Your rights as a tenant – what do you do if you want to leave?

Olivia Bailey
02 . 05 . 18

So you’re having issues in your sharehouse. Maybe your landlord won’t fix the toilet or your annoying roommate plays music at 3am. Or maybe you just found an awesome new place to live!

Here’s a guide on your rights when you want to terminate your tenancy.


Question one: What legal status do you have?

You may be;

  •   A co-tenant

You and the names of other tenants are on the tenancy agreement for the premises. You share rights and responsibilities with the other co-tenants.

  •   A head tenant

You are the tenant, you live on the premises and sub-let part of the premises to another person under a separate written agreement.

  •   A sub-tenant

You are sharing with a tenant (their name is on the tenancy agreement) who sub-let part of the premises to you under a separate written agreement.

  •   Boarder or lodger

You rent part of the premises from a tenant or owner of the premises and they control the whole premises, including rent.


Question two: Why do you want to leave?

I have a legal issue:

You can end your tenancy; 

  • Because the landlord/agent has ‘breached’ the tenancy agreement – they have failed to meet their obligations under the agreement
  • Because the premises have become unusable
  • Because the landlord/agent has increased the rent during a fixed-term tenancy agreement of 2 years or more
  • On a prescribed ‘extraordinary’ ground (such as because of domestic violence)
  • Because you would suffer undue hardship if the tenancy continued

I don’t have a legal reason: 

If you leave BEFORE your contract has finished

You may need to pay:

  • Until a new tenant takes over or the fixed term period ends, whichever occurs first
  • A percentage of the advertising costs and the agent’s reletting fee (if the landlord uses an agent). For example, if you break the lease 9 months into a 12-month tenancy there is 25% of the lease remaining, so you would expect to pay 25% of these amounts.

You and the landlord can agree to include a break fee clause in the additional terms of your tenancy agreement. The break fee is a penalty you agree to pay if you move out before the end of the fixed term.

If you leave AFTER your contract has finished

You need to give your landlord notice before ending your tenancy and vacate the premises by the date specified on your termination notice. 

Question three: How do I end my tenancy? 

To end your tenancy, you must:

  • give the landlord/agent a written termination notice, move out and return the keys according to your notice, and/or
  • apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) for a termination order. If the tribunal makes the order, it will end your tenancy and specify the day by which you must vacate.

A termination notice must be in writing, signed by you and state:

  •   the address of the premises
  •   the day by which you will vacate
  •   the reason (if any)

You must properly send or deliver the notice to the landlord/agent: in person, by post, by fax, or by hand in an addressed envelope to a mailbox at their home or business address.

How much notice do I have to give?

(Tenants NSW, Fact Sheet #09 – You Want to Leave) 

Have some more questions? Check out Tenants NSW and for information on special circumstances, legal agreements and tenancy issues.