While many laws are the same or similar no matter which state you’re in, many differences, which is why it pays to learn more about your state’s specific rules and regulations regardless of whether you’re renting privately or through a property manager.
Tenant rights: a guide to every Australian state

Here are four of the significant differences between states.

When your landlord wants you to move out

The states don’t see tenancy laws in the same way – here’s our state-by-state guide on what you need to know.

The Australian Capital Territory

In the Australian Capital Territory, a landlord cannot evict you during a fixed-term agreement unless you have breached the terms of the tenancy agreement. However, if the contract is periodic, the landlord can evict you on as little as four weeks notice if they have caused, or on 26 weeks, see if they don’t.

Queensland

In Queensland, a landlord must give you at least two months notice to end a tenancy early if you’re on a periodic lease. If you’re on a fixed-term agreement, the landlord can’t evict you unless you’ve breached the contract or both parties mutually agree to end the lease early.

New South Wales

New South Wales landlords can’t end a fixed-term agreement before the end of the contract unless they have specific grounds for doing so (i.e. you’ve breached the deal).

If they wish to give you notice at the end of the fixed agreement, it must be at least 30 days in advance. However, if the fixed term has ended and your lease is periodic, your landlord must give you 90 days notice. If you breach your agreement at any time, your landlord only needs to provide you with 14 days notice.

Victoria

Like most states, Victorian renters can’t be asked to vacate a rental property before the end of a fixed-term lease unless they’ve broken the terms of that lease. Once the fixed period has ended, and the lease is on a month-to-month basis, a landlord must give you at least 60 days notice and provide a reason for the information (for example, they plan to sell the property or have their own family move in). If they cannot give a sense, the notice must be 120 days.

South Australia

In South Australia, a tenant must receive at least 28 days notice if they’re being asked to leave at the end of a fixed-term lease, or at least 60 days notice if they plan to sell, demolish or occupy the house during a periodic lease or after the fixed-term lease has expired. If they cannot offer a reason, the notice period must be at least 90 days.

Western Australia

Western Australian landlords must provide tenants with a minimum of 30 days notice at the end of a fixed-term tenancy, or during a periodic tenancy if the property is to be sold, and 60 days if the landlord wishes to end the tenancy without reason.

Tasmania

In Tasmania, once the fixed-term agreement ends, the landlord must give the tenant at least 42 days notice to move out if the property is to be sold, transferred to another person, significantly renovated, used for a purpose other than a rental property, or if a member of the landlord’s family is going to move in. Landlords must also give 42 days notice if they don’t want to renew the lease when it nears its end date; in this scenario. If there is “substantial nuisance at the premises”, a landlord can evict a tenant on 14 days notice or immediately if they go through the courts. 

Northern Territory

Landlords in the Northern Territory must give at least 14 days notice if they want to end your tenancy once your fixed-term agreement finishes, or if that period has ended and the lease is now ongoing; they must provide tenants with at least 42 days notice.

If you want to keep pets

Rights around pets are among the most sensitive and discussed of all tenant rights, but the good news is that, in some states, it’s getting easier to bring Ralph or Whiskers with you when you move house.

ACT

In the Australian Capital Territory, the State government passed laws in February that give all renters the right to own a pet. Under these news laws, a landlord would need to demonstrate reasonable grounds to refuse a request for a pet.

Victoria

In Victoria, it will soon be a lot easier to own a pet in a rental property. The Victorian Government passed sweeping new reforms to the state’s Residential Tenancies Act in September 2018, and pet ownership was touched upon. As it currently stands, the Residential Tenancies Act doesn’t preclude pets but allows landlords to include “no pet” clauses in the lease. Under the new laws, which will likely come into effect in July 2020, landlords will no longer have these clauses in the tenancy agreement.

NSW

There’s nothing in the state’s Residential Tenancies Act that says you can’t have a pet in New South Wales. Still, landlords can insert their pet-preventing clauses into leasing agreements, and NSW Fair Trading recommends seeking permission from your landlord before letting your furry friends move in.

Queensland

Queenslanders have it onerous – they must get written approval to have a pet in a rental property. And the state’s Residential Tenancies Authority estimates only about 10% of landlords currently allow pets in their property. However, that’s all likely to change very soon, as the state government is expected this year to introduce reforms to its tenancy act that would allow all renters to keep a pet.

Western Australia

In Western Australia, you can only keep pets if you’ve got your landlord’s permission and the pet is included in the lease. WA is also the only state that allows landlords to charge renters a “pet bond” – of up to $260 – to cover cleaning and to fumigate when you vacate if required.

