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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 04 Hansard (Wednesday, 29 March 2017) . . Page.. 1247 ..

to 72 hours to pay the moneys into a person’s account, though large banks will often process these within 24 hours.

Over the past six months, significant work has been underway to streamline rental bond processing and to provide a more modern service. Cash payments for bond lodgements are no longer accepted. They have been replaced by cheque or electronic fund transfer. The EFT payment option is already being used by nine managing agents, and Access Canberra continues to work with the Real Estate Institute of the ACT to encourage a higher uptake of direct payment. Other reforms are already being planned to automate much of the processing.

Delays of the refunds can be experienced for a range of reasons, many of which can be solved through clear communication between real estate agents and tenants, and attention to detail. Of particular importance is the timing when real estate agents lodge the forms. The day a tenant completes the refund form may not necessarily be the same day that the real estate agent lodges that form with Access Canberra. I am advised that some agencies have a standard practice of holding on to the refund forms for two to four weeks before lodging them. This has been recognised as an issue, and the previous Assembly agreed to changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 which will commence on 24 August this year. These amendments will mandate specific time frames for the tenants to be provided with bond refund forms from the property owner, providing tenants with greater certainty around the time frames in which they can expect a refund of the rental bond.

Another reason that the refunds can be delayed is incomplete or inaccurate information being provided on the refund form. This includes providing incorrect tenant details or incomplete authorisations confirming that the bond amount can be released. Delays can also occur if there is a dispute between the agent and the tenant. There is a process that needs to be followed. It starts with the negotiation of a mutually agreeable outcome between both the parties, and that may include mediation. If this does not resolve the issue, parties are able to have their matter settled by ACAT.

Finally, I would like to respond to Ms Le Couteur’s supplementary question in relation to joint tenancies and the return of rental bonds. When multiple tenants are to receive the refund of a rental bond, it is processed in the same way as other types of tenancies. The territory needs to be confident of the entitlements between the tenants, which is done by ensuring that all tenants agree to the disbursement amounts and checking that the appropriate authorisation has been given by the tenants. If the funds are to be deposited by EFT into a third-party account, the third-party account details must be noted next to the tenant’s or lessor’s name, and the tenant or lessor must sign, authorising the funds to be refunded into that third-party account.

Bond money is divided equally among the tenants noted on the bond lodgement form upon receipt of a validly completed refund of bond form. If the tenants do not wish the bond to be refunded in equal amounts, a written signed statement, including photo identification such as a passport or driver’s licence, by all tenants must accompany the refund of the bond form, indicating the amount to be refunded to each tenant.

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