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How to end an agreement

Information about how a rental provider, agent or a renter can terminate a residential residency agreement, including breaking a lease.

Under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 a rental agreement can only be terminated according to this Act. This means that a rental provider (formerly landlord) cannot evict a renter by changing the locks, taking the keys, booting them out. The rental provider must follow the Act.

The 3 main ways a rental agreement can end are when the:

  • rental provider and renter agree to end the rental agreement
  • renter gives notice of intention to vacate to the rental provider or agent
  • rental provider or agent gives a notice to vacate to the renter—see Notices to vacate

Note: A rental agreement can also end if the renter abandons the property.

See ss. 91B, 91C, 91E, 91F, 91P—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic).

If there is agreement

If both the rental provider and the renter agree to end the tenancy, they should put this in writing, including the details of rental agreement end date, associated costs, and any other terms and conditions. The agreement should be signed by the renter and rental provider.

If the renter wants to leave

If the renter wants to give notice, they must give the rental provider or agent a notice of their intention to vacate in writing. The notice must specify a termination date.

Consumer Affairs Victoria has a form for renters to use.

See 'Notice of intention to vacate' 'Renting' Consumer Affairs Victoria—Forms and publications(opens in a new window).

Reduced period of notice of intention to vacate

Under some circumstances, a renter may give a reduced period of notice in some circumstances.

See Leaving before the notice expires.

No fixed-term agreement

If the renter is subject to a periodic lease (where the renter has been renting for a while and the period of fixed term rental has ended) they are free to leave after giving proper notice.

Generally, the renter must give at least 28 days notice, although there are some situations where only 14 days or no notice is required (for example if the premises have been destroyed and are unfit to live in. Minimum notice periods are written on the form as well as in the relevant section of the Act.

Time is calculated from the date the rental provider or agent gets the notice.

See:

Fixed-term agreement

Breaking the lease

If a renter wants to move out before the expiry of their fixed term agreement (that is, before their rental agreement expires) the renter must give at least 28 days' notice (or 14 days' notice in some circumstances). If the renter just moves out without applying to VCAT for an order to end the fixed term agreement, this is called breaking the rental agreement.

The lease concludes as soon as the person hands in the keys to the rental provider or agent. At this stage they can no longer apply to VCAT to end the fixed term lease.

Compensation provisions where lease is broken

The renter may also have to compensate the rental provider for any costs they have to pay, including:

  • rent until replacement renters move in (or up to the end of the agreement)
  • re-letting fee, and
  • advertising costs.

These costs should be pro-rata, depending on the time left on the lease. The rental provider is required to take all reasonable steps to find a new renter as quickly as possible.

When VCAT is considering what compensation is payable, they will now consider whehter there were any unforeseen change of circumstances that would have caused severe hardship, had the renter stayed. For, example if they lost their job or became ill and needed expensive medical procedures. This means that there is now little difference to the compensation payable if the person breaks their lease or applies to VCAT for a reduction in the agreement.

See s. 211A—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic).

Applying for a reduction in the fixed term agreement

Instead of lease-breaking, the renter can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for a reduction and variation of a fixed term tenancy agreement.

VCAT can reduce the term of the agreement if there has been an unforeseen change in their circumstances and it would cause severe hardship for the renter if they had to continue with the rental agreement. The hardship suffered by the renter has to be greater than the hardship that early end to agreement would cause rental provider.

The renter will need to provide evidence of the hardship they are suffering, or the unforeseen circumstance.

When making the order, VCAT may also decide what (if any) compensation needs to be paid to the rental provider to any other party.

Note: if the renter wants to move out at the end of the agreement period, they still have to give written notice.

See ss. 91U, 211A—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic).

Where there are co-renters

Things are a little more complicated in co-tenancy arrangement, particularly if one renter wants to leave but the other/s don't.

See Share housing—Co-tenancies(opens in a new window)

More information

Legislation

Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)

  • s. 3—defines a 'fixed term residential rental agreement'
  • s. 91B—how areement must be terminated
  • s. 91C—termination by agreement
  • s. 91D—termination by consent
  • s. 91E—termination after notice to vacate
  • s. 91G—termination by abandonment
  • s. 91U—reduction or termination of a fixed term tenancy agreement
  • s. 91Z—notice of intention to vacate
  • s. 91ZB—reduced period of notice of intention to vacate in certain circumstances
  • s. 91ZD—premises destroyed and unfit for habitation
  • s. 91Q—creation of a periodic rental agreement
  • s. 211A—further matters to be considered by VCAT

See Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic).

Forms

Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV)

The CAV site has a list of forms that can be used. They can be filled out electronically or printed out and completed by hand.

See Consumer Affairs Victoria—Forms and publications(opens in a new window).

Tenants Victoria

Tenants Victoria has information about ending a rental agreement.

See:

Consumer Affairs Victoria

Consumer Affairs Victoria also information about the procedures for ending a tenancy.

See:

Updated