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Advice on terminating a private lease in Canberra?

By 15 August 2011 14

We may be terminating a private lease a little early (3 months) as we don’t want to miss out on renting a decent home in the packed ACT rental market. The private lease we are in has been done officially (ACT rental agreements, lodge of bond, etc).

The house itself has been nice, however there a few issues that needed to be amended (with the door locks) and they were not fixed properly by the owner’s family who live in ACT,  and we’re still having issues with, and so we would probably only rent again through an agent.

Is there a buffer period on when you can officially terminate a lease without having pay double rent for the overlap? And how would we go about doing this? It might just be a case of dealing with it straight with the owner, just thought i’d get my question out there for some advice.

Thanks

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14 Responses to Advice on terminating a private lease in Canberra?
#1
Grail10:34 am, 15 Aug 11

The rental contract should specify all the appropriate time periods for termination.

I’m unsure just how you expect an agent to be better with managing the property than a landlord. If the locks need fixing, they need fixing. If the people managing the property on behalf of the landlord aren’t doing anything about it, take it up with the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) as per the ACT Tenants Union fact sheet on repairs.

Alternately, you could try pursuing a termination of the lease through ACAT, based on the property not being suitable for habitation (i.e.: you can’t lock the doors).

Note that “I found a better offer” is not a suitable grounds for terminating a lease. Otherwise why would any landlord set up a long term lease contract in the first place?

If you can’t pursue the resolution of your problem with this landlord, what makes you think that a property manager (i.e.: agent for a landlord) is going to be easier to deal with? Landlords like me hire property managers because we want someone who is a little harder of nose and colder of heart than us. Otherwise I’d be at my property every other day cleaning and re-oiling hinges and changing nappies.

Running away from your problems is never a good way of “solving” them.

TL;DR: Contact the Tenants Union, not RiotACT, for tenancy advice.

#2
trevar11:00 am, 15 Aug 11

If there is an issue with the property that the landlord has agreed to repair and this repair has not been done effectively, you can give them a further (written) request to repair. If they then fail to repair it within two weeks, you can then terminate your lease early. It’s not foolproof; the landlord could actually undertake the repair and then you’d be back where you started, but possibly with a cranky landlord…

Have a look through the rental handbook. It has a lot of provisions like this that could possibly help you get what you want in inconvenient circumstances like this.

#3
breda1:13 pm, 15 Aug 11

I think you are being unreasonable if you expect the landlord to suffer any cost or inconvenience when you are on a fixed lease just because you have found somewhere better. Would you be happy to be kicked out because they have found someone who would pay more rent?

A fixed lease is a contract – a two-way arrangement.

Since the rental market is so tight, there is no reason why it should be on the market for long. The more notice you give, the sooner they can start looking for new tenants. But if you have to double up on rent for a period, that is what you agreed to when you signed the lease.

The door lock issue, even if it is eventually deemed to be sufficient reason for you to break the lease, is not going to be resolved by a tribunal in a couple of weeks. It could take months.

Suggest you are upfront with them and try to work something out amicably. I have done this a couple of times, and it has always been resolved with minimal drama and no cost to me. But, I was prepared to pay if I had to, as was my legal obligation.

#4
Inappropriate2:29 pm, 15 Aug 11

You’ll be out of pocket 1 weeks rent to cover re-advertising fees etc, and then you’ll continue to pay rent until new tennants signs the lease or your current lease runs out.

As an added bonus, you’ll get a black mark against your name as a lease breaker – prolly not a good thing in this rental market.

#5
PrinceOfAles2:31 pm, 15 Aug 11

Breda pretty much hit the nail on the head. It can take a month or 2 to get a hearing through ACAT. I would ask the landlord nicely if they would release you early and be as helpful as possible when it comes to showing prospective new tenants through.

#6
breda2:53 pm, 15 Aug 11

Pretty sure I didn’t get any black marks against my name, Inappropriate. I certainly never had any problems renting subsequently. BUT – I was upfront about it, was as helpful as I could be in assisting them to get a new tenant and made it clear that in no way was I trying to wriggle out of my legal obligations.

If I had taken them to the Tribunal on some minor matter to try to avoid my responsibilities as a tenant, however, they may well have taken a different view of whether I deserved a black mark.

#7
harvyk13:43 pm, 15 Aug 11

Long and short of it is talk to your landlord, let them know of your intentions as soon as possible.
If you do terminate a lease early you are still liable for upto 26 weeks worth of rent or until the expiry of the lease whichever is earlier.

You will most likely be required to pay for advertising the property upto the equivalent of one weeks worth of rent.

There is some conflicting advice as to if you stop paying rent during the period that your current premises is unoccupied, again talk this over with your landlord if you intend not to pay until the premise is re-leased.

The landlord is under a legal obligation to re-lease the property in the shortest amount of time, and thus if they fail to do so you could be released from paying out the term of your lease.

Be really accomodating towards opening your current house up for inspection, you may find that your landlord has a new person ready to move in the weekend after you move out. (Which is what happened for me one time).

Also remember that that if your landlord is at any stage difficult, (I had one which refused to accept the keys for the property back as she thought she could then argue we where still in procession of the property) use registered post to send things to your landlord.

