Breaking a Lease Early? Don’t Panic, Here’s Our Advice

Breaking a lease early? Don't panic, you are going to be fine

So… you’re thinking of ending things. We understand. Things don’t always go as planned sniffles and sometimes, you need to divvy up some tough love. Especially if you’re breaking a lease early and you’re about to give your landlord the news (yikes). 

Breaking a lease early is touchy territory, full of broken promises, shady landlords, and incredibly nervous tenants (aka you). If you want to keep costs to a minimum and live your happily ever after free of terrible rental references, you need to play your cards right. Here’s our advice.

Keep in mind, this post is not legal advice, and should not be treated as such. We recommend seeking legal advice (from lawyers, not bloggers) if you’re handling a complex and sensitive situation.

First Up: What’s Your Lease Like?

Before you start catastrophising, take a look at your lease agreement. There’s a chance you might not have to pay any penalties at all, depending on what kind of lease you have.

If you’re on…

  • A month-to-month (rolling) lease – all you have to do is provide the notice required, which is typically around a month. Typically, once your original lease is up, it transitions into a month-to-month automatically.
  • A fixed term lease – if you’re signed a fixed term lease and it’s not over yet, you’re held accountable for your property until it’s up. If this sounds like you, read on.

How Much is Breaking a Lease Going to Cost You?

Much like the slang – potato cakes vs. potato scallops will split a room in seconds – the tenancy laws across Australia vary, state to state. How much you have to pay to break your lease really depends on where you live. There are a few rules that tend to apply no matter where you’ve living, though (just like enthusiasm for a Bunnings sausage sizzle, which applies to all Aussies, no matter where you are). 

Depending on where you live, compensation your landlord can request from you includes stuff like:

  • Reletting fees (equivalent to two weeks rent)
  • Marketing costs (not good)
  • National database checks on new tenants
  • Rent costs until your landlord finds a new tenant
  • Reimbursed rent if your landlord has to advertise the place at a lower rate 

If you need to leave your lease early for a valid reason and you want to avoid all that spending, there are legal ways you can break your lease without splashing all that cash.

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Can You Break a Lease Without the Pricetag?

The short answer? Yes. The slightly wordier answer? Yes, if you’re smart about it. Don’t be rash and email your landlord the minute you decide to leave, with “c u never” as your sign off. Figure out what your options are first.

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While it might feel like your landlord always has the upper hand, remember: both of you want to keep this process quick and easy. The best route to get you there is to be upfront from the get-go. Communicate clearly, and where possible, find solutions before you get your landlord involved.

You don’t have to be your landlord’s best mate; all they want is an easy tenancy. If you can do the legwork for them and find a new tenant to replace you, they’re way more likely to let you go without making you pay for all those penalties. Cooperation = key… or in this case, cooperation = returning your keys.

If your landlord’s not so easy to please, you can still leave without getting your wallet involved. You’ll either need a legally valid reason or a mutual agreement between yourself and your landlord. Plus a decent amount of determination.

Agree to Agree: Ask for a Mutual Agreement

If you can arrange a mutual agreement with your landlord, you can get out of your lease early. All you need is for your landlord to give you the O-K.

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Just make sure you get the O-K the proper way, in writing (don’t just shake hands on it and call it a day). Write up what you’ve agreed on – i.e. you both agree you’re not behind held liable for any additional costs or compensation for breaking the lease – and make sure you both sign it. 

Get Outta There Scot-Free (With a Valid Reason)

If you’re having a rough go, there’s a good chance you could end your lease without any penalties. If you’re really roughing it, you might even be able to end your lease without notice (like, if your house is literally uninhabitable)…

@aldi_finds

I’m a landlord so I get to make this joke. Tradesmen are the smartest people I know. #carpenter #electrician #plumber #landlord #fyp #tradesman #diy

♬ original sound – Aldi Finds

Depending on where you live in Australia, you can get out of your lease scot-free for any of these reasons:

  • You’re experiencing financial hardship
  • Your place is uninhabitable and you can prove it
  • Your landlord’s in breach, e.g. not addressing repairs you’ve requested, not keeping your locks in working order, or entering your property without notice (aka invading your personal space) 
  • You’re living in an unsafe environment (e.g. you’re a victim of domestic violence)

If any of the above applies to you, you should probably apply to your local tribunal for a reading (your local tenant’s union can help you out with that). 

How Do You Pull Off a Lease Break Unscathed?

Want to break your lease without breaking any bones? Keep these guidelines in mind and you’ll be good to get out of there, good as new.

Read Up on Your Rights 

There’s a bit of a power imbalance between knowing-your-rights and needing-a-roof-over-your-head. If you feel like your landlord’s doing the wrong thing, there’s a chance that they might be.

Find out if your landlord’s in the wrong by finding out your rights as a tenant. The most common issues fall into rent rises, repairs, quiet enjoyment, and notice periods. Remember, every Australian state is a little different, so make sure what you’re reading is right.

Keep Track of Everything

Paper trails aren’t always a good thing, but when it comes to breaking your lease, you want read receipts on and screenshots at the ready. Document absolutely everything:

  • Get everything in writing
  • Keep track of all your correspondence
  • Take photos of anything that’s gone wrong at your place

If It All Gets Too Much, Ask for Help

Remember, you’re no expert in tenants law and no one’s asking you to be. Anytime you feel unsure, you can always call on your local union for a little help (not all heroes wear capes, some you can call on the phone if you’re happy to listen to the hold music for a while ((you’re not the only tenant that needs a hand))). 

Once you’re sorted and ready to make a move, TAXIBOX can help you out. Moving is already stressful enough, so breaking a lease on top of all that is more than the average person can handle.

Let the TAXIBOX Team make it easier. We’ll take the stress out of all your life stuff.

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