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I run a vacation rental and require renters to pay me a $400 refundable security deposit. A customer from Australia was confused by this and when I explained it, they said "oh, in my country that is a called a bond." So now I refer to it as "$400 refundable security deposit (bond)" when I'm dealing with Aussie guests.

I think the U.S.-based customers, the word "bond" is not common and could end up being confusing (since it typically refers to the instrument traded in financial markets, i.e. stocks and bonds). But what other countries would refer to this as a bond?

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This varies within a country, too. I live in Australia, and I hear 'deposit' way more often than I do 'bond'. –  user867 Feb 26 '13 at 4:51

4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Bond is a UK term for security deposit.

Apart from the U.S., most of the former colonies use UK terminology, so at minimum, the term bond is used this way in Australia and New Zealand.

(I don't know about Canada).

Also, keep in mind that in the UK deposit in a financial context denotes what we call down payment (for a house, car, etc.) in the U.S.

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Although some variations in English usage between countries can be attributed to custom or even fashion, the status of this use of bond in Australian English is quite well established.

The Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 of the Queensland Parliament includes the following definitional clause.

111 Meaning of rental bond
(1) A rental bond, for an agreement, is an amount—
(a) paid by or for the tenant under the agreement; and
(b) intended to be available for the financial protection of the lessor against the tenant breaching the agreement.

When (usually young) tenants are changing accommodation, whether or not they have done too much damage to "get their bond back" is a major concern.

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The most common American use of bond in this way is a bail bond, i.e., a refundable deposit to guarantee the appearance of the accused in a criminal trial. There is also the appeal bond, which the losing party in a civil case may be required to deposit before pursuing an appeal, presumably so that assets to satisfy the judgment remain if the appeal is unsuccessful. I have never heard it used in a real estate or hotel reservation context (until just now).

As Scott points out, there is a similar use of bond for various classes of tradesmen, that they have deposited a sum (or, these days, have arranged for an insurance company to do so), that can be claimed in case of damage, theft, etc. These bonds are not refundable while the business is ongoing.

A British acquaintance of mine living in the USA did not understand why he got funny looks discussing his bank overdraft. In American usage, an overdraft is generally unintentional, not requested in advance, and subject to hella nasty fees from the bank, and they may not even cover it. He had obtained what we would most commonly call a line of credit.

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Not entirely relevant to the question, but British banks call this an overdraft facility and while this might be shortened colloquially to "overdraft", an overdraft is actually going overdrawn. This may be authorised (using the pre-arranged facility) or unauthorised (which corresponds to the AmE usage). –  Andrew Leach Feb 26 '13 at 9:15

I live in the U.S., and I do hear the word “bond” used in more-or-less that way, although mostly in verb form: bonded.  Common examples are hiring somebody to work in your home while you are not there (e.g., maid or dog-sitter) or somebody to carry valuable objects (i.e., a courier), you want that person to be bonded so –– as with your example –– there is a pot of money sitting somewhere that you can collect from if something goes missing.  References (which, unfortunately, are not clearly associated with the U.S.) include http://www.ehow.com/how_2294068_get-bonded.html, which discusses fidelity bonds and surety bonds, and http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/what-it-means-to-be-bonded-licensed-insured.html, which gives the example of hiring a cleaning company and having them steal your property.  (The second one does mention “Your California Privacy Rights” at the bottom, but I don’t know how much that proves.)

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