27 Dec 2014

Govt sitting on $30m unclaimed tenancy bonds

10:07 am on 27 December 2014

Approximately $30 million dollars in tenancy bonds have been left sitting in the Government's coffers -an an amount that's been building up since 1992.

That is a five-fold increase since 2012 when the amount of unclaimed bonds totalled $5.8 million.

Figures obtained by Radio New Zealand showed there was a further $14 million in uncollected bonds. These are bonds that have been authorised to be refunded, but have been sent to the wrong address or bank account.

The Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment manages unclaimed bonds. Its spokesperson, Ross van der Schyff, said the increase was partly due to rents rising over that period and also because landlords were asking for more in bond payments.

Legally, a landlord can ask for up to four weeks bond, and Mr Schyff said there was anecdotal evidence that more landlords were asking for the full amount.

Any money that is left unclaimed for more than 6 years was deemed public money and held on behalf of the Crown, but Mr Schyff said bonds have been returned to their rightful owners after six years had passed.

The money accrued interest and any income from that interest was used to fund the bond administration process, disputes resolution services and to fund information and education services.

Mr Schyff said a new online bond payments system, which is expected to be up and running by the end of 2015, would help reduce the amount of bonds that are often left unclaimed or forgotten about.

"The online function will mean that it's easier to access and process for both landlords and tenants. But also, in February we are launching a new website which will hopefully help with better information for both landlords and tenants," he said.

Mr Schyff said move to online should reduce the time it took to refund a bond from 10 days to just two days.

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