Welcome to 2017 and yes, we start the year more legislative changes, which is pretty much where we concluded 2016. At the end of 2016, NSW Fair Trading announced a number of amendments to be made to a variety of legislations used within the Real Estate industry ranging from underquoting to residential tenancies. One such amendment is to be made to the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 as follows:
Section 159 Payment of Bonds - To be inserted after section 159 (1):
- The landlord or landlord’s agent is registered as a user of the online rental bond service established under section 157A, and
- The tenant has been invited by the landlord or the landlord’s agent to provide an address that can be used to invite the tenant (using the online service) to use the online service to deposit the rental bond with the Secretary, and
- If the tenant has provided such an address:
- The landlord or landlord’s agent has invited the tenant (using the online service) to use the online service to deposit the rental bond with the Secretary, and
- The tenant has been given a reasonable opportunity to use the online service to deposit the rental bond with the Secretary or has declined the invitation
Essentially, the days of receiving a money order for a bond are about to leave, with the biggest push to move all agents to the Rental Bonds Online (RBO) service.
The start date for this amendment is the 30th January 2017. It is a good time for all agents to get themselves up to speed with how to register for the online rental bonds service and get your agency registered. The system was introduced a little over a year ago now and is a relatively hassle free way of getting bonds paid.
The services available within the Rental Bonds Online for an agent include:
- Lodge, view and refund rental bonds online without having to send cheques and paper forms;
- Receive electronic confirmation of what is happening to a rental bond; and
- View notifications and key tasks awaiting your action within the RBO system
The service is open for use by not just the agent and agency but also the tenant and private landlords, allowing an agent to set up an account log-in for the agency and for each new tenant to set up their own log-in details. Once a tenant has registered to use the service they can then pay their bond directly to Fair Trading using Visa, MasterCard or BPAY.
There are a couple of things the tenants needs to be advised about for all three of these methods. The main issue is that Visa and MasterCard payments will attract a 0.4% surcharge. However, it is the quickest way to pay the bond as it is paid immediately and is the best option if the tenancy agreement is required to be entered into sooner.
If the surcharge is a deterrent against credit card payments or is simply not an available option, and there is no urgency in entering into the tenancy agreement, the tenant can chose to pay by BPAY, without attracting any surcharge. However, the payment does take around 3 days to appear in the system. Obviously it is not advisable to enter into the tenancy agreement until confirmation of the payment being received is given by Fair Trading.
A great feature of this system is the notification provided. Your tenant pays their bond by BPAY or Credit card and you get an SMS to advise you that it has hit the system. You will not need to log into the system throughout the day to check the status of the account.
All parties are kept informed by SMS of the status of the bond so even at the end of the tenancy, the tenant and the agency will receive SMS updates regarding the progress of a refund.
If your agency has not begun using this system, the steps to set up an account login are really simple:
- Your agency registers by submitting the Rental Bonds Online Agency Registration Form, available on the NSW Fair Trading website here. On this form, the licensee in charge will need to provide details of the person in your agency that will be the principal user.
- NSW Fair Trading sends an email to the principal user requesting that they activate their log on. They will also be emailed an information kit which includes guidance on how to set up Rental Bonds Online.
- The principal user configures Rental Bonds Online for your agency and creates log-ons for staff within your agency.
- Individual agency staff are now able to use Rental Bonds Online and can refer to the information kit, online help or the Rental Bonds Online team for assistance if required.
And good luck with this streamlining of your rental bonds process.
‘Til next time,
Wishing you every success in your business ventures,
Australian College Of Professionals (EAC's preferred training partner)
Please Note: EAC's New Tenant Checklist from NSW Fair Trading has been updated to include a section about the Online Bonds service.