Ending a Tenancy Agreement Early
A tenancy agreement may end for a number of reasons. The obligations of the tenant and the owner differ depending on the reason why the agreement is ending early and whether the agreement is for a fixed term.
When can an owner issue a notice to vacate?
If an owner wants a tenant to move out, they must serve a Notice to Vacate requesting the tenant to deliver vacant possession of the property. A notice to vacate is not required if the premises has been abandoned or where a magistrate has issued an order of termination.
A notice to vacate can only be issued in certain circumstances.
The owner can issue a notice if:
- The tenant has breached the tenancy agreement, for example, they have failed to pay rent. However if the notice is given and the tenant resolves the breach within 14 days, the notice to vacate is of no effect. Specific rules apply to non-payment of rent, see Rental Arrears.
- The tenant has caused substantial nuisance
- The agreement is for a fixed term and is due to expire within 28 days
- The agreement is not for a fixed term and the premises is to be sold, renovated or used for another purpose
- The premises are to be sold by a lending institution to recover money owed by the owner.
Refer also Moving Out.
How much notice must be given?
14 clear days notice must be given if a notice to vacate is issued because the tenant has:
- breached the agreement
- caused substantial nuisance
- not paid rent
"clear days" means the day the notice is served is counted as day 0 and the date of effect is day 16. If the date is miscalculated or enter incorrectly, the notice may be deemed invalid.
28 clear days notice must be given if the notice to vacate is issued because:
- the agreement is not for a fixed term and is to be sold, renovated or used for another purpose
- the premises is to be sold by a lending institution
For further detail on what is required refer to the Magistrates Court - Notice to Vacate.
When can a tenant terminate an agreement?
A tenant may wish to end an agreement early for personal reasons, that is, a reason other than that the owner has breached the agreement, or they may wish to end the agreement because the owner has failed to meet their obligations under the agreement.
If the tenant wishes to leave a property before the end of the tenancy agreement for personal reasons then what they need to do depends on whether they have a fixed term agreement.
Ending a fixed term agreement
- should give as much notice as possible to the owner/agent that they wish to move out
- will be responsible for paying rent until a new tenant is found OR until the expiry date of their agreement
- may help the owner find a replacement tenant, for example, by advertising the property.
The owner/agent must make reasonable attempts to find a new tenant.
For information on what an owner/agent can claim from the tenant's bond when they move out before the end of the agreement see Reletting a Property. Note: This information only applies where the tenant has vacated early and a notice to terminate has not been issued because the owner breached the agreement.
Ending an agreement of no-fixed term
- should give as much notice as possible to the owner/agent that they wish to move out however they only legally required to give 14 days notice.
Owner failed to meet their obligations under the agreement
If an owner fails to meet their obligations under the agreement, for example, if they fail to maintain the property, the tenant may wish to terminate the agreement. In this case the tenant should issue a Notice to Terminate [pdf/98kb/1 page].
The Notice to Terminate must include:
- date of service of the notice
- the name of the tenant
- the name of the owner/agent
- the address of the premises
- the details of why the notice is served
- the date on which the notice takes effect.
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How much notice must be given?
If the notice to terminate is for a boarding premises, at least 2 days after the notice must be given.
For any other premises, 14 clear days notice must be given.
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Re-letting a property
By real estate agents
- Real estate agents who manage a property on behalf of an owner can claim re-letting costs from the bond. These charges must reflect the actual expenses incurred by the agent and can include:
- the cost of assessing applications and showing the property to prospective tenants
- making a condition report for the new tenant/s
- Costs may be claimed in proportion to the amount of time before the lease agreement expires
- Agents can charge the owner a re-letting fee
- Agents cannot charge tenants a re-letting fee
- Re-letting costs cannot be charged if the tenant is evicted following a Notice to Vacate or an order from the Magistrates Court.
By property owners
- Property owners who manage their own property can also claim re-letting costs (eg advertising).
- Costs may be claimed in proportion to the amount of time before the lease agreement expires.
- Property owners cannot claim costs for their time.
A property is said to be abandoned if:
- the tenant has left the property without notice; and
- a notice of termination has not been given; and
- a notice to vacate has not been served by the owner.
A property is not abandoned if rent is still being paid for the property.
If an owner reasonably believes the property has been abandoned they may take possession of the property. However if the owner takes possession and the property has not been abandoned (eg the tenant is in rent arrears and on holiday but intending to return) the owner could be in breach of the Residential Tenancy Act 1997.
A property owner may apply to the Magistrates Court for an order declaring the property has been abandoned.
If a tenant leaves goods behind when a lease agreement ends and they leave the property, the owner may do the following:
- If the goods are of no value - donate or discard the items and sign a Statutory Declaration that describes the method of disposal;
- If the goods appear to be worth less than $300 - sell the items and sign a Statutory Declaration stating the method of disposal (eg selling);
- If the goods appear to belong to someone else (eg bought on hire purchase/borrowed/stolen) the owner should attempt to the contact the owner or seek advice from Tasmania Police;
- If the goods appear to be worth more than $300 - apply to the Magistrates Court of Tasmania for an order to sell the goods.
- Any money relating to the sale of abandoned goods can be used to cover any debts owed by the tenant and the costs of selling or disposing of the goods.
- Any remaining money must be put into an interest-bearing account and held for 6 months after the sale of the goods.
- If the tenant does not claim the proceeds within 6 months, the owner must pay the remaining money to the Residential Tenancy Commissioner.
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