Host - Belinda Heit – Communication and Education – RTA
Guest – Sarah Halligan – Customer Experience - RTA
Host: Welcome to the Talking Tenancies podcast, brought to you by the Residential Tenancies Authority. I’m your host, Belinda Heit. Join me as we explore everything you need to know about renting in Queensland, with experts from the RTA and industry. We're here to help make renting work for everyone.
When it comes time to move out and vacate a property you're renting, it's a great idea to make a checklist and follow a step-by-step process to ensure that it goes as smoothly as possible. Today's expert from the RTA is Sarah Halligan from the RTA Client Contact support team. Welcome Sarah.
Guest: Thank you very much.
Host: Now, can you tell us about your role at the RTA and what you're responsible for?
Guest: I'm a Senior Support Officer at the RTA and I work within the support team for the Customer Experience Division, which looks after customer escalations complaints, mistaken payments, and alleged fraud. In my day-to-day, I resolve complex or escalated enquiries, and also provide subject matter expertise across systems and processes that relate to service delivery.
Host: Man, Sarah, what a job you've got—sounds like fun. Now I know you've been super busy in Customer Experience at the moment, but today we're going to talk about vacating a property. So, what are the steps you need to take when moving out or vacating a property?
Guest: You will need to provide written notice about moving out or vacating the property. Generally there'll be written notice served, this may be done by the tenant if they already have plans to vacate, or if they've been provided notice from the agent or landlord. In most of my personal experiences, I've ended the tendency as a tenant and have found somewhere to move to before giving notice as I don't like to rush. After that you can start to prepare for moving out and for cleaning. We often don't realize that there are considerable costs involved in moving house, including getting removalists, packaging for personal items and cleaning. The notice time frame is when I do all the actual moving, cleaning and, of course, the exit condition report with lots of photos. It's such a big job.
Host: Yeah it is, isn't it? It's not my favorite part of moving. That exit condition report.
Guest: No way, I love moving house.
Host: Oh, really?
Guest: I do! It’s the chance to revamp and refresh and move everything about.
Host: Yeah, so obviously that exit condition report we'll talk about in a minute is really important to get your full bond refund right?
Guest: It is a crucial step to getting the full bond refund.
Host: So, first step is a notice of intention to leave. Obviously we need to talk to the managing party and complete the notice. But how much notice is needed?
Guest: Queensland tenancy laws outline the minimum notice period you need to provide, depending on your circumstances. For general tenancies it's usually a minimum of two weeks. The RTA recommends providing as much notice as you can. If you don't have a confirmed date yet, it's still a good job to start this conversation early so you can find out what processes are involved. This will make for a smoother and less stressful vacate process, and your property manager or landlord will also appreciate the extra time to make preparations to finding another tenant. Communicating openly and early with the managing party is really helpful throughout the vacate process.
Host: Yeah, I think—and I say this nearly every episode— it's probably the most important thing when you're renting a property is to communicate.
Host: Now, the other part I don't like about moving housecleaning! Is it recommended we get a bond cleaner?
Guest: Tenants have a responsibility to return the rental premises to the same condition as it was when they moved in, less fair wear and tear. How this same condition is achieved is actually up to the tenant. They can choose to use a professional cleaner, do the cleaning themselves, or a combination of both. Property managers/landlords can provide recommendations of cleaners, however, it is illegal under the Queensland tenancy laws to require tenants to use a professional cleaner nominated by the managing party. Tenants should have a choice in how they return the premises to the same condition as when they moved in.
There is a cleaning checklist on the RTA website that you can use as a reference in this process. The property manager/landlord can provide recommendations for cleaners and they are a good source to locating a service provider or you can just Google. Personally, I've used a combination of both. Cleaning tasks I'm good at I will generally do, and then look at a professional cleaner for the tasks you'd probably leave till the end like the floors, the carpets or the bathrooms. Well, basically anything that's going to take me a really long time I will arrange with someone else to do. After all, I'm trying to move one place and unpack at the same time as moving out of another and cleaning up the last property.
Host: That's it, it's like cleaning two houses at once, isn't it? That's why I bring my whole family in and make them do it. Now obviously moving is not always a cheap thing. What costs need to be considered when we're moving? So I know, you know, we need to consider things like removalists, utilities, cleaning, packing, all that kind of stuff. What are we looking at?
Guest: So much. Cost is something that is sometimes overlooked during the process of moving, obtaining packaging boxes and crates, moving your personal items and furniture may incur costs. Hiring a removalist and professional cleaners are other costs to consider if you decide to use those services. If you are moving in between rentals, you may find yourself paying rent for both the old and the new rental premises for a few days where the tenancies overlap. As a tenant, you have an obligation to pay rent right up until the day you return the keys.
When the tenancy officially ends, you may find yourself paying rent for two premises at the same time for a few days. This could be another cost you incur, but will allow you to have a few more days to organize the moving and cleaning. Personally, I've always had that overlap in rent with a new and old rental property, so I don't feel as rushed. I know usually I tend to mess things up when I rush.
Host: Yeah and you know, I think it's worth investing that little bit to have that extra time, but yeah, it's a delicate balance isn't it, to make sure you can do that.
