This blog looks at all the state and territory-specific rules for renters in Australia.
When your landlord wants you to move out
Australian states don’t see tenancy laws in the same way. Here’s what you need to know:
The Australian Capital Territory
In the ACT, a landlord may not evict a tenant during a fixed-term agreement unless they have breached their tenancy agreement. If the contract is periodic, the landlord may give as little as four weeks’ notice if they have caused it, or on 26 weeks, see if they don’t.
In QLD, a landlord must give the tenant a minimum of two months’ notice to end a tenancy early. If on a fixed-term agreement, the landlord cannot evict a tenant unless both parties mutually agree to terminate the lease early or they’ve breached their contract.
New South Wales
Landlords in NSW may not end a fixed-term agreement before the end of the contract unless they have specific grounds.
They must give at least 30 days’ advance notice if they wish to end a lease at the fixed agreement. However, if the fixed term ends and the tenant is living on a periodic lease, the landlord must give 90 days’ notice. If a tenant breaches their agreement at any time, the landlord only needs to provide 14 days’ notice.
Like most states, Victorian renters may not vacate a rental property before the fixed-term lease ends unless the lease terms are breached. Once the fixed period has ended, a landlord must give at least 60 days’ notice and provide a valid reason. If the cause is not acceptable, it’s 120 days.
In SA, a tenant must receive at least 28 days’ notice if being asked to leave at the end of a fixed-term lease. They must receive at least 60 days’ notice if the landlord plans to occupy, sell, or demolish the house during a periodic lease or after the fixed-term lease has expired. The notice period is at least 90 days if they cannot offer a valid reason.
If the property is to be sold, WA landlords must provide tenants with at least 30 days’ notice at the end of their fixed-term or periodic tenancy. The rules are 60 days if the landlord wishes to end the tenancy without a valid reason.
In TAS, the landlord must give the tenant at least 42 days’ notice to leave once the fixed-term agreement ends. It doesn’t matter if the property is to be sold, transferred to another person, renovated, used for another purpose, or if the landlord’s family plans to move in. Landlords must give 42 days’ notice if they want to cease renewing the agreement when it nears the end. If there is a ‘substantial nuisance at the premises’, a landlord may evict a tenant in 14 days’ or immediately if it goes through the courts.
Landlords in NT must give a minimum of 14 days’ notice to end a tenancy once their fixed-term agreement finishes. If the 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
Renting with pets is among the most sensitive and discussed tenant rights, but the good news is rules are improving in most states.
In the ACT, the state government gives all renters the right to own a pet. A landlord must demonstrate reasonable grounds to refuse a request for a pet.
In Victoria, you may now own a pet in a rental property. Landlords can only object on reasonable grounds to VCAT.
Nothing in the state’s Residential Tenancies Act says you can’t have a pet in New South Wales. Still, landlords can insert pet-preventing clauses into leasing agreements. NSW Fair Trading recommends seeking permission from a landlord before letting your pets move in.
Queenslanders must get written approval to have a pet in a rental property. But this is all changing in late 2022 when the state government will introduce reforms allowing a renter to keep pets.
In WA, you can only keep a pet if you’ve got your landlord’s permission and the animal is included in the lease. WA is the only state that allows landlords to charge renters a ‘pet bond’. At a maximum of $260, this covers cleaning and fumigation when you vacate.
NT has no specific legislation relating to pets and tenancies, but it is up to the landlord to allow you to keep an animal. They might have a ‘no pet clause’ in the lease agreement, wherein you’ll need to negotiate with them, but pet bonds are illegal.
Tasmania and South Australia
In Tasmania and South Australia, tenants may have a pet with the landlord’s consent.
It depends on the state you live in for the landlord’s right to access their rental properties.
Landlords must provide seven days’ notice for routine inspections in the ACT. They can conduct four checks annually; one at the start of the lease, one at the end, and two during the tenancy. Landlords must conduct inspections at a ‘reasonable’ time, with checks on Sundays or public holidays banned. Appraisals are only permitted between 8 am and 6 pm unless they get tenant consent.
New South Wales
Landlords in New South Wales must give at least seven days of written notice for routine inspections and conduct a maximum of four checks annually.
In Victoria, a landlord may give their tenants just 24 hours of written notice before inspecting the property. Still, inspections may only occur every six months and not within the first three months.
In Tasmania, it’s only a 24-hour requirement, although inspections are capped every three months.
Landlords in Queensland must give you at least seven days’ notice for a routine inspection and conduct only one review every three months.
In South Australia, the landlord may inspect the property once every four weeks but must provide between 7 to 14 days of written notice.
Seven to 14 days notice, but capped at four inspections per year.
The landlord must give at least seven days, and inspections are capped quarterly. The tenant must be present during any appraisals unless they’ve given the landlord or agent consent to enter the property without them.
Emergency landlord access
Victoria is the only state requiring landlords to give 24 hours’ notice and gain consent to enter a rental property in emergencies.
In other states, landlords can access the premises in a genuine emergency. They can also enter if urgent repairs are required; the landlord has grave concerns for a tenant’s welfare and has attempted to gain consent, or the landlord believes the property has been abandoned.
