Bonds and signing up for a place

Signing your first rental agreement is an exciting moment, but make sure you know what you are doing. 

Paying the bond

A 'bond' is a deposit paid to your new landlord. Depending on which state or territory you live in, your bond could be 4 weeks rent or more. The bond is lodged with your state or territory fair trading or consumer affairs office for safekeeping.

Smart tip

Always pay your rent on time otherwise you might be evicted. If you do not pay your rent, it can affect your rental references and you won't get all of your bond back.

Your bond acts as a form of security for your landlord, so if you damage the property or owe rent when you move out, your landlord may be able to keep some of the money. Make sure you get a receipt for your bond.

Provided you pay the rent regularly and don't damage the place, you'll get your bond back when you move out. That's when you'll need the receipt.

Any time you do move into a new place, make sure you do a thorough condition report. A condition report is a list of any marks, damage or issues with the property. It will protect you when you leave the property so you get your full bond back. Make sure you take photos and comprehensive notes.

If your landlord has kept your bond money without reason, contact your local tenants' organisation or consumer affairs authority immediately. These organisations are listed on our sorting out rental problems webpage.

Check before you sign

A rental agreement is a legal contract. Once you sign a rental agreement (or lease) between you and the landlord it's legally binding. Make sure that you understand your responsibilities and agree with all of its terms.

Smart tip

Before you sign a lease agreement, inspect the property. Take note of anything that is damaged and tell the real estate agent or landlord. Take photos of all the rooms and keep them for your records.

  • Don't assume - Get help to understand the contract. Even if you think you know what is written in the contract, ask for an example; or ask a question like, 'Just to clarify, I think this means X. What do you think it means?' Don't worry about appearing dumb or difficult. It's better to clarify now rather than later.
  • Get a second opinion - You can get help from your local tenancy union. Don't rely on yourself to read the contract and find all the problems. Do not sign until you are 100% sure of the details of the lease. Remember, you can't cancel this sort of legal contract if you change your mind.
  • Check the lease term - Think about whether the term of the lease suits your circumstances. For example, signing up for a 3-year lease on a property might sound good but if you need to move out during the lease term, you could lose some of your bond and have to continue paying rent until they find someone else to rent the property. If this happens, try to negotiate a shorter term or look for other options.

After you sign, you'll be expected to pay your rent on time, look after the place and cover any damage done to the property during the time of the lease. However, you are entitled to fair 'wear and tear' during the term of your lease.

Case study: Jamie's pet problem

Jamie had a pet dog called Minty that had grown up with him. When Jamie left his parents' home, Minty moved too even though no pets were allowed in his rental property. A few weeks after moving, the landlord did an inspection and found Minty's drinking bowl. Jamie hadn't read the rental agreement so he didn't realise he couldn't have Minty at his new place. He then had the choice of either returning Minty to his parents' home or finding another place to rent. Jamie decided to return Minty to his mum and dad's. Jamie went back and read over the lease agreement carefully in case there were other conditions he wasn't aware of.

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Last updated: 05 Jan 2015