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Messy renters lose out

John Gilmovich, Property Owners Association of NSW. Photo: Real Property Manager.

Rampant inflation in the rental market is one of the great economic issues for Australian battlers. But if figures released by commercial cleaning company UrbanYou are to be believed, renters themselves are wasting staggering amounts of money each year.

Styling themselves as a ‘home services marketplace’ , UrbanYou have released a survey of 1000 renters. They say it shows that people are losing bonds for oversights as trivial as tile mould or greasy ovens – and it’s costing them big bucks.

Bondi, the Sydney CBD and Liverpool are the worst offenders, with renters there losing $1.5 million in cleaning costs.

UrbanYou claims people are forfeiting a grand total of $28.65 million per year to landlords in lost bonds and cleaning fees because their rental properties are left less than spic and span on their departure.

They say a quarter of the total money lost is as a result of failing to do simple things like clean the carpets. But wait for it; they have a solution to the problem.

UrbanYou has come up with a ‘Bond Back Guarantee’ program designed to help time-challenged people who have an end of lease situation on their hands. You might be surprised to learn it’s a cleaning package and advisory bulletin.

While John Gilmovich of the Property Owners Association of NSW dismissed UrbanYou’s survey as a publicity stunt, he agreed that renters are mostly responsible for losing money over cleaning issues.

“Most cleaning disputes occur due to tenants taking it upon themselves to DIY clean and simply fall short of a landlords/property manager’s expectations,” he observed. “Tenants are not professional cleaners and if they are time-poor then, yes, they should outsource to a professional cleaning company. This should reduce the number of disputes.”

“The definition of “wear and tear” has historically been subjective, as well as what is “reasonably” clean. The word “reasonable” is repeated many times over in the tenancy legislation. What is reasonable for one person may not be reasonable for another. Hence disputes arise.
“Landlords are not interested in making minor claims on bonds intentionally, nor do they or their property managers have time to go into disputes, but they do expect the properties to be handed over properly. This is what the condition report and photographic evidence of pre-tenancy condition is used for.”

Mr Gilmovich said that accurate figures were better accessed from the NSW Rental Bond Board.

This may be so, in theory at least. The Rental Bond Board comes under the broad ministerial portfolio of the NSW Department of Finance, Services & Innovation (DFSI). But it is NSW Fair Trading that is responsible for providing an exhaustive database on rental facts and figures.

The data does not identify tenants or properties but includes information such as postcode, type of dwelling, bond paid and date lodged.

Meanwhile the Department of Family and Community Services (FACs) publishes a quarterly report which it says is the sole authoritative source of data on NSW rent movements.

These vast swarms of data give a presumably accurate figure of prices in the rental market, and perhaps a serious analysis might yield the kind of answers UrbanYou have gleaned.

But the data itself is overwhelming and opaque and the layers of administration somewhat confusing. The DFSI declined to provide a spokesperson to explain the figures in detail.

In the light of that information the ball is in the renter’s court. Do they DIY or leave it up to companies like UrbanYou? Either way they’ll probably get taken to the cleaners by their landlords.

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