$840k worth of tenancy bonds unclaimed

By Ruth Keber, Kim Fulton

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MONEY UNCLAIMED: Tenants have lost thousands in unclaimed bonds, often where the parties haven't confirmed all the details.
MONEY UNCLAIMED: Tenants have lost thousands in unclaimed bonds, often where the parties haven't confirmed all the details.

More than $840,000 worth of tenancy bonds have gone unclaimed in Tauranga and Western Bay of Plenty.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) figures show 2376 bonds were unclaimed in the Tauranga and Western Bay of Plenty districts at the end of last year. Early this year, unclaimed bonds were worth $841,532.

Figures showed 1247 bonds worth $427,670 were uncollected.

A bond was considered unclaimed after a tenancy ended and no claim was made within two months. It was considered uncollected where payment had been approved but the money not collected within two months. Some bonds were counted in both sets of figures.

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Tauranga Citizens Advice Bureau manager Kim Saunders said the bureau received all sorts of tenancy queries and could direct people to other organisations depending on the nature of their specific enquiry.

If there was a conflict, it was best for parties to first try to solve it between themselves by talking, she said.

Dan Lusby, owner of Tauranga Rentals, said they normally got bonds sorted quickly, but there were about 20 historical bonds in his business' name which went back about 20 years.

"We keep it under investigation all the time, trying to find these people. The tenants have just disappeared and we don't know where they are now. The money is just sitting there and it's unclaimed." Mr Lusby said every so often they would uncover a tenant and be able to get their money back.

After a tenant had left a rental property, an inspection of the house would take place within 48 hours so a bond could be settled within a week of ending a tenancy agreement.

Any longer and there would be usually be a dispute in place, he said.

We keep it under investigation all the time, trying to find these people. The tenants have just disappeared and we don't know where they are now. The money is just sitting there and it's unclaimed.
Dan Lusby, owner of Tauranga Rentals

Andrew Hubbard, of the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), said the Tauranga CAB dealt with 426 enquiries about residential properties last year - of which at least 90 related to a bond.

Diane Bruin, Tauranga Budget Advice manager, questioned whether all the unclaimed bonds were from disputes with tenancy agencies in which tenants just walked away.

A bond was usually three to four weeks of rent, so a bond could be upwards of $1200. "A family renting would be paying $350 to $400 a week in Tauranga. Make sure you have got your bond back and, if not, make application - it's a lot of money to lose."

MBIE general manager of service support and design Mike West said bonds could remain unclaimed when tenants changed their details without telling the Ministry or moved overseas.

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Common reasons for bonds going uncollected included invalid bank account details, returned cheques and not all parties confirming refund details.

He said there was a six-year limit on claiming a bond after a tenancy ended.

Many bonds included in the Ministry's figures had exceeded the six-year period.

Ministry calculations suggested about 40 per cent of unclaimed bonds could be claimed.

The oldest unclaimed bond held was from 1992.

Any bonds which had been unclaimed for six years belonged to the Crown.

Mr West said the interest the unclaimed bonds earned went towards providing dispute resolution services, advice, information and education, and processing bond lodgements and refunds.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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