Rental Property Tips: Getting your bond back
 
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The end of the lease on your rental property can be a terrifying time for renters.

You forked over a pretty hefty sum at the beginning of your tenancy, and you think you looked after the place pretty well. Once that contract is over, it is up to the landlord or property manager to determine if you’ve kept it in good enough condition, or if they are going to deduct sums for getting the place up to standard.

Luckily, there are a number of things you can do (both throughout your tenancy and when your lease ends) to make sure it is up to standard. This can give you a much greater chance of coming out of your lease smoothly.

One of the most important things to consider is the difference between maintenance of the property along with cleaning it well at the end and a landlord or property manager fixing up any remaining damage. Often tenants complain at the bond deductions made for only a small fix. However, even if the problem is a small stain on the carpet or mark on the wall, in most cases the landlord will have to organise a professional to fix it.

Regardless of the size, many professional cleaners or handymen will have a minimum call out fee or minimum time that must be paid for. They’ll also charge for materials and time at market rate. The landlord or property manager will spend time organising the professional, and there’ll be GST along the way. Added up, it really goes to show that you’re much better off fixing issues yourself.

Cowdy’s top 20 rental property tips to make sure you get your bond back – part 1

Refer to the Ingoing Condition Report you signed at the beginning of the tenancy. This will tell you what you agreed to and this document will be used by the property manager to do the Bond Inspection. They will be comparing how the property was at the beginning and how you have left it at the end of the tenancy taking into account fair wear and tear.

1. Know the meaning of “Normal Wear and Tear”

The law recognises that rental properties aren’t going to stay pristine forever, and normal life will cause some things to wear out. Life happens, and you’re not expected to keep your flat looking like a showroom. However, damage such as holes chewed in the carpet by the dog or hair dye stains in the bathroom won’t be covered.

It’s tricky to define exactly what “normal wear and tear” is, but a good benchmark is to think about what would naturally happen over time in a rental property from normal usage and activities, and what you might have caused. If there’s more “instantaneous” damage like a break or spill, it likely won’t be covered.

A good start is to have a chat with your landlord at the beginning of the tenancy about what they include in their definition. Establish what existing “wear and tear” has already happened and what the landlord recognises as likely to happen. Familiarise yourself with the advice from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Building and Housing Information – specifically their guide to the law about renting.

2. Take photos of the property before you move in

You should always take photos of the property before you move in so you have a clear benchmark of the condition from the start of the lease to the end. This will allow you to settle any disputes a lot earlier. Email the photos to the landlord straight away so you can prove the date you took them.

If there is anything wrong at the beginning of the lease – the landlord hasn’t cleaned the carpets, there’s fixable damage from the previous tenants or the home isn’t cleaned adequately – ensure it gets fixed up before you move in. This will prevent you from paying for damage you didn’t cause and sets the standard at the beginning of the tenancy. You have a right to move into a rental property that is in good condition so make sure that’s the case first.

3. Hire a Steam Cleaner

Carpets are generally the problem child during end-of-lease inspections. It’s nigh on impossible to last your entire tenancy without a single spill or muddy footprint in your carpet. It is highly likely you will have to get carpets cleaned at the end. Rather than wait for the landlord to arrange a potentially expensive professional carpet cleaner, you can hire a steam cleaner. Cowdy and Co will provide you a list of reputable steam cleaners.

Steam cleaning will do a good job, and can even be used for furniture stains if you’re in a furnished rental property. If you’ve had significant spills or accidents throughout the tenancy it might also be a good idea to tackle the issue straight away and hire one at the time of the incident.

4. Invest in some essential carpet cleaning products

There are some miracle-working cleaning products that can be an absolute godsend to have on hand. Some of our top recommendations (available on supermarket shelves) are:

This is a household-must. These super-sponges can suck almost anything out of a carpet. If you’ve just spilled a glass of red wine, whip one of these out and press it into the stain straight away – most of it will be sucked up into the sponge.

If the stain has been there long enough to dry, our best advice is to grab a can of Cavalier Dry Carpet Stain Remover from the supermarket. It works incredibly well, and is easier than most supermarket cleaners. Simply make sure you’ve vacuumed to get rid of any excess dirt, spray it on the stain then vacuum it out as soon as it starts drying. The result can be professional-quality, too.

5. Periodically wash the curtains

Note: Ask your property manager or landlord first before you dry clean or wash the curtains as you might damage them especially if they are thermal backed or the fabric is very expensive. Net curtains can be washed on a gentle cycle.

If you’ve got some sturdy fabric curtains, throw them in the washing machine (on a gentle, cold cycle) every so often to keep them in good condition and get out common mould stains. If your curtains are old or delicate, soak them (or dry clean them) instead to ensure they don’t get damaged. It will be much more effective to clean them periodically than to try to eradicate the damage from mould or dampness that has accumulated over a year or more in your Christchurch rental property.

6. Wipe down blinds regularly to get rid of dust

This goes without saying as an important thing to clean at the end of the tenancy, but the job will be much easier if you’ve been diligent through your time there too.

7. Watch out for calcium residue

Calcium residue as a result of hard water can be very difficult to clean at the end of a lease. Whilst hard water is generally not a problem for Christchurch rental properties (the Council states the hardness of the water is 45 g/m³, putting it in the “very soft” category), older buildings, older pipes, or those subject to earthquake damage can sometimes influence the “hardness” of the water. This can really differ from house to house.

If you have any calcium or other mineral build up (those white stains that stand out particularly strongly in stainless steal bench tops and shower heads), Calgon water softener liquid is the right cleaning product to get rid of it. Another option is a two step process – step 1 is to use a baking soda/lime juice/vinegar solution, followed by a heavy dose of Jif.

8. Spot clean wall stains as they happen

We’ve all had them: mysterious scuff marks, footprints halfway up the wall, dirty handprints or marks from the top of dining chairs. At some point, there will be a stain or mark on the wall. Spot cleaning them as soon as you notice them will make your life a lot easier than having to spend hours scrubbing the walls at the end of the lease.

9. Clean drainpipes

While it may fall under your landlord’s responsibility, removing some leaves will not only keep the exterior of your house looking nice and tidy, but will go a long way toward preventing leaks from overflowing pipes. If your drainpipes are difficult to access, liaise with your landlord to arrange for them or a contractor to do it, especially during/after autumn.

10. Change the filter in your dryer

This one is more of a general safety tip, but dust filters can be very hazardous – potentially causing a fire – and will also lead to a badly performing drier. You should clean it out after every cycle. Losing your bond will be the least of your worries if you burn the place down.

If you’d like any further tips or advice on keeping your property in good condition, don’t hesitate to get in contact. Whether it’s the right cleaning product or information on what you can expect during an inspection, we’re happy to help.

Stay tuned for part 2, in our next blog!