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How to break a lease

Person about to sign a lease agreement
How to break a lease when you’ve just purchased your new home

You’ve made an offer on a new home and it was accepted! You should take a minute to appreciate the milestone. Not only to congratulate yourself for your efforts, but to take a breather from all the hard work.

Now it’s time to tackle the next hurdle — your lease. If you’re renting a property, you’ll need to figure out when and how you’re going to leave your rental. This can mean breaking your lease.

It’ll be a little bit tricky, but we’re making it a tad easier with this helpful information on how to break a lease.

Lease types 

There are two types of leases in Australia:

  • Fixed term: The least agreement starts on a certain date and ends on a certain date. Fixed term leases generally last 6 to 12 months.
  • Periodic lease: Two parties establish a lease but don’t specify a fixed term. Periodic leases can also happen when a fixed term lease ends and a new fixed term lease is not signed.

If you’re on a periodic lease, good news! You can end your lease at any point as long as you tell your landlord or property manager in writing. Just make sure you:

  • give at least a 3-week notice period
  • tell them the date you will be leaving the property.

Ending a fixed term lease isn’t so easy. Think very carefully about whether or not you really want to break your lease without grounds. You could be responsible for a number of costs, depending on the state you live in.

ACT and New South Wales

Break lease fee

Lease agreements that include a break lease fee clause will allow you to pay a one-off fee to break your lease. You don’t have to give notice, and you will not be responsible for any further payments.

The fee amount you pay depends on the length of your lease and how much time is left on your lease:

  • 3-year lease that is less than half expired, you will pay the equivalent of 6 weeks rent
  • 3-year lease that is more than half expired, you will pay the equivalent of 4 weeks rent
  • If the lease is more than 3 years, the fee will be an agreed amount between you and your landlord.

Without a break lease fee

If your fixed term lease agreement doesn’t include a break lease fee clause, you could be responsible for any losses as a result of breaking the lease. This includes:

  • loss of rent
  • costs of advertising the property.

To help reduce these costs, you should:

  • give your landlord as much notice as possible
  • cooperate with all efforts to relet the property, including being available for open times
  • keep the property clean and ready to show.

Find out more about breaking a lease in the ACT

Find out more about breaking a lease in NSW

Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia

If you’re thinking about breaking your lease, you should speak to your landlord about your situation. Give them as much notice as possible that you’re planning to leave. They may agree to let you go without penalty. Otherwise, you will be responsible for losses. This includes:

  • rent payments until a new tenant is found or your lease ends
  • costs associated with advertising the property.

By law, the landlord must do their best to find a new tenant.

If you live in the NT, your landlord can make a claim to keep your security deposit to cover any losses. If a tenant is found, they can also make a claim within three months of reletting the property to cover their costs. If that claim is more than your security deposit, you may have to cover the difference.

Find out more about breaking a lease in the NT

Find out more about breaking a lease in QLD

Find out more about breaking a lease in SA

Find out more about breaking a lease in TAS

Find out more about breaking a lease in WA

Victoria

Breaking a fixed term lease in Victoria is similar to other states — you will have to cover any costs associated with advertising the property as well as any loss of rent. What and how much is a little bit different from other states.

Re-letting fee

This is a one-off fee you may have to pay when you break your lease. The amount generally depends on the length of your lease and how many months you have left when you decide to break your lease. The number of months left will usually determine the pro-rata rate applied to the payment.

The specific details of this fee should be covered in your lease agreement, so check there for the exact details on how the re-letting fee will be calculated.

Rent payments

The amount of rent you may have to cover if you break your fixed term lease in Victoria depends on whether you’re on a short or long term lease.

If you’re on a short term lease, you may have to pay rent until the end of your lease. If you’re on a long term lease, your landlord can legally request you pay one month’s rent for the number of years left on the lease. This is based on the rent amount you’re paying when you break your lease. To help avoid excessive costs, this is capped at 6 years (or 6 months of rent).

In the meantime, the landlord must take all appropriate steps to find a suitable tenant.

Find out more about breaking a lease in Victoria

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