Guest: Absolutely. You'll need to notify your utility providers to disconnect utilities from the old premises on your last day. You will also need to contact providers in the new premises ahead of time so you have electricity, gas, water, internet as you move in. Be conscious of the time frames involved with connecting and disconnecting utilities, don't disconnect before you've even started cleaning, that's for sure. I've done that, I've been in the old rental property sometimes till late at night to get a job done and it's not fun cleaning or packing in the dark. One last thing people often forget about is redirecting their mail. Australia Post can help with that.
Host: Yeah, things are a lot simpler now online too. Now, when it comes to that dreaded exit condition report that I don't love, what advice do you have for getting 100% of the bond back and what are some common issues in relation to this step in vacating a property?
Guest: Even before starting the exit report, have you got your entry condition report handy? If not, get it, because you may have been there for years—maybe even months, but years most of the time—don't rely on your memory for what condition the kitchen cupboards were in years ago. Get the entry condition report and go through it. Take notes of what you wrote when you moved in, so when you walk through for the exit, you have a good idea of what you need to do.
Again, referring back to that cleaning checklist, go back through your entry report as well. The exit condition report records and shows the condition of the property and any inclusions (for example, furniture) at the end of the tenancy and plays an important role in the bond refund process.
The exit report is compared to the entry condition report which you completed when the tenancy started to ensure that the condition of the rental premises are the same as they were when you moved in. This is the reason why the RTA strongly encourages tenants to complete the entry condition report upon moving in, and take photos as supporting evidence for the condition of the premises at the start of their tenancy. Similarly, we also recommend parties to take photos while completing the exit condition report at the end of the tenancy for supporting evidence and good record keeping.
Host: Because perspective is different for everyone, isn't it? So you know, I think it's really important that you take that time to actually take the photos, get the evidence. Because, I know you’re, you know, in between premises and you're like, ‘I just want to move into the new place, I don't really care about the old place’, I think you've got to have that same level of detail for both, just to cover yourself.
Guest: Definitely. And marks on a wall. How many, what size? Yeah, it's so much easier to take a photo of it instead.
Host: And have some real visual proof.
Guest: Mm Hmm.
Host: So, for an instance where you know the exit condition report hasn't quite met the expectations of the property, and it's led to, you know, a dispute resolution or a QCAT process, what kind of things can happen there?
Guest: Well disputes over the bond are often related to the condition of the rental property at the end of the tenancy, because rent is easily determined through ledgers and bank statements but the cleanliness and the condition of the property can be hard, it’s often how one views the matter.
There was a recent QCAT order issued for payment to the managing party due to the tenant not completing the exit condition report at all. Remember to be detailed and include descriptions. You should take photos to assist if there are multiple marks on a wall, for example. The tenant, the property manager/owner, can choose to do the vacate inspection together while completing the exit condition report and taking photos. This is not a requirement, but may provide the opportunity for parties to address any concerns or issues that pop up during the inspection with the other party on the spot and find a solution together.
Host: So really, just to wrap up, the best chances of us getting 100% of the bond back, what are those to recap?
Guest: Compare the exit condition to the entry condition report, take photos and keep receipts for any products or services purchased. If you do the vacate inspection together, have some of the essential cleaning products in your car so you can get them on the spot. Give yourself adequate time to move. Make sure you have updated your contact details with the RTA before handing the keys back. Maybe even do that once you've given notice or received a notice to vacate. And of course, talk to the managing party about what they think and whether there are any outstanding issues you can resolve together.
Host: Excellent. So it's time to request that bond refund, how is that done?
Guest: Well, either party can request the bond to be refunded when the tenancy has ended, or even the handover of the property has occurred, not before either though. You can do this online using the RTA’s Web Services or by completing a Refund of rental bond paper form. The quickest way to get a bond refunded is for the tenant and the property manager/owner to come to an agreement about how the bond is to be paid out in requesting it via the RTA Web Services. Our Bond refund request, that is agreed by both parties, can be fast tracked and paid out quickly.
Host: Yeah, that's a beautiful thing about Web Services. Nice and quick for a bond refund, if all is well. So, we're moving house, which means we’ve got a new address and we need to update our details with the RTA. How do we do that and when's the best time to do it?
Guest: That's a really good question. You should update your details with the RTA when you know you are moving out so we can make sure that your Australian bank account details is correct for the bond refund and send any further correspondence for your tenancy. You can update your details also through the RTA Web Services at any time or by submitting a completed Update Your Details paper form.
Host: So, what resources are available to support both tenants and managing parties in that moving out process?
Guest: Quite a few resources. There's a wide range of information on the RTA website to assist you with understanding the moving out or vacating process and its time frames, including web pages on notice periods for ending a tenancy, bond refunds, the exit condition report. We have tips for moving out on the page as well, where you can find a summary of the processes that we have discussed, and has a cleaning checklist you can refer to. Our webinar titled Ending a tenancy - a guide for tenants also walks you through rights and responsibilities, the processes involved and more, in detail.
Host: Thanks so much Sarah for helping us to get a greater understanding of our rights or responsibilities when vacating a property and moving out. Just to wrap up, it's important to remember that communication is really important throughout the process. Keep your property manager or landlord up to date with any changes, and address concerns with them as early as possible. Ensure you fulfill your obligations and be prepared to work with each other to resolve issues. Thank you for listening to the Talking Tenancies podcast. For more information about the Residential Tenancies Authority, visit rta.qld.gov.au.