Canberra tenants wait weeks for bond refunds over peak period

Canberra tenants reportedly waited up to nine weeks to get their rental bonds back over the Christmas and New Year period due to processing delays.
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Access Canberra has attributed “minor delays” to “increased transactions” at the time but property managers have expressed frustration with the agency’s lack of resources during the industry’s busiest period.

Former tenant Joel Steenbergen??? waited six weeks for his bond money to be deposited after applying for a refund via his property manager in December.

After returning from an overseas trip in January he began making enquiries with his property manager and then Access Canberra, which oversees bond lodgements and refunds in the ACT.

When an amount was finally transferred in February, half the refund was missing.

“The reason [for half the bond being refunded] was they didn’t have my wife’s details, so they had to split it into two payments. They sent the rest as a cheque about a week later,” Mr Steenbergen said.

“It put us out a little bit. I imagine other people buying another house or moving house, with all the costs, not getting the bond back for a month or two months is a bit of a joke, really.”

Landlords lodging new bonds were also affected by delays of up to several weeks over the summer months.

A Canberra agency that wished to remain anonymous said the delays, which have since been resolved, meant some outgoing tenants had to fork out large sums of money at the beginning of a new lease before their previous bond had been refunded.

The agency’s spokeswoman said delayed bond lodgements at the beginning of new leases had also sparked issues.

In one instance, a five-week processing delay resulted in one tenant breaking their lease early and vacating a rental property before the bond money had been charged to their credit card.

“The peak real estate rental period is November to the end of January and mid-February,” the spokeswoman said.

“We have lots of tenants moving in and out of rental bonds at that time and they [Access Canberra] haven’t accommodated that peak.”

The spokeswoman said she had heard similar complaints about delays from other businesses and property managers in the ACT.

Stricter administrative guidelines had also caused delays, including discrepancies between first names such as Chris or Christopher.

“We understand a process needs to be followed but it’s not helping move things along,” she said.

Tenants’ Union ACT executive officer Deb Pippen said tenants had reported delays of as long as nine weeks earlier this year.

An Access Canberra spokeswoman said the agency worked as quickly as possible to “process payments across a range of services, including rental bonds”.

“Minor delays in the processing of rental bond refunds occurred as a result of increased transactions over the Christmas/New Year period,” she said.

“Access Canberra worked to progress refunds as quickly as possible and normal processing timeframes of 10 days resumed within two weeks.”

The spokeswoman said a number of factors could affect processing timeframes, such as disputes made by tenants, landlords or managing agents, or the provision of insufficient information.

Ms Pippen said long processing delays were unusual and advised tenants to put in bond applications themselves, as soon as they moved out of a rental property.

“A lot of tenants don’t know that they can put in an application themselves and they rely on the agents,” she said.