I’ve personally broken lease a couple of times, once was unpleasent (very difficult landlord, and the whole case went to the tribunal, both for the broken lease and the other issues in regards to the lease) once was pleasent enough (had to show the agent we knew our rights \ obligations in regards to breaking lease, but once we showed we where no pushovers it went smooth enough), and one final time where it was a private lease and the landlord had new people living in the property within a week of us moving out. Infact we where a little concerned that we’d need to hand over the keys for our old house prior to our new house being ready.

#8
troll-sniffer3:58 pm, 15 Aug 11

As a randrord myself I can advise that if you as a tenant came to me with a need to break the lease on a property, I would not have a problem with the following:

You pay for the ad in Allhomes to get a new tenant.
You be 100% cooperative in viewing times and appointments to suit me and prospective tenants
You pay any agent’s fees for a new lease (one week’s rent is normal I beilieve)
You pay rent until the new tenants start paying rent.

In this market there shouldn’t be any difficulty in finding a new tenant for any reasonable property, but of course if you’re getting out because you signed up for a lease above the market you might find getting others to pay a little difficult.

Note also that if the landlord tries to up the rent, the ACT lease act only allows one increase per 12 months, so any increase in rent for the new tenants could only come into effect after your 12 months is up.

#9
harvyk14:25 pm, 15 Aug 11

troll-sniffer said :

You pay any agent’s fees for a new lease (one week’s rent is normal I beilieve)

The tenant is not obliged to do this… Any agent fees are the responsibility of the landlord.

troll-sniffer said :

Note also that if the landlord tries to up the rent, the ACT lease act only allows one increase per 12 months, so any increase in rent for the new tenants could only come into effect after your 12 months is up.

Also not quite true, as it is a new lease you are free to put what ever price you like on the property, you just need to remember that if the price is out of step with the market the tenants would be within their rights to take the complaint to the tribunal, which could mean that you and not the tenants would be up for the cost of re-leasing the property, plus the tenants wouldn’t be required to pay additional rent once they had moved out.

Of course the flip side is if the market rate of the property goes down, the tenants would be required to make up the difference for upto 26 weeks.

#10
troll-sniffer5:38 pm, 15 Aug 11

harvyk1 said :

[i]The tenant is not obliged to do this… Any agent fees are the responsibility of the landlord.[/i]

You didn’t take the time to read and understand my post obviously. What I said was, if a tenant came to me looking to break a lease, I wouldn’t have any objection if all those conditions were met. It’s the tenant who wants to break a legally binding contract, not me. To facilitate said break, tenant needs to be proactively cooperative IMHO.

[i]Also not quite true, as it is a new lease you are free to put what ever price you like on the property, \[/i].

True, I just checked and it only applies to the existing lease holder.

#11
harvyk16:01 pm, 15 Aug 11

troll-sniffer said :

You didn’t take the time to read and understand my post obviously. What I said was, if a tenant came to me looking to break a lease, I wouldn’t have any objection if all those conditions were met. It’s the tenant who wants to break a legally binding contract, not me. To facilitate said break, tenant needs to be proactively cooperative IMHO.

Not true, the residential tenancy act specifies how a tenancy is handled. How you feel about a tenant breaking a lease is immaterial as it’s tightly controlled by the act. You are unable to stop a tenant from breaking a lease full stop. The lease ends the day the tenant says it does. The landlord can ask for compensation to cover actual losses, and can have those enforced by the tribunal, but they can not refuse a lease being cancelled.

Now obviously if a tenant wants to break a lease working details out between themselves and their landlord is desirable, but that does not give the landlord the right to do what they want.

#12
evessunshine7:10 pm, 15 Aug 11

breda said :

I think you are being unreasonable if you expect the landlord to suffer any cost or inconvenience when you are on a fixed lease just because you have found somewhere better. Would you be happy to be kicked out because they have found someone who would pay more rent

We wouldn’t expect the landlord to suffer any cost, and understand that we may need to pay rent until the house is occupied.

troll-sniffer said :

As a randrord myself I can advise that if you as a tenant came to me with a need to break the lease on a property, I would not have a problem with the following:

You pay for the ad in Allhomes to get a new tenant.
You be 100% cooperative in viewing times and appointments to suit me and prospective tenants
You pay any agent’s fees for a new lease (one week’s rent is normal I beilieve)
You pay rent until the new tenants start paying rent.

More than happy to do the above, we’re not trying to scheme our way out of this – we want the best for us both (easy transitions). Just wanted to know if breaking the lease was possible without any black marks. Also, I mentioned the reason to why we want to break the lease, just so that i didn’t have to put up with any “found a better offer” comment/s.

Prior to this home we rented through an agent who was fantastic, fixed a couple of things needed doing on the spot with qualified tradesmen, in reasonable business hours hours. The things that have needed to be amended here with the private lessor have been done with slack, and with the landlords family (as he lives in another state). Calling him feels like an inconvenience to him (even though we’ve only called a couple of times for major problems). All in all i think having the agent is a good mediator in the rental market.

Thanks for the comments

#13
evessunshine7:16 pm, 15 Aug 11

Grail said :

Running away from your problems is never a good way of “solving” them.

Thanks for the note, i didn’t think that seeking advice is “running away from problems”… ;)

#14
Martlark9:06 pm, 15 Aug 11

You can make any arrangement you like for ending the lease early with your landlord. Otherwise it is 30 days notice. There is no need to finish the entire term of the lease. Most landlords would be happy to allow you to leave early as long as they can re-lease easily. Talk to your landlord and find out.

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