Are landlords holding rental bonds illegally?

Just when you think there's hope of receiving the bond, the landlord lands the bombshell you didn't want to hear - the bond will not be returned to you.

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House for rent in Boroko
House for rent in Boroko
House for rent in Boroko – click image for details

So you’ve decided to move out from the property you’re currently renting and the landlord isn’t saying anything about the bond you paid when you first moved in.  With the landlord not uttering a word about the bond, you then decide to approach the landlord about when the bond will be returned.

But still the landlord says nothing.

The date you vacate the premises is fast approaching and you need the bond to help you for your next tenancy.

Just when you think there’s hope of receiving the bond, the landlord lands the bombshell you didn’t want to hear – the bond will not be returned to you.

Many tenants don’t leave their current tenancy in good terms and more often than not the bond becomes a heated issue.  But the landlord has the upper hand in the bargaining side of things because after all he has the rent in his account (or maybe spent it).

So you explain your situation to your friends and relatives and ask – Is the landlord holding the bond illegally?  Why isn’t he or she willing to give back “my” money?

To answer this question, the most important consideration is the agreement entered into at the start of the tenancy.  Is it in writing? Or was this one of those verbally agreed tenancy arrangements?  If it’s the latter, the chances are you’re unlikely to recover your bond because of the uncertainty surrounding the tenancy arrangement.  That is, the rights and obligations of each party.

That’s not to say that if the agreement is in writing, you’ll definitely get your bond back – far from it.  But it is evidence that can be looked into to determine issues surrounding the tenancy.

Normally, a bond is refundable but this depends on a number of factors. For example, if you have complied with the terms and conditions of the lease, you should be entitled to get your bond back either in full or in part depends on what charges will be deducted as per the tenancy agreement.

There is a clear misconception that on vacating the premises, a tenant is entitled to get a refund on the bond.  This is not entirely correct because you need to comply with your side of the bargain in order to be entitled for the bond.

In most cases, you will need to give advance notice of your intention to vacate the premises.  There have been instances where a tenant decides to leave giving a week notice and expects a refund on the bond.  In some situations, you might get your bond back but you need to be aware that landlords too need to be given reasonable notice.  The tenancy agreement might stipulate the period of notice required to terminate the tenancy but should there be no provision on the period of notice, based on practice a month notice is sufficient.

The next time you are considering renting a property, it is essential that a tenancy agreement or a lease agreement be signed by both parties.

It is also essential that you be familiar with the main provisions of the agreement, your rights and obligations under the agreement and the other party’s rights and obligations too.

As you can see from above, whether the landlord is holding the bond legally (or illegally) depends on the terms of the agreement both parties agreed to.  That is why a written agreement is strongly recommended.

It’s a fact that no matter the situation, some landlords just don’t want to refund the bond. maybe they’ve used the money instead of holding it as security, who knows!

You can take them to court but as you know, this is all going to cost time and money.  And if you’re only chasing after a bond that’s only K300 or K500, it really doesn’t sound economical to go through more hardship through the legal process. For this reason, most tenants just move on.

Maybe a less formal and quick dispute resolution process needs to be introduced.  We’ll talk about that in another article.

But for time being, make sure your tenancy arrangement is in writing. And do not be afraid to stick to your rights.

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