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Ending your Lease

By George Hadgelias

All leases come to an end at some point. This may be due to the term of the tenancy expiring or, in some cases, the lease is terminated early because either the landlord or the renter has chosen to terminate the agreement. There may be different steps to take depending on the situation, but regardless there is still plenty to do.

How to give notice on your rental property

An agreement does not end until notice has been given and you hand over the keys.

Many renters don’t realise that even when you contract expires, you are still required to give the landlord warning you intend to move out on that date. Otherwise, it automatically ticks over to become a periodic lease.

If you hope to break your lease early you have to give a certain amount of notice and will likely have to pay additional costs of re-letting.

When you plan to leave you need to give notice, which is a straightforward and simple process.

You must write to your landlord or property manager to formally inform them you will be leaving the property.

Email is preferable because if you write a hard copy, you must allow time for the letter to be delivered.

Any written notice can be preceded by a phone call to negotiate the terms of leaving – especially if you are getting out early but it is crucial you create a written record that both parties have.

How to prepare for end of lease

The amount of notice needed to vacate will depend on your reason for leaving and the state you live in.

But in general terms, when your rental is coming to the end of your agreement you will be required to give between 14 and 28-days’ notice.

In some states if you are on a periodic lease, also known as a month-by-month lease, the notice period required can be more to give the landlord enough time to find a new tenant.

Once notice is given, and you have locked in a date, you will need to start preparing.

This includes planning to move out, cleaning the premises, repairing any damage and giving the keys back.

Rent must also be paid up until that date. Often payments are already paid in advance, so it’s important to calculate how much you owe and when to stop any automatic payments.

You may be penalised for not leaving on time so make sure you begin the process well before the deadline.

End of lease cleaning

Read your agreement carefully to see if you are required to bring in professional cleaners or fumigation experts. If you do not abide by the agreed terms, the landlord will be entitled to bring someone else in and deduct costs from your bond.

If not stated, you can clean the rental yourself, but it must be left it in the condition it was in when you moved in.

Read our renter’s guide to end-of-lease cleaning

How to get your bond back

After the property has been cleaned and the keys have been given back, you can make a bond claim.

Your bond payment is held by a third party not your landlord and both parties must sign a bond release to trigger the payment, which should be organised by your property manager.

A bond release will indicate whether the landlord will keep any of the money for damage, so read it carefully before signing.

Remember, the release is a negotiation so if you do not agree with what’s written down, do not sign the form and seek advice.

Common reasons you will lose part, or all of your bond include:

  • Unpaid rent
  • Leaving a lease early
  • Costs for damage
  • Not handing back keys resulting in a charge for changing the locks
  • Missing items from the rental property like appliances

General wear and tear

If your landlord tries to argue your bond must cover some damage, it’s important you assess whether this is just wear and tear resulting from general use of the property.

Tenants are not accountable for costs when it comes to things like lightly scratched surfaces, worn carpet, and chipped paint.

If your landlord refuses to release your bond, you will need to deal with the dispute through negotiation or apply to your state tribunal to trigger the payment.

How to break a lease and get your bond back

Vacating a rental before the end of your agreement is known as breaking the lease.

Tenants must be careful when choosing this option as there will likely be costs to cover the property owners’ losses including rent, advertising and re-letting fees.

The bond may be used to recover some of these costs if you do not pay.

This is not recommended as a solution, because if the cost is higher than the bond amount and some of the remaining bill is left unpaid, you could be blacklisted, which would make finding a new rental more challenging.

Does breaking a lease always cost you?

The great news is that if you break a lease, you are not always on the hook for a big bill.

If you are able to give a suitable amount of warning to your landlord that you intend to leave the property and allow them to show prospective tenants through the house while you are still there, the transition can be relatively quick.

This means you do not have to continue to pay rent until they find a suitable replacement.

You will still be required to pay the costs of advertising, but the end cost could end up being considerably less.

If you break a lease with a valid reason, you may also not be required to pay costs.

Valid excuses can range from a property being damaged or unsafe, hardship circumstances, and family violence.

The rules regarding breaking your lease will differ between jurisdictions and based on the circumstances, so seek advice and be open and transparent with your landlord as soon as possible.

Finding your next property (rental or buying)

Once you have moved into a rental you know what the process involves and if you’re moving out of home or relocating to a new suburb, town, or city, you can simply repeat the process.

But if you’re thinking it’s time to buy your forever home, visit our comprehensive guide on how to purchase your next home.

You can also track your current rental property to help you get a general idea of what’s happening in the rental market in your area, so you are informed when it comes time to buy.

CLICK HERE for more information.

Any written notice can be preceded by a phone call to negotiate the terms of leaving – especially if you are getting out early but it is crucial you create a written record that both parties have.

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