Ending a Tenancy Agreement Early

Can a tenant terminate their fixed term tenancy agreement early? What are the implications and laws surrounding this?

A fixed term lease is a promise by the tenant to stay and pay rent for the full term; and any breach of this generally leaves the tenant liable for compensation to the lessor for reasonable reletting expenses. However, there are circumstances in which a tenant can terminate the tenancy agreement early, as dealt with in certain sections of the RTRA Act.

Under Queensland law, a landlord or tenant can choose to terminate the tenancy in some situations, and there are other instances where the tenancy will be automatically terminated. Termination before the end of the fixed term for no lawful reason may mean the party terminating the agreement has to compensate the other party.

The notification must be made in writing, and there are standard forms available online for each party to fill in.

For a landlord notifying a tenant – Form 12: Notice to Leave
For a tenant notifying a landlord – Form 13: Notice of Intention to Leave

When is the residential tenancy agreement automatically terminated?
A tenancy agreement is automatically terminated if:
by agreement – the tenant and landlord agree in writing to end the agreement
death of tenant – the sole tenant of a premises dies
mortgagee gives notice – the tenant vacates the premises after being given a notice to leave by a mortgagee of the premises

When can an occupant, who is not a tenant, terminate an agreement?
An occupant of the rented premises or someone who lives with the tenant can apply to the Tribunal for the tenancy to be terminated in two situations:
violence – the tenant has been violent and/or caused injury to the person applying to the Tribunal or anyone else occupying the premises
serious damage to premises – the tenant has caused serious damage to the premises, or is likely to do so

When can the landlord terminate the tenancy?

Under a fixed term tenancy, the landlord can only terminate the agreement before the end of the fixed term in specific circumstances. If the landlord does not have a specific reason for termination, then they can only terminate a fixed term agreement after the end of the fixed term. If the agreement is for a periodic tenancy, then the landlord is free to terminate at any time so long as they do so according to the legal requirements.

When can the tenant terminate the tenancy?

Under a fixed term tenancy, the tenant can only terminate the agreement before the end of the fixed term in specific circumstances. If the tenant does not have a specific reason for termination, then they can only terminate a fixed term agreement after the end of the fixed term. If the agreement is for a periodic tenancy, then the tenant is free to terminate at any time so long as they do so according to the legal requirements.

As a tenant, if you give the landlord a Form 13 or apply directly to the Tribunal (depending on the reason why you are terminating), you should generally not move out immediately. If you move out and stop paying rent, but the landlord successfully challenges the validity of the termination at the Tribunal, then you will be considered to have abandoned the premises. This may mean you are liable to compensate the landlord because you have breached the tenancy agreement.

Generally, the best option after giving a Form 13 or applying to the Tribunal is to wait until the landlord either accepts the termination or the Tribunal makes a termination order.