers have taken photos at the beginning of the rental agreement, that may help identify any damage.

Unpaid rent or charges

The rental provider may also claim some or all of the bond when a renter owes money for rent or other charges.

Fair wear and tear

Rental providers cannot claim bond to cover fair wear and tear.

Fair wear and tear is deterioration because of:

  • reasonable use of the property
  • natural environmental forces.

Examples of fair wear and tear might be faded curtains or worn kitchen bench tops. Ripped or torn curtains, or broken bench tops, might be considered damage.

Reasonable use of the property means use that most people would think is fair. The law does not define exactly what reasonable use is. If people cannot agree what is reasonable, they can apply to VCAT to make the decision for them.

Making claims and bond refunds

Bond claims can be started by either the rental provider or the renter. Usually the rental provider or their agent starts the claim.

Bonds are usually paid within one business day when rental providers use RTBA Online.

Rental providers can only start the claim once everyone has agreed on how the bond should be divided. They must start claims within 10 business days of the rental agreement ending.

Renters can start a claim themselves once a rental agreement has ended but it may take longer to get the bond back.

Rental providers or property managers starting the claim

Rental providers can only start the bond claim once everyone has agreed on how to divide the bond. This includes the rental provider and any renter with their name on the bond with the RTBA.

Online claims

Claiming online is the fastest way for a bond to be paid.

Rental providers must be registered to use RTBA Online to start the claim or refund. See the guide for property managers and rental providers on claiming a bond for instructions.

Once the rental provider has submitted the claim, an email and text message (if a mobile number was provided) is sent to the renters, with a unique link for each person to review and accept the claim.

Once everyone has accepted the claim, the RTBA will pay within one business day.

Paper claims

A paper claim form can be used when a rental provider cannot use RTBA Online. This might be because:

  • renters do not have email or cannot access email
  • the rental provider is not registered to use RTBA Online
  • the rental provider needs to provide paper evidence (such as a VCAT order).

The paper claim process takes longer than the electronic one.

To start a paper claim rental providers must:

  • generate a unique claim form using the bond number on RTBA Online
  • print the form
  • complete and sign the form
  • ask all renters whose names are on the bond to sign the form
  • post the form to the RTBA at this address:

RTBA
Locked Bag 007
Wendouree VIC 3355

It is an offence to ask for or obtain a renter’s signature on a bond claim form that does not show how the bond is to be divided.

Renters starting the claim

Any renter with their name on the bond can start the bond claim themselves after the agreement ends if they choose, but it does take longer to get the bond back.

Renters may want to do this if the rental provider is delaying the claim or there are problems getting another renter to sign or agree to a claim.

Once renters begin the claim through RTBA Online:

  • the RTBA gives written notice to the rental provider and any other renter on the bond
  • other renters or the rental provider have 14 days to contest the claim and show evidence of VCAT proceedings, or the RTBA will pay the claim.

If there is a VCAT application number then the claim will be cancelled (meaning the bond will not be repaid) and the renter who made the claim will be notified of the cancellation.

See the guide for renters on claiming a bond for instructions on how to use RTBA Online.

Making claims with a VCAT order

When there is a bond dispute, any party can apply to VCAT to resolve the dispute. When a VCAT hears the matter, an order will be issued that can be used to support the claim.

When there is a VCAT order issued in favour of the rental provider, the claim can be made either:

  • online, by providing the VCAT order number, or
  • generating a paper form, sent with a full copy of the VCAT order to the RTBA.

When there is a VCAT order issued in favour of the renter:

  • the paper claim form must be generated and sent together with a full copy of the VCAT order to the RTBA.

How long bond refunds take

Bond refunds are usually made on the same business day when either:

  • the claim is made by the rental provider using RTBA Online and all renters confirm the claim once they have received their email
  • after a paper bond claim is received.

When renters make the claim themselves, bond refunds take between 14 and 20 business days. This allows time for other renters or the rental provider to be notified of the claim and to contest it if they choose.

Tips for using paper forms

To avoid delays or having your claim form rejected when using a paper form, make sure:

  • you provide your Australian bank account details
  • the bond claim form is filled in clearly and correctly without amendments or whiteout
  • signatures can be matched to the previous bond lodgement or tenant transfer form
  • you provide your ID with photo and signature if the bond was lodged electronically as the RTBA does not have your signature in the record.

How the RTBA repays a bond

Australian bank accounts

The RTBA pays bond to Australian bank accounts. The bank account details should be provided when submitting the bond claim form.

Make sure you provide valid bank account details in the bond claim for the RTBA to refund the bond.

If you have not provided valid bank account details in the bond claim, the RTBA will retain the bond until you provide a valid payment option.

Non-Australian bank account

If you are overseas and do not have an Australian bank account, the RTBA can:

  • issue a cheque for deposit in an overseas bank
  • arrange an overseas bank transfer for a fee.

If you are overseas and need advice on getting your bond back, submit an enquiry to the RTBA.

Bond disputes and problems

If the claim is disputed, then either the renter or the rental provider can apply to VCAT for a hearing.

For example a renter might believe they are not responsible for the damage, or that the damage is due to natural wear and tear.

Find out more about resolving bond disputes.

Bond claims for DOH loans

If a bond is a loan from the Director of Housing, the renter or the rental provider must apply for a hearing at VCAT. Learn more about Director of Housing bond loans.

Renting law reforms

In March 2021, Victoria introduced new language to the rental act.

  • Landlords are now called rental providers
  • Tenants are now called renters
  • Leases are now called rental agreements.

One of the major changes to bond claims and refunds is:

  • Renters can now apply directly to the RTBA for repayment of the bond.

You can read about these and other changes in a summary of the reforms or in detailed fact sheets and guides.

Sections of the Act

If you want to know what the law says about bond claims and refunds, you can read these sections of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997:

  • Section 411AB – Matters that may be subject of bond claim
  • Section 411AD – Disputed bond claims