It’s often remarked how Australia is a nation of renters and with the large number of people leasing property, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when some tenants receive a notice of termination from a landlord (lessor) due a failure to pay rent for example. Alternatively, tenants may also be dealing with a difficult landlord and may wish to initiate a termination of the rental agreement themselves. Therefore, the question that arises is: How can a tenancy agreement be brought to an end? Keep in mind that tenants and landlords have certain rights available, and that ending a tenancy agreement can sometimes be challenging – even in situations where such an action may be warranted.
When can a tenancy agreement come to an end?
Tenancy agreements can occur at the conclusion of a fixed term agreement (or sometimes even during the fixed term agreement), although notice of a breach can also bring an agreement to an end. Additionally, landlords can terminate a tenancy agreement during a periodic tenancy.
Even during instances where the tenant has complied with all their obligations under the agreement, is still no guarantee that a landlord can reclaim possession of their property at the conclusion of a fixed term agreement – or when the landlord has provided notice in regards to the periodic tenancy. Under the aforementioned scenarios, landlords aren’t compelled to provide a reason for the termination of the tenancy agreement.
Who can provide notice to terminate the agreement?
Both the tenant and landlord can provide notice to terminate. However, renters should be aware that if they are intending to terminate the agreement, they are still compelled to pay rent and cannot simply walk out just because the landlord has refused to make the necessary repairs to the property. Although with that being said, tenants can initiate termination proceedings under such circumstances.
Can the landlord recover possession of the property if the tenant is in breach of the agreement?
If the tenant commits a breach – such as failing to pay rent for example – there are certain protections available to the tenant. Continuing with our example of failure to pay rent, if the rent is in arrears, the breach must have been committed for a specific period of time (generally 14 days) before the landlord is able to initiate procedures terminating the agreement. Again using failure to pay rent as our example, if a tenant is behind in their payments, the landlord must provide notice and give the tenant an opportunity to remedy the breach.
Additional actions that may result in termination procedures being initiated by the landlord can also include, damage to the rental property or keeping pets without the landlord’s permission.
The landlord must have a justification for terminating the tenancy agreement
Landlords must generally satisfy the appropriate body that termination of the tenancy agreement is justified. If a landlord wishes to recover the property without the consent of the tenant, the action may be prohibited and the body has the discretion to deem whether the action of termination and recovery is justified under the specific circumstance.
If the breach is considered severe, such as serious damage to the property or threats to injure the landlord or neighbours, immediate termination may be permissible. Although, the threat must involve more than distress caused by abusive language, as the New South Wales Supreme Court held in Crock v Tribunal (2003) 59 NSWLR. However, immediate termination is justified if it can be shown there has been a history of violence, and there is a likelihood of future injury if further threats had been made, as was the case in Farmer v Residential Tenancies Tribunal  NSWSC 199.
This article is only a general outline of termination of a tenancy agreement. If you require assistance in regards to your tenancy agreement, please seek help from a lawyer who will be able to provide you with the appropriate advice.