The Landlord's Guide To
Part 3 - How to end a
All leases must come to an end.
A landlord gives notice because they are unhappy with the
tenant or want the house back.
A tenant gives notice because they wish to live
In this newsletter, we look at how a landlord ends
To end a lease, landlords and tenants must give a Notice
to Terminate. This notice was known as a Notice to Quit or a
Notice to Vacate or an Eviction Notice.
A no reasons Notice to
A no reasons Notice to Terminate is used to end a
lease at the end of the lease term and at any time
The Notice gives a tenant a period of time to move out.
No reasons are given.
The notice periods are:
- To end a fixed term tenancy: a landlord gives at
least 30 days’ notice (one month); a tenant gives at
least 14 days’ notice (two weeks). The notice must be
given before the end of the fixed term, but cannot
expire until the end of the fixed term.
- To end a periodic agreement: a landlord gives at
least 90 days’ notice (three months); a tenant gives at
least 21 days’ notice (three weeks). The notice can be
given at any time.
It was once the case that landlords and tenants gave the
same notice: for example, if rent was paid weekly, then one
weeks’ notice to quit was given. But consumer protection is
now the rule, and the landlord must give 90 days’ notice to
a tenant to end a periodic agreement, to give the tenant
enough time to find new premises.
Experienced landlords will ensure that their lease terms
do not end during the Christmas and New Year period because
at that time of year, new tenants are hard to find and the
premises are likely to remain vacant for a while.
Landlords and agents should use the model form of Notice
to Terminate Tenancy Agreement on the NSW Fair Trading
website. The model form contains information that must be
given to a tenant.
What if the landlord gives
notice and the tenant moves out early?
If the landlord gives a Notice to Terminate, is the
tenant liable to pay the rent until the notice expires, or
is the tenant able to stop paying the rent earlier, if they
move out earlier?
These rules apply to the rent:
- During a fixed term tenancy, the tenant remains
liable to pay rent until the end of the lease term.
- During a periodic agreement, the tenant is liable to
pay rent only up to the date they move out and return
The tenant’s end-of-lease responsibilities remain the
same if they move out early.
A Notice to Terminate with a
A Notice to Terminate with a reason is mostly
given by a landlord for non-payment of rent, but there are
- Non-payment of rent for at least 14 days: a landlord
gives at least 14 days’ notice
- Any other breach by the tenant: a landlord gives at
least 14 days’ notice
- Sale (only during a periodic agreement): a landlord
gives at least 30 days’ notice if the contract for sale
requires the purchaser to be given vacant possession on
completion. Note – During a fixed term tenancy, the
property can be sold but the purchaser must honour the
lease until the end of the term.
A tenant is in breach if they are in arrears with their
rent, cause serious damage or injury; if they intimidate or
harass the landlord; or if they use the premises for illegal
purposes. The tenant is able to remedy the breach during the
A Notice to Terminate with a reason may be given
by a tenant for these reasons:
- Breach by the landlord: a tenant gives at least 14
- Tenant is offered public housing
- Tenant cannot return home because of an Apprehended
A landlord is in breach if they fail to carry out
repairs; if they enter without consent; if they fail to
disclose when leasing the premises that the property is
listed for sale, or that there has been a fire, flood,
serious contamination or a murder (or serious violent crime)
in the house within the previous 5 years.
Some reasons are outside of the control of a landlord and
a tenant, which allow either to give a Notice to Terminate
with a reason, such as:
- Death of the sole tenant
- Premises are destroyed, or become uninhabitable, or
are compulsorily acquired
- Landlord or tenant suffers undue hardship
Issuing a Notice to Terminate
for non-payment of rent
Paying rent when it falls due is one of the two most
important obligations that tenants have – the other being to
look after the premises.
When does rent fall due? Rent falls due on the day that
the lease starts, and then on the same day of every week or
If the rent is not paid on the day it falls due, then the
tenant is in default. The landlord may follow up by
telephone, visiting, letter (mailed or faxed), sms or email.
If the rent remains unpaid for more than 14 days, the
time has come to issue a Notice to Terminate with a
reason – being non-payment.
These rules apply to the Notice to Terminate:
- The notice is given after the rent has remained
unpaid for not less than 14 days.
- The tenant may satisfy the notice by paying the rent
arrears or agreeing to a payment plan.
- The landlord cannot refuse to accept payment of the
- The notice period is 14 days. It starts on
the day after the notice is handed to the tenant; or to
someone at the premises over the age of 16 years; or is
left in the letterbox; or is faxed; or is mailed. If
mailed, add 4 working days.
- The notice cannot be served by sms or by email.
The landlord must keep a rent payment record - a
rental ledger, which must be accurate.
In decision 2012/168 the Tribunal found that the Notice to
Terminate was invalid because it was issued when the rent
was less than 14 days in arrears. The rental ledger was not
accurate in that a Rent Increase Notice given 6 months
previously was defective as it had set a date that was 58
days, not 60 days, after the starting date for the rent to
increase. By disregarding the Rent Increase Notice, the
Tribunal found that the rent was less than 14 days in
This table illustrates a rental ledger where the
tenant does not always pay the rent on time – the tenant
sometimes pays in advance (CR) and sometimes is in arrears
Eviction in the Tenancy
Almost one half of the cases in the Tenancy Tribunal each
year are Applications for termination of a lease for
non-payment of rent by a landlord (2011-2012 year:
13,586 out of 32,626 applications). Another 4,462 were for
termination for other reasons. Previously, these
Applications were known as an Eviction Summons.