How to break a lease early.
There’s no hiding that breaking a lease will likely cost you a lot of cash.
It’s best to avoid leaving a property before a lease ends. However, if unavoidable, there are ways to minimise the stress and expense.
Can I break my lease early?
While breaking a lease is not ideal, situations will arise where a tenant needs to leave before the end of the contract.
It’s crucial to be as transparent and cooperative as possible.
Firstly, provide the landlord with written notice of the intention to leave their property, outlining why and when you plan to go.
What are the fees for breaking my lease early?
In Australia, lease-breakers may face costs including but not limited to:
- Reasonable reletting costs
- Advertising costs, if incurred
- Compensation for rent loss until a new tenant is found or the lease’s end date, whichever is first.
- But it should be noted: The landlord must take all reasonable steps to relet the premises. They may not claim rent for any period after the property is relet.
A lease is not technically broken until the tenant has left the property. A landlord is not obliged to advertise the property before this time.
Still, advertising the property as soon as possible is in the best interests of both parties. Reputable agencies will act on this immediately, so be prepared if there is no doubt when you, as the tenant, are moving.
A tenancy agreement will provide all the necessary information about breaking a lease, along with all the tenant’s rights.
Each state in Australia will have similar laws around breaking a lease early, with a few exceptions:
New South Wales, ACT & Queensland
NSW owners can charge a fixed lease-breaking fee only if stated in the lease agreement. This can be added as a clause to lease renewals later.
To end your tenancy this way, one must:
- give landlord or agent a written termination notice 14 days before intending to vacate and
- apply to the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) for a termination order. If NCAT makes the order, it will end the tenancy and specify the day for vacating.
In VIC, the landlord may ask tenants that break the lease to pay one month’s rent for every full year remaining on the agreement, capped at six years. Thus, the maximum amount a landlord can ask for is six months’ rent and is based on the rent amount paid at the time the lease was broken.
If a tenant moves out early, the property is considered abandonment. The owner can claim costs incurred for reletting the property if the rent is not paid in full.
However, the tenant has the right to ask:
- Is the property advertised appropriately?
- Has demand in the area dropped? And should the rent have been reduced? Note: Rent should be reviewed every three weeks when trying to relet.
- Is the landlord or agent showing the property to prospective tenants?
- Is this delaying occupancy if the property has been advertised at a higher rent?
Once a tenant has left the property in the same condition at the beginning of the tenancy and returned their keys, the tenant is no longer responsible for gardening or cleaning.
In WA, tenants must give 21 days’ minimum written notice of their intention to break their lease.
WA also has special consideration for anyone experiencing family violence, whereby they reduce to seven days’ notice.
If a landlord in the NT doesn’t agree to early termination and another tenant cannot be found, they can keep the security deposit to cover the costs of finding a new tenant.
If the costs are higher than the security deposit amount, further costs can also be claimed from the tenant by the landlord. If the tenant experiences hardship and the circumstances occur after the lease signing, they may be exempt.
Do I need to pay rent if I break my lease?
Tenants breaking their lease are required to pay the rent until a new tenant is found. This is in addition to covering advertising and letting fees incurred by the agent and landlord when searching for a replacement tenant.
Every party wants the same thing when a lease is broken: to find a replacement tenant as soon as possible.
Tenants can assist in this process. Share your rental listing on your social media accounts, and consider paying for professional photography and additional advertising. You could also 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.
Ask if any of your family members or friends also need a place to rent.
Like other prospective tenants, they’ll still need to submit an application. However, encouraging them to apply may speed up the process.
How can I break my lease without a penalty?
Breaking a lease will likely cost you much effort and money.
Every Australian state has its own rules on the conditions of breaking a lease. Most residential tribunals allow for exceptional circumstances, like financial hardship, breach of contract by the landlord or the death of a co-tenant.
If you meet these criteria, contact your state’s tribunal. You will need to provide evidence to support your claim. If you must break your lease due to financial hardship, you must provide income statements, bank statements, and termination letters if you’ve lost your job.
If a tribunal decides in your favour, they may waive any reletting fees and reduce the fixed-term.
If the landlord has breached the contract or the house is unlivable, there are sufficient grounds to terminate the lease without impacting the tenant financially.
Does breaking a lease affect my credit?
Future landlords can know if you break your lease via your rental history and references.
Most property managers won’t consider this a failure if you have good references and a solid rental history.
Ex-tenants can still get a positive reference from their landlord, even if they’ve broken a lease. Therefore, it is essential to follow the rules to make the process as easy as possible.
Failing to pay rent is one of the biggest errors a tenant can make if leaving a property early, where it is considered a breach of contract and could cause you to join a tenancy blocklist on a national database.
This will also potentially impact your ability to rent other properties. Most Australian real estate agents use it to determine whether a prospective tenant is trustworthy.
If you’re on one of these databases, an agent will have a good reason to select another applicant over you.
See breaking a lease as a last resort, but read up on your rights and rules before you leave if you must do it. This will leave you in a better position to negotiate.
Be prepared to pay some costs, and if you agree with a property manager to break your lease, make sure you have formal confirmation to provide added security.