Northern Territory

There is no specific legislation relating to pets and tenancies in the Northern Territory, and it is up to the landlord as to whether they’ll allow you to keep one. They may have a ‘no pet clause’ in the lease agreement, in which case you’ll need to negotiate with them, but pet bonds are illegal. 

Tasmania and South Australia

And in Tasmania and South Australia, you’re only permitted to have a pet if you’ve got your landlord’s consent.

When it comes to the landlord’s right to access their rental properties, it depends, again, on where you live.

ACT

In the Australian Capital Territory, landlords must provide at least seven days notice for routine inspections. They can conduct four checks per year – one at the beginning of the lease, one at the end, and two during the tenancy. The landlords must conduct the inspections at a “reasonable” time; they cannot conduct checks on Sundays or public holidays and must show them between 8 am and 6 pm unless they get your consent to drive them outside these hours.

New South Wales

Landlords in New South Wales must give you at least seven days of written notice for routine inspections and conduct as many as four checks in any 12 months.

Victoria

In Victoria, a landlord only needs to give their tenants 24 hours of written notice before inspecting the property. Still, inspections can only occur every six months and not within the first three months of the tenancy.

Tasmania

In Tasmania, it’s also only a 24-hour requirement. However, inspections can only be made once every three months.

Queensland

Queensland landlords must give you at least seven days notice for a routine inspection and conduct only one review every three months.

South Australia

In South Australia, the landlord is allowed to inspect the property once every four weeks, but they must provide between seven and 14 days written notice.

Western Australia

It’s a similar period in Western Australia: seven to 14 days notice, but not more than four inspections per year.

Northern Territory

In the Northern Territory, at least seven days notice must be given, and inspections can only occur once every three months. The tenant must be present during any reviews unless they’ve given the landlord/agent the all-clear to enter the property without them.

Emergency landlord access

Victoria is the only state that requires landlords to give notice (24 hours) and gain consent to enter a rental property in an emergency.

In other states, landlords can enter the premises at any time there is a genuine emergency, as well as when: there are urgent repairs required; the landlord has grave concerns for the welfare of a tenant and has made attempts to gain consent, or the landlord believes the property has been abandoned.

How to break a lease early.

There’s no hiding from the fact that breaking a lease is likely to cost you a fair bit of money. 

It is best to avoid leaving a property before the end date is up, but if it is unavoidable, there are ways to minimise the expense and stress.

Can I break my lease early? 

While breaking your lease is not ideal, the reality is situations can arise where a tenant needs to leave before the end of the agreement.

It is possible, and the key is to be as transparent and cooperative as possible.

The first thing you should do is provide your landlord with written notice of your intention to leave their property, outlining why and when you plan to go before the end date specified on your lease.

What are the fees for breaking my lease early?

There is no set fee for breaking a lease in Australia, but lease-breakers will face costs including:

  • Reasonable re-letting costs
  • Reasonable advertising costs (if incurred)
  • Compensation for loss of rent (until a new tenant is found or until the agreement’s end date, whichever happens first).
  • The landlord must take all reasonable steps to re-let the premises and not claim rent for any period after the property is re-let. 

According to Andrew Geppa, leasing partner at Toop&Toop Real Estate, it’s worth remembering that a lease isn’t technically broken until the tenant has left the property. A landlord isn’t obliged to advertise the property before this point.

“That said, advertising the property as soon as possible is in the best interests of both parties so that most agencies will act on this right away,” he says.

“If there is any doubt about what date the tenant will give up vacant possession, then advertising should not be commenced as there is still a binding agreement in place.”

Your tenancy agreement should provide all the information you need to know about breaking your lease, as well as the rest of your rights as a tenant.

Some residential tribunals websites also have handy online calculators to help you figure out costs and templates for giving notice to landlords.

Each state in Australia has similar laws around breaking a lease early, with a few exceptions as noted on the various tenancy websites:

New South Wales, ACT and Queensland

NSW owners can invoke a fixed lease-breaking fee, but it can only be used if stated in the lease agreement, which can be added as a clause to lease renewals later.

To end your tenancy this way, you must:

  • give the landlord/agent a written termination notice at least 14 days before you intend to vacate and
  • apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) for a termination order. If the tribunal makes the order, it will end your tenancy and specify the day you must vacate.