These rules apply:
- A landlord may apply to the Tribunal as soon the
Notice to Terminate is served, and must apply no later
than 30 days after the expiry of the notice period.
After that time, a new Notice is needed.
- A landlord may apply for these orders in the one
- Termination and possession of the premises on
ground of non-payment of rent
- Payment of rent arrears
- An occupation fee (to apply from the termination
- The rental bond (or part) be paid to the
landlord (for rent arrears)
- Specific performance order that the tenant pay
rent on time
- Once the Tribunal makes the order for termination
and possession, the landlord delivers a warrant for
possession issued by the Tribunal to the Sheriff’s
Office. The Sheriff will notify the tenant of an
eviction date and time. If the tenant has not vacated,
the Sheriff will change the locks and move all the
tenant’s goods out of the premises.
- A landlord or their agent looks after the Tribunal
proceedings. The Tribunal does not award legal costs or
expenses against the tenant, so Lawyers rarely go to the
In practice, a landlord cannot expect that the
Tribunal will make an eviction order as a fait accompli.
Landlords and Tenants are required to mediate, that is, to
discuss and agree on a plan of action. These alternatives
- If the tenant wants to stay - knowing that the
Tenancy Law contains a general guarantee of the
tenancy, an experienced landlord will agree to a
payment plan. The landlord knows that if they do not
agree, the Tribunal can order a reasonable payment plan.
What is a reasonable payment plan? In decision 2012/176
the Tribunal ordered that $3,069.72 in rent arrears be
paid by instalments of $100 per fortnight.
Later on, if the tenant fails to make the payments as
per the payment plan, the landlord can request the
Tribunal to declare that the tenant is a frequent
non-payer of rent. This means that the tenant cannot ask
for a new payment plan to avoid eviction for non-payment
- If the tenant wants to leave – the landlord will
agree to a moving out date, and how the rental bond is
to be paid out.
If the tenant simply asks for time to move out, without
agreeing to pay the rent arrears, the Tribunal will make
the eviction order but suspend it for a time to give the
tenant time to move out.
The fact that a tenant brings their rent up to date does
not prevent the landlord asking the Tribunal to terminate
the lease for another kind of breach, such as keeping
animals without consent – in decision 2012/10 the Tribunal
terminated a lease because a tenant kept 2 dogs without
consent, even though the rent was up to date.
Can landlords take direct
No - Landlords are in serious trouble under the Tenancy
Law if they attempt to forcibly evict the tenant themselves,
change the locks to prevent access, cut off the water or
power supply or paint the windows black to make the premises
The rules for bringing a lease to an end under the Tenancy
Law must be followed.
How to end a lease – Q
Q. The tenants were on a 6 months lease that was
up in September 2012. The owner was contacted by her real
estate agent to say that the tenants did not wish to extend
another 6 months, as they are in the process of buying a
home, but are happy to play it month - to - month. The owner
now wishes to re-rent the property at a higher rent, and has
advertised it available for rent in just over a month’s
time. The tenant has been notified of this. This is the
"You have broken the law by advertising on DOMAIN whist
there is a tenant still in the premises on the dates
advertised. Also the tenants require 90 days to end a lease,
and also we have increased the rent by too much and there is
no way the tenant has to pay this increase." The owner
was clearly shocked, as she had been told on several
occasions about the month to month agreement by her real
What rights does the owner have? Can the owner show
prospective tenants through whilst the current ones are
there? If the tenants agree to be re-located before the
notice period expires, will that end the lease?
A. Back before the current Residential Tenancy
Laws came in, and even today for commercial tenancies, an
expired lease which continued as a month to month lease
could be terminated by a Landlord or by the Tenant giving
one month’s notice. The Residential Tenancy Laws have swept
this aside and now at the end of an expired Residential
lease, the Landlord must give no less than 90 days’ notice
and the tenant must give no less than 21 days’ notice to
terminate the lease. Of course, if Landlord and Tenant
agree, these notice periods to not apply. This has been the
law in NSW for residential leases exceeding 3 months terms
The best solution is to come to an agreement with the
tenant, for the tenant to move out. If no agreement can be
reached, then the landlord should give a 90 day notice of
termination. The alternative is to give 90 days of increase
in rent, but given the tenant’s response, it is best that
the tenancy come to an end.
In terms of inspections, the landlord must comply with
clause 22 of the Residential Tenancy Agreement. This allows
2 inspections per week at agreed times.
If the landlord gives the notice, the tenant’s obligation to
pay rent ends when the tenant hands back the keys. The lease
also ends the date the tenant returns the keys.
The Landlord’s Guide to Renting has been produced by
Cordato Partners Lawyers, as part of its Property Law
practice. It contains a brief outline of the Tenancy Law.
Because it is a general guide, is not intended to be
relied upon for any specific tenancy situation. For those
situations professional advice should be obtained.
If you would like to receive the Guide as a pdf email
attachment rather than as a hard copy, or would like further
hard copies of the Guide to distribute to clients, friends
and relatives -
Contact us by email –
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