We rented a 2 bed townhouse for 8 years, in Newcastle. In all that time, we paid our rent on time and had three children. One scary night, in the middle of a long weekend, all three children got locked in their bedroom by a malfunctioning door handle. After waiting half an hour for the emergency real estate contact to get back to us, we called the fire brigade. Not surprisingly, the fire brigade came and broke in the door. The real estate agent was informed of this when they rang back an hour later. It was pointed out to them at every six monthly inspection afterwards. And though the fire brigade said that they would give details of the incident to the real estate agent so that the landlord could claim repairs on their home owners insurance, this never occurred.

Needless to say, when it was time to move out, the walls and carpets looked worse for wear and the bedroom door was still broken. Though legally we had the right to be there when the real estate agent did their final inspection, we were unable to attend at a time suitable to them because we had moved half way across the state. I waited a week before I contacted the real estate and asked about our bond, at which point I was sent an email saying that as the carpet replacement and door repair would add up to the amount of our bond, they were going to keep it.

What bothers me most here, is how often have they tried this scam, and how often do people give up their bond? I was fortunate in that I did my research and then I called the NSW branch of fair trading for verbal advice. I immediately applied to the NSW Tenancy Board for the return of our bond without the signature of the real estate agent. Under law, once that application is received, the real estate then has 14 days to raise a claim through a rental tribunal, which would mean that THEY would have to convince a judge that my family had INTENTIONALLY damaged the carpets and the door of the rental property.

I received yet another email, threatening to take us to the tribunal if we did not fork up the amount of our bond to pay for carpet replacement and door repair. At which time I had no choice but to point out to them, that I had STILL not received a copy of the final inspection report.

A week later I did receive the report, which actually did NOT list ANY damage to the bedroom door at all. I was already going to call their bluff by waiting out the 14 day to see if they raised a claim (knowing that they could not prove that we had intentionally damaged the door because the fire brigade had, and that the carpet in the property was ten years old and had depreciated to nil value anyway), but the final inspection report confirmed to me that they had no intention of taking us to the tribunal. I did not even bother responding to the last email, waited another week until our bond had been deposited into our bank account, and then endeavored to get over the anger and stress they had caused us. I am not surprised that we have never heard from them again.

I am still bothered by the fact that they tried to scare us into giving them $900. For no reason except greed. Because paying them rent for eight years straight (over $100,000 all together) was not enough money?

A note from Tenants Are Customers: to protect tenants from retaliation by real estate agents, contributors to Tenancy Tales will remain anonymous.