The bond inspection: Being a new tenant in my 60s 9



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After I began my journey looking for a new home in Northern NSW, I had the experience of being a tenant for a few months for the first time since I arrived in Australia 27 years ago.

Although the experience of renting was a hazy memory I recall the rental bond board but not the complexity and hidden traps of the rental process. For example I have no rental history. I had been warned and I completely understand that these safeguards have been established because of the problem tenants out there. They are undoubtedly a minority but all tenants are now brought into line because of their misdeeds. However what I was not prepared for is how inflexible it is and how disempowering.

I showed my bank balance produced character and business references but that was not enough. Eventually I put a file together of utility bills, a reference from the agent who had sold my house, yes she is tidy, and a number of other documents and I was accepted.

I had moved from interstate and arrived the day before my six month lease of a unit in a retirement village was to commence. The first shock came as the pen was poised over the contract and the lengthy condition report and we were reviewing the clauses.

“Why is it only three months?” I asked.

“Oh the owners have it on the market and want it sold so they changed it,” said the agent. “You can go month by month if it doesn’t sell,” she said airily.

“But I don’t want that I want my six months to find my feet and certainly no buyer inspections! And I definitely don’t want the cost of moving again so soon”

“Well, you have paid your deposit and as you know there is nothing else you can afford.” She smiled and knew she had the final word.

As an aside, there’s a heavy price to pay to live in paradise. And yes they sold it under me by which time I had decided I had enough of renting and was overwhelmed by gratitude that I had the choice to buy something very modest but which numerous others don’r have, especially many single women.

When I re-entered the unit for the first time since I had seen it months earlier I was hit by a variety of overpowering chemical smells, so intense I became almost breathless. There was oven cleaner, bleach, sickly surface sprays and above all the cloying odour of damp carpets. I threw open all the windows and screen doors, temporarily disabled the smoke alarms and burned my most pungent incense until it eventually cleared, But each time I came back that prevailing carpet smell was waiting for me I nearly got used to it.

Time passed quickly. I had spent the previous year and many visits to the area exploring the local housing situation and knew in this very overheated market my only option was to “buy” into a retirement village. As a single retiree of limited means I had come to terms with the prospect of placing my funds into a depreciating asset in exchange for security and affordable weekly fees.

As the time to leave came closer I re-examined the condition report. As I had handed back my signed copy to the agent I had felt a sinking feeling that at the end of the lease there would be an issue over this document.

So I took extreme care to the extent of not even using the electric oven so I didn’t have to clean it! I lined all the cupboards and drawers and had no incidents until the final week when I spilt a cup of coffee on the carpet. No milk or sugar so I crossed my fingers as I booked professional carpet and window cleaners and arranged for the kitchen and bathroom to be cleaned too.

When it was completed it looked fantastic and apart from the prevailing carpet smell there were no nasty chemical odours. I handed in my keys and was confident about getting my bond back. I felt happy as I stood at the cashier’s window at the bank getting my settlement cheques for my new home.

The phone rang and it was the agent. She was very angry and my heart sank. Her shrill voice droned on in my ear as I continued my exchange with the bank teller.

She had three grievances, one valid but easily sorted, one completely ridiculous and which I dismissed but her major complaint was the smell of the damp carpets! I carefully explained they had always smelled bad, they were old and over cleaned, I had lived with it and it was not my problem.

I got my bond back.

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Patty French

Patty French was born in 1948 in Christchurch New Zealand. She has an MA (Hons) in English and Diploma in Counselling. After 17 years in the UK, she moved to Australia in 1989. She had several careers but in retirement her passion is writing, mentoring, women's issues and ageing with dignity.

  1. Yes, it is very dehumanising. We are renting for the first time in 20 years, trying to find a house to buy to retire to in a new part of the state. Agony…

  2. I recently rented for 1 year (37years previously in my own property). I took pictures of walls, carpets, water meter, electrical box inside cupboards, outside gardens etc.

    The large tree in backyard was infested with bees which swarmed when the temperature rose. It was safer on occasions to stay out of backyard. The agent informed owner who applied chemicals but as this was on going problem and occurred several times during my rental period.

    Carefully check backyards especially if it has a large tree. If tree not in good health it may become insect infested also drop limbs.

  3. Had a similar experience when suddenly had 5 children to care for . The house was old and started to fall down so we had to move out a few months later. They took all the bond for things that were not my fault. No amount of cleaning or photos helped and neither did the tenancy board. Never again.

  4. tenants have no rights and no one to fight for them. while landlords have the real estate agents. i got stuck paying for a rusty old laundry sink wich the realtor didnt list in thier entry damage report. ( a set up or wat )?? im already battling severe depression and anxiety and all this pulls me further down wen i think im stuck for the rest of my life on the rental rip off roundabout. before the rusty sink landlord we had stayed in another rental for 5 years ( what does that tell you)?? the tribunal is also a waste of time the whole system is geared for the landlord

  5. I rented a property once that really was a holiday home for the owners. However, it was the only thing available at the time.

    When I moved in, I went through everything with a fine tooth comb. Noted that there were mismatched and cracked/chipped crockery and no teaspoons.

    The agent was not pleased that I had noted all of that down, but I had to do it to protect myself.

    They told me I could move out for two weeks at Christmas, my lease had expired, but I could move back in after that. The owners wanted to have a holiday.

    I managed to find somewhere else to live and never moved back in. I didn’t want to try to find temporary accommodation, at premium holiday rates, each time the owners wanted their holiday.

    I got my bond back, but several week later, the agent wrote to me asking that I pay for a stove element that had stopped working. I totally ignored them.

  6. I I’m just about to do something similar. Having re-located from a retirement village in Sydney that I had decided I wasn’t really ready for, following my husband’s untimely passing, I moved up to the Gold Coast. Rented a furnished apartment whilst I looked around. Found and purchased a place I liked, but have decided that I’m not build for sun, surf and sand nor the Heat. So, I’m readying myself to head back to New South Wales, but not decided where. The thought of renting, unloading, unpacking whilst I try to find a place to live, is not exactly enthralling me. Never rented before in my life. Just reading the process of proving your suitability is making me apprehensive. I’m now in my 70s, so goodness knows what’s ahead for me – but I must do this. I’m the only one to undertake the journey. The prospect holds some challenges.

  7. It really is a very difficult time when you choose to move.

    After my previous disaster, I chose a place where I believed I would be happy. Had holidayed here for years.

    For the most part, it has been a good choice – I’ve been here over 20 years now and I’ve made friends.

    I volunteer for charities and am appreciated for the work I do there.

    I was much younger when I made my choice – in my mid seventies now and I don’t believe I would voluntarily choose to move anywhere else again.

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