Thursday, April 28, 2016

21st Century Bonds

A great many Australians increasingly prefer to administer their lives online.  The NSW Government has willingly moved to shift services into the digital space - a snug fit with its overarching narrative of an 'innovative' Administration that is 'leaner and more efficient'. 

Housing is no exception. In December 2015, NSW Fair Trading introduced Rental Bonds Online, an alternative system for the payment of rental bonds. The system allows tenants to send their deposit to the rental bond board directly using Fair Trading's website, instead of through their landlord or real estate agent. Both tenants and landlords can also make a claim for repayment of the bond online. A modest but perfectly sensible innovation for the digitally-inclined. 

Moreover, given tenants' bonds must be given to the Rental Bond Board (and the interest pays for many services benefiting both landlords and tenants) it is appropriate that they may make payments directly. The system effectively eliminates the risk of misappropriation by an agent or landlord, or a refusal to release the bond in a timely manner after termination of the agreement. 
Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Victor Dominello would seem to agree. The Minister recently told Fairfax Media : "Misuse of rental bond money is a very serious issue but it can be prevented...Fair Trading's Rental Bonds Online system is a far more secure and efficient way of depositing bond money into trust". He continued, "I strongly encourage tenants and landlords to register to use the new system. It is an example of using digital innovation to provide greater peace of mind and transparency for consumers."
Tenants can only make use of rental bonds online if their landlord or agent has registered to use the system. Many agents were already using this system's predecessor (which was not open to tenants) and are already registered. So though there is some indication the system could become widely adopted, there will always be traders who opt out for reasons of retaining control, Luddism, or simple apathy. 

If tenants want to use Rental Bonds Online and their landlord/agent hasn't registered, NSW Fair Trading encourages tenants to request that they opt in. We also encourage tenants to let Fair Trading know how the system is working for them (and get advice if problems arise). 

This is intended to be an optional system - so if you prefer cash or cheques, don't fret. A landlord or agent who requires you to use Rental Bonds Online when you do not want to may be fined up to $2200.

And don't forget that you can claim your bond as soon as you hand your keys back, and can still make a claim if you disagree about the amount of the bond to be returned to you. Fill in the form with the amount that you want paid (you do not need the landlord or agent's signature). Then return the form to Fair Trading, or complete the claim using Rental Bonds Online.

You can find out more about Rental Bonds Online here 
And check out all things Bond at our factsheet here

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