(A) You are a co-tenant or head-tenant
Difficulties can arise when you decide to move out of a shared tenancy but the remaining tenants want to stay. If you are on a periodic agreement you can give the remaining co-tenants and the landlord 21 days written notice of termination. Make sure you keep a copy of the notice that you send to the landlord and the co-tenants. Information about getting your bond back can be found in The Legal Situation section of this guide.
You can also transfer your tenancy. You need consent from the landlord and the agreement of the remaining housemates to transfer your tenancy. However, your landlord can’t unreasonably refuse a transfer of tenancy. If your landlord does withhold consent, you can make an application to the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal. If the Tribunal agrees with you, then they can make an order that the tenancy be transferred. There is a Transfer form at the end of this section of the guide. Also see Tenants NSW Factsheets and Sample Letters (see Useful Resources).
If you do not properly end your co-tenancy you will legally remain liable under the tenancy agreement. This means that you could end up being chased by the landlord or real estate agent for any rent owing. You could also be placed on a ‘bad tenant’ database, which may make it difficult to rent a place in the future.
You should make sure your name is removed from any telephone, electricity or gas accounts. If you don’t, you could be responsible for any bills that come in after you leave and you may have difficulty getting services connected later if your housemates leave any unpaid accounts. Contact the relevant services for information about closing accounts.
If all the tenants decide to end the agreement and leave the house, you need to give your landlord 21 days notice in writing, or 14 days at the end of a fixed term agreement.
If you are in a fixed term agreement, generally you’re stuck there unless you can get someone to take on the lease, or are prepared to pay the costs for breaking the agreement early. You should first try to negotiate with the remaining co-tenants and the landlord to transfer your tenancy to the remaining co-tenants or to a new housemate.
If you desperately need to move out for serious hardship or domestic violence from a housemate, you can apply to the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal for an order to terminate the residential tenancy agreement between you and your landlord.
If you are a head-tenant with no co-tenants, you will have to show that there are special circumstances, and that you would suffer undue hardship if the tenancy didn’t end (s104 RTA). Even if you have a Tribunal order you will have to give any sub-tenants proper notice. Also, you may possibly have to compensate the landlord for early termination of the agreement. If you are a co-tenant, the Tribunal will end your tenancy only if it is of the opinion it is appropriate to do so, given the special circumstances of your case (s102 RTA).
If all the co-tenants give notice to end their tenancy and none are remaining in the property and there are sub-tenants, unless your subtenants also want to move out, you need to give your sub-tenants 90 days written notice. If you have boarders or lodgers living with you, you may still have to give a required period of notice to vacate the premises, depending on the terms of your agreement.
If you want to leave and the sub-tenants, boarders or lodgers want to stay, one option for you is to arrange with your landlord and sub-tenants or boarders or lodgers to take over your tenancy. If you do not give correct notice to sub-tenants or any boarders or lodgers, you might be liable to pay compensation, if you are in breach of the Act or your agreement with them.
(B) Sub-tenants with a written agreement
A head-tenant/sub-tenant relationship is treated in the same way as a landlord/tenant relationship under the Residential Tenancies Act. This means you have to give 21 days written notice to your head-tenant if you want to leave, or 14 days at the end of a fixed term agreement. If you are in a fixed term agreement and you want to leave before the fixed term, you may be liable for certain costs. This can include paying rent until a new tenant is found and any advertising costs.
If you can show there are special circumstances that would cause you to suffer undue hardship if your head-tenant won’t allow you to break the tenancy agreement early, you can apply to the Tribunal for an urgent termination. Contact you local tenants’ service for information on this (see Contact Points).
If your head-tenant has breached the agreement in some way (for example, by invading your privacy or failing to get repairs done), you should contact your local tenants’ service for advice about terminating the agreement (see Contact Points).
(C) You are a boarder/lodger
You should give your landlord a letter to let them know when you are leaving. Remember to keep a copy.
Check your agreement for how much notice you have to give. If it doesn’t say the amount of notice, then you probably don’t need to give any notice. If you have paid a week or two in advance, then you can leave before the day you’ve paid up to, but you won’t be able to get back the rent you’ve paid for the time after you’ve left.
If you have an agreement for a fixed term agreement, check if there are any charges for leaving early. You should always talk with your landlord to try and come to an agreement.
Any charges should be fair and reasonable, as the landlord may not recover more money from you than he or she has lost by your moving out early. For example, you may be able to get the charges lowered by helping to find someone to move in sooner. See the Boarders & Lodgers Kit for more information (see Useful Resources).