The Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) is urging Queensland tenants to remain vigilant and be alert when searching for their next rental property following increased reported activity in rental bond scams during COVID-19.
Common scams can include online classified ads or social media posts from people pretending to be real property managers or owners that mislead tenants into paying deposits or bonds for rental properties that are sometimes fake or unavailable addresses. These unfortunate situations leave prospective tenants in the challenging position of trying to recover their losses which can be a long and drawn out process.
Read on to see our top tips to help tenants safeguard their bond and rental property search.
Your rental bond rights and obligations
A rental bond is a security deposit paid by the tenant at the start of the tenancy and refunded at the end of the tenancy, providing there is no money owed or damages to the rental property. Typically, bond money is paid before keys to the rental property are provided by the property manager/owner.
A bond should only be taken after the prospective tenant is given a copy of the proposed tenancy agreement. Where possible, the RTA also recommends prospective tenants inspect the rental property in-person and understand all terms and conditions in the proposed tenancy agreement before signing or paying any money.
Tenants can lodge their bond quickly, easily and securely online using the RTA’s Bond Lodgement Web Service. If the property manager/owner takes a bond, they must give the tenant a receipt and lodge it with the RTA within 10 days for safekeeping during the tenancy. It is an offence not to do so.
Understanding the RTA’s role in investigating rental bond scams
The RTA investigates alleged offences under the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 and may refer matters to other agencies including the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and Queensland Police Service (QPS) where investigations uncover evidence of unlawful behaviour outside of the RTRA Act – such as fraud and theft.
Prospective tenants are encouraged to know their tenancy rights and obligations and to take precautions when searching for their next rental property.
Top tips to safeguard your rental property search
- Understand your tenancy rights and responsibilities before you rent
- Research your rental property online. This could include looking for images or information of the rental property and identifying if the details match
- Check that the person and the company listing the ad is real. If they said they’re from an agency, look for more information such as the office number or location, check for other online listings, and explore their website and online profiles to ensure they are consistent and professional
- Be cautious if the rental price seems lower than what would be a reasonable market rent for that type of property and/or location
- Where possible, inspect the property in person and don’t pay a bond until you have received a copy of the proposed tenancy agreement
- Pay your bond securely online using RTA Web Services, or ensure you receive a receipt from the property owner/manager for any money paid (bond, rent etc.)
- If you have been personally affected by a scam, you can make an official complaint to the Office of Fair Trading and/or your local police station.
To find more helpful tenancy tips and to better understand your rights and obligations as a tenant, visit the RTA website.