Victoria

In Victoria, the landlord can ask tenants that break the lease to pay one month’s rent for every full year remaining on the lease. This is capped at six years, so the maximum amount the landlord can ask for is six months’ rent.

This is based on the rent amount you were paying when you broke the lease.

South Australia

In South Australia, when a property is moved out of early, it’s considered abandonment. If the rent is not paid in full, the owner can claim costs incurred for re-letting the property.

The tenant, however, has the right to ask the following:

  • Is the property being advertised appropriately?
  • Has demand in this area dropped, and should the rent have been reduced? When trying to relet, rent should be reviewed regularly – about every three weeks.
  • Is the property being shown to prospective tenants?
  • If the property has been advertised at a higher rent, has this delayed the property being leased?

Tasmania

Once the tenant has left the property (in the same condition it was in at the beginning of the tenancy) and returned the keys, the tenant is no longer responsible for cleaning or gardening issues.

Western Australia

In WA, tenants must give a minimum of 21 days written notice of their intention of breaking the lease.

This state also has special consideration for those suffering from family violence, reducing the minimum notice to seven days.

Northern Territory

If the landlord doesn’t agree to the early termination and another tenant cannot be found in the Northern Territory, they can keep your security deposit to cover loss of rent and other costs to find a new tenant.

Further costs can also be claimed from the tenant via the tenancy tribunal if the landlord’s prices are higher than the security deposit amount.

However, if the tenant is experiencing hardship, this can be considered, mainly if the circumstances of the problem occurred after signing the lease.

Do I need to pay rent if I break my lease?

Tenants who break a lease are generally required to pay the rent until a new tenant is found, in addition to covering any advertising and letting fees incurred by the agent and landlord when searching for a replacement tenant.

According to Lisa Morgan, property manager at Elders Real Estate Penrith and Wallacia, this is pretty much always the case.

“We recently had a tenant who had just moved into a property when her mum became extremely ill a few weeks later,” she says.

“The tenant needed to move back home to care for her mother and gave the notice to break the lease. Unfortunately, she did have to pay the costs involved in finding another tenant – however, this particular unit was in high demand and thankfully didn’t take much time to release.”

Remember, every party wants the same thing when you break your lease: find a replacement tenant as soon as possible. 

And nothing is stopping you from rolling up your sleeves and offering your agent a helping hand.

Share your rental property’s listing on your social networks, consider paying for professional photography and additional advertising, and offer to pay the first two weeks’ rent of the new tenant’s lease to encourage interested parties to move in sooner rather than later.

Make sure to ask if any of your family members or friends need a place to rent, too.

Like all other prospective tenants, they’ll still need to submit an application and be assessed by the agent. But encouraging them to apply could speed up the process. And the sooner someone moves in, the sooner you can stop paying the rent.

How can I break my lease without a penalty?

There is no hiding from the fact that breaking a lease is likely to cost you a fair bit of effort and money.

Each state has different rules on the conditions of breaking a lease, and most residential tribunals allow for exceptional circumstances. These usually include financial hardship, the death of a co-tenant, or breach of contract by the landlord.

If you feel that you meet these criteria, contact your state’s tribunal and provide evidence to support your claim. For example, if you need to break your lease due to financial hardship, provide bank statements, income statements and termination letters (if you’ve recently lost your job).

If a tribunal decides in your favour, the reletting fees may be waived and the fixed-term reduced.

Also, if the property has become uninhabitable or the landlord has breached the contract, there are grounds to terminate the lease without the tenant footing the bill.

Does breaking a lease affect my credit?

Unfortunately, if you break your lease, it will be possible for future landlords to know this through your references and rental history.

However, most property managers will not view this as a red flag if you have a solid rental history and good references.

Some people can still get a positive review from a landlord, even after breaking the lease, so it is essential to follow the rules and make the process as easy as possible.

Failing to pay your rent is one of the biggest mistakes a tenant can make when leaving a property early.

It is considered a breach of contract and could cause you to be listed on a tenancy blacklist.

Being listed on one of these national databases will likely impact your ability to rent other properties in the future, as the lion’s share of Australian real estate agents use them to determine whether a prospective tenant is trustworthy.

If you’ve been listed on one of these databases, an agent will have good reason to choose another applicant over you.

Breaking a lease is possible but should be seen as a last resort.

But if you need to take the step, the more you know about breaking a lease before you leave, the better position you will be in to negotiate.

Be prepared to pay some expenses, and above all, if you agree with a property manager to break your lease, make sure you get it written down to provide added security.

 

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