|I have a friend who recently ended a lease after a 13 year tenancy. On leaving the unit was professionally cleaned, costing $310. Before and after photos were provided by the cleaners. On inspection, my friend was advised that the agent would be sending in cleaners at a cost $220. My friend advised the unit had been cleaned professionally and provided before and after photos to the agent clearly showing it was. The agent repeated they would have their cleaners through. During the 13 years of tenancy my friend requested maintenance numerous times but the requests were never acknowledged by the agent.|
My friend also stated to the agent that she was suffering from anxiety and depression as a result of losing her job In February after the company she worked for closed down. The agent did not acknowledge this at all, but rather stated that she would be forwarding the bond claim and that it should be signed. Because of the stress and anxiety it was causing, my friend did so. I have copies of the emails exchanged between my friend and the agent.
I contacted the Tenant’s Union in Victoria (they were unavailable for telephone calls or face to face appointments due to covid restrictions) and received the following advice by email:
“In short, if your friend has engaged professional cleaners, it is likely to be unreasonable for the agent to seek to recover a portion of the bond to pay for professional cleaning again.
Standard of cleanliness
Under the Act, tenants have a duty to maintain the property in a reasonably clean condition (section 61) and to take care to avoid damage (section 63). Landlords also have duties, namely to maintain the property in a state of good repair (section 68) and to provide the tenant with quiet enjoyment of the property (section 67).
Please note that ‘reasonably clean’ does not mean pristine or even professionally cleaned. If professional cleaners need to be hired to get the property to a state of ‘reasonably clean’ that is fine. If the property is reasonably clean, a landlord cannot force a tenant to hire professional cleaners.
Return of the bond
The bond can only be released from the RTBA if both parties agree or if VCAT have made an order about how the bond is to be distributed.
Your friend should not feel pressured to sign the bond release form. If there is disagreement over how the bond is to be returned, either the landlord or the tenant can make a claim for the bond at VCAT.
If the landlord applies to VCAT they have to present evidence of their losses that they claim as a result of the tenant breaching their tenancy duties (ie, keeping the property reasonably clean). If your friend has already engaged professional cleaners, it is difficult to see how a landlord would be successful in claiming the costs of a second round of professional cleaning.
It is important to keep any evidence of the state of the property as well as receipts for cleaning.
The tenant can also make an application to VCAT for the return of bond. This application can be done online and is of no cost. A hearing will be scheduled (likely by telephone due to COVID-19) and the Tribunal Member will decide whether to give all of the bond to the tenant.“
My question is, because of her state of anxiety my friend signed the bond claim form. Can she now claim the retained money, after it has been distributed? I understand that $220 is not a substantial amount however my friend is unemployed and so it is very substantial to her.
I am seeking advice on her behalf as this situation is too stressful for her to manage right now.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated.