Vacating A Rental Property

While attracting and retaining long term tenants is what many tenants and investors hope for, having steps in place for when a tenant or landlord wants to end the agreement and move on is part and parcel of a residential lease.

There are many reasons why a tenant may wish to move on, or a tenancy may need to come to an end. Maybe the tenant started a new job on the other side of the city, wants a change of scenery, needs to find new flatmates, start a family, upsize, downsize or to buy their own place. Sometimes a landlord needs to renovate or sell, or has cause for concern over the way a tenant is treating their property.

Looking after the rights and responsibilities for both tenants and landlords when a tenancy comes to an end is a key part of a property manager’s role. Both the tenant and landlord have rights and responsibilities. And it’s important to follow the correct processes to protect everyone involved.

Here’s what tenants and landlords need to know to help the process run smoothly for everyone.

What if a tenant wants to end a tenancy?

If a tenant wants to end a periodic tenancy (when the original lease has expired) they can do so by giving 21 days’ notice.

If you’re still on a fixed-term lease it’s slightly more complicated. Usually, you’re obligated to honour the terms of the lease.

But circumstances do arise when a tenant wants or needs to break their lease and move out before the end of the fixed term lease. Examples of this could include the landlord not attending to important maintenance, or even the tenant experiencing financial hardship. Tenants should always speak with their property manager as soon as possible to see they come to an agreement that suits all parties.

Breaking a fixed term lease without giving the required notice can cost tenants additional money, as they may need to pay rent and other expenses until the landlord either finds new tenants or the original tenancy period reaches an end.

What if a landlord wants to end a tenancy?

If it’s the landlord who wants to break the lease, the amount of notice that needs to be given depends on the reason the lease is being terminated. For example, if the tenant isn’t paying rent on time or is damaging the property, the notice could be as little as 7 to 21 days. If the landlord simply doesn’t want to renew a fixed term lease or needs to sell with vacant possession it’s 30 days. But if there’s no reason at all, it could be as long as 60 days if the tenancy is on a periodic basis.

Did you know

A tenancy doesn’t automatically end when the lease expires, unless you have given (or been given) 30 days’ notice. And tenants don’t need to give a reason for ending a periodic tenancy. They simply have to give a minimum of 21 days notice in writing. However, new laws mean that victims of family violence are only required to give 7 days notice, although tenants do need to meet certain criteria.

What tenants need to know about ending a lease

One of the biggest considerations when ending a lease is the condition of the property. Tenants need to ensure the property is clean and tidy, and in the same condition as when the lease began, taking into account fair wear and tear.

It’s important to remember that everyone whose name is on the lease is responsible for any damage done to the property. So even if, for example, damage has been done to only one bedroom by one tenant, all tenants named on the lease are still responsible for any costs to fix the damage.

Remember the property condition report you completed when you moved in? If you can’t locate it, don’t panic – the property manager or landlord can provide you with a copy. This report serves as a useful guide when moving out, as you can check against it to ensure no damage has occurred while you lived there. The report will also be used as a checklist by the property manager or landlord during their final property inspection.

Most lease agreements state that the carpets need to be cleaned when you move out, so make sure you keep a copy of the receipt to show you’ve attended to this. Pay special attention to cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, making sure you get rid of any mould or grime. And don’t forget the oven!

Consider having any gardens mowed and weeded by a professional. Also clean windows, skirting boards, light fittings and any other fixtures. Once you’re done, take photos so you have a record of the condition you left the property in.

Hand all sets of keys to the property manager, and ensure they have your forwarding address. Once they’ve completed a final inspection and are happy with the property’s condition, you’ll receive your bond back.

What landlords need to know

Make sure you familiarise yourself with the property condition report that was completed when the tenant first moved in.

Consult with your property manager to find a time that suits both of you to do the final property inspection. And remember, this must be completed as soon as is practical, and within 14 days of the tenant moving out. If the tenant wants to be present, you need to facilitate this if you can.

If you find any damage or you are uncertain about the condition of the property, discuss this with your property manager. Remember, while the property should be in a state similar to when the lease began, you must accommodate what’s considered “fair wear and tear” from average use of the property.

If you can’t come to an agreement with the tenant about any damage and there is a dispute over the bond, you can lodge an application for the matter to be heard at the Magistrates Court. However, it’s in everyone’s best interests to resolve things before it gets to this stage, so make sure you discuss all options with your property manager first.

Are you a tenant or property owner looking to lease? Contact our team today.

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