25 March 2022

Breaking a Lease with your Landlord Early

Danielle Redford
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Breaking a lease agreement with your landlord early isn't ideal, but it can happen. Sometimes it's unavoidable for a variety of genuine reasons. Read on to find out answers to FAQS about breaking a lease early, including:

  • What are the costs?
  • How can you reduce your costs?
  • Will your credit score be affected?

What are the costs of breaking a lease early?

This will depend on the terms and conditions of your lease agreement and the State or Territory where your rental property is located. It's important to understand that a lease agreement is a legal agreement designed to protect the interests of both landlords and tenants.

In general, all landlords will be entitled to charge you:

  • Reasonable costs of finding new tenants (such as advertising costs).
  • Rent until they re-let the property to a new tenant (or until the end of your lease, whichever happens first). Landlords must make reasonable attempts to re-let the property before the end of your lease.

However, below are specific additional guidelines for breaking a lease early in each State and Territory.

New South Wales

You must give your landlord at least 14 days written notice. If you don't, your landlord is entitled to charge a lease-breaking fee if one is specified in your rental agreement.

Victoria

Victorian landlords can ask you to pay one month of your current rent amount per year remaining on your lease as a break fee (up to a maximum of six years), provided that it's specified in your rental agreement.

Queensland

Like New South Wales, you must give your landlord at least 14 days' written notice in Queensland. If you don't, your landlord is entitled to charge a lease-breaking fee if one is specified in your rental agreement.

South Australia

South Australian landlords are entitled to 28 days' notice of your intention to break a lease early. Otherwise, they are responsible for loss of rent up until the property is re-let, plus any re-letting costs.

Western Australia

Western Australian landlords are entitled to 21 days' notice of your intention to break your lease early. If you don't, your landlord is entitled to charge a lease-breaking fee if one is specified in your rental agreement.

ACT

Like New South Wales and Queensland, you must give your landlord at least 14 days' written notice in the ACT. If you don't, your landlord is entitled to charge a lease-breaking fee if one is specified in your rental agreement.

Northern Territory

Like New South Wales, Queensland and the ACT, you must give your landlord at least 14 days' written notice in the Northern Territory. If you don't, your landlord is entitled to charge a lease-breaking fee if one is specified in your rental agreement. Your landlord can also keep your security deposit.

Tasmania

Like New South Wales, Queensland, the ACT and the Northern Territory, you must give your landlord at least 14 days' written notice in the Northern Territory. If you don't, your landlord is entitled to charge a lease-breaking fee if one is specified in your rental agreement.

How can you reduce the costs of breaking a lease early?

The best thing you can do to try and reduce your costs is to put yourself in your landlord's shoes. You can do this by:

  • Give your landlord plenty of notice of your intention to leave early (and do it in writing).

This will give your landlord as much time as possible to find a replacement tenant.

  • Explaining genuine reasons for wanting to break your lease early.

For example, a change in family or work circumstances, financial hardship, the need to move into aged care, or a breach of the rental agreement by the landlord.

If your landlord has breached the agreement, you may be able to break your lease early without incurring any costs. You should speak with the relevant rental authority in your State or Territory to determine your rights and responsibilities.

  • Finding a suitable, high-quality tenant to replace you.

For example, a family member or friend. Share the property listing on your social networks. You never know who might know someone who's looking for a place. However, it's ultimately up to the landlord to offer a lease. You will increase the chances of that happening if you can recommend or find a high-quality tenant. High-quality tenants have an excellent rental history verified on tenancy databases, stable employment, and solid references from landlords and their employers.

  • Offer to pay the first two weeks of a new tenant's rent.

While this may cost you two weeks' rent, it could help the property to be re-let sooner, saving you from paying more rent.

  • Offer to pay for professional photography for the listing.

Again, while this is a cost, it may help the property to be re-let quicker, saving you more rent.

  • Making it as easy as possible for new tenants to inspect the property while you are still there.

This includes keeping the property neat and tidy at all times, as well as making yourself scarce when potential tenants want to inspect it.

Does breaking a lease early affect your credit score?

Not necessarily, provided that you have paid all your rent on time, as well as any lease-breaking fees.

However, if you break your lease early:

  • it will be recorded in rental property databases, and
  • your landlord may let future landlords know if asked to provide a reference for you.

This may affect your ability to get future rental properties. That's why it's important to have a genuine reason for breaking your lease early and to help your landlord as much as possible to find a suitable replacement tenant.

The bottom line

Breaking a lease with your landlord should be a last resort. If you need to do it, it's both in your interest and your landlord's interests to find a good replacement tenant as soon as possible. Do everything you can to help make that as easy and as quick as possible. It will save you money.

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