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Can a tenant leave a rental property before the lease ends?

In general, if you leave a rented property before the end of the lease, you may have to pay costs to the landlord. This can include advertising costs, a re-letting fee and rent until they find a new tenant. Your lease agreement should outline the type and amount of costs associated with you leaving.

You can avoid or reduce these costs in some circumstances:

  • You can transfer the lease to another person. You will first need the written consent of the landlord, but they must not withhold consent unreasonably. If you believe they are being unreasonable, you can apply to for an order allowing the transfer to proceed from VCAT.
  • To have your lease shortened on the grounds of hardship before moving out, you can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). You will need to satisfy the tribunal that due to an unforeseen event, you will suffer severe hardship if the term is not reduced; and that your hardship will be greater than that suffered by the landlord if the term is reduced. VCAT may grant the application but could still require you to pay some costs.
  • You and the landlord can agree to end the lease early. You may both agree on what costs, if any, you should pay. Put this agreement in writing, have all parties sign and date it and consider seeking legal advice.
  • You can serve a Notice of intention to vacate on the grounds that the landlord has committed successive breaches of a duty owed to you under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997. You must have served Breach of duty notices on them for the same breach on two previous occasions.
  • You can serve a Notice of intention to vacate on the grounds that the premises are destroyed or unfit for human habitation. If possible, keep evidence of this. If the landlord disagrees that the premises have become unfit, or can prove that is not the case, they may pursue you for compensation.

All parties have an obligation to minimise financial loss by finding a new tenant as quickly as possible. If you believe the landlord is not doing enough to find a new tenant, or that the charges are excessive, you can apply to VCAT. VCAT can decide what amount of costs you must pay in the circumstances.

As Victoria's consumer affairs regulator, we help landlords, agents and tenants understand their rights and responsibilities.

Tenants and Landlords