Ending a Tenancy and Breaking a Lease - Reducing loss from breaking the lease
If an early termination is unavoidable, you can take some steps to reduce your potential liability, by:
- Giving the landlord/agent as much notice as possible of the proposed date of vacation, so that efforts can be made to find new tenants;
- Cooperating with the landlord/agent in the reletting of the premises by making yourself available to show people through the property;
- Keeping the premises tidy so that they are attractive to prospective tenants;
Introducing prospective tenants to the landlord /agent. Cooperation can work: you are able to end the tenancy agreement, and the landlord suffers little
or no disruption to their rental income. Things, however, may not always turn out for the best. To protect your interests, tenants are well advised to keep several precautions in mind:
- Check whether the landlord is making genuine efforts to relet the premises. Have they advertised and how? Are they offering it to prospective tenants? Are they listing it for a realistic rent? Keep a record of any interest shown in the property that you are aware of.
- Are reasonable offers being considered? Have prospective tenants been discouraged or refused on unacceptable grounds, e.g. unlawful discrimination, requests for higher rent, etc?
- Once you have vacated the premises, it is generally unwise to pay any further money to the landlord/agent, except in final settlement of the problem. In other words, once you move out, and the tenancy has terminated, stop paying rent up-front. Payment without a guarantee that this is an end to the matter may result in money being spent but the premises remaining empty, at the tenants' cost. Once the rental income stops, the landlord's mind usually becomes very focused on finding a new tenant. This doesn’t mean you don’t accept your liability but that you will compensate for actual losses once they are incurred, rather than anticipated losses.
Check the property to see if a new tenant has moved in and whether the premises are still on the market. It isn't unknown for a landlord to take the opportunity to do renovations, effectively taking the property off the market. If this occurs the tenant should be relieved of liability (due to the duty to mitigate).
If you are having difficulties in your fixed-term tenancy or are not sure how to end it, the safest option may be to apply to ACAT. If you are considering this option, seek advice from TAS. And Finally Try to negotiate to find a mutually agreeable solution to the problem. NEVER abandon the premises, by leaving without giving written notice. This may increase your liability. Vacate the premises in good order, ensuring that they are clean and that the keys have been returned (preferably with a receipt).
Information supplied courtesy of the Tenants Union of ACT
Further information and advice for ACT tenants can be sourced from