When it comes to rentals, both landlords (and their agents) and tenants have legal obligations and contractual requirements. Disputes often arise when one or both parties are not really clear about their responsibilities. Recently, COVID-19 and the measures put in place to protect tenants, have muddied the waters even more.
State and territory governments responded to the pandemic by making temporary changes to residential tenancy legislation. This included a moratorium on evictions, so that tenants who could not pay their rent because of COVID-19 would not lose their home. In the main, tenants could not be placed on a tenancy database if their rent arrears were caused by COVID-19 financial hardship. And in some jurisdictions, there was a ban on raising rents. For the most part, these protections have ended and it is business as usual on the rental front.
So just what is “business as usual”?
There are a few matters that both landlords, agents and tenants need to understand – as no-one, including your landlord insurance provider, wants to battle over a misunderstanding (it is frustrating, time-consuming and often costly).
This is what you need to know about evictions and ending a lease…
During the moratoriums, landlords could not evict tenants for rent arrears caused by COVID-19 financial hardship (in most jurisdictions they could still be evicted on other grounds). Where the moratoriums have been lifted, tenants can now be legally evicted.
The important point is that the eviction must be legal. That means it must be allowed in your state/territory rental legislation and the correct procedure must be followed (grounds for eviction, serving notices, timeframes, giving tenants time to remedy etc.).
While there are some jurisdictions where “no grounds” evictions are permitted, providing tenants with a legitimate reason can help avoid a messy parting. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as you having to sell the property or move in yourself, most tenants would only expect eviction if they have breached the terms and conditions set out in the rental agreement – such as having damaged the property, rent arrears or consistently late payments, being a nuisance to neighbours, using the premises for illegal activities, or failing to keep the home in a good state of cleanliness.
Tenant rights vary between states depending on the reason for eviction and the type of lease agreement (e.g. fixed-term or month-to-month). Your tenants have the right to appeal any eviction with the relevant state/territory tribunal.
As some states have introduced new legislation in the past couple of years, it is important that landlords/agents and tenants understand how a lease can be ended. This includes what you can do to evict a tenant, and also how the tenant can end the lease agreement – as there are rules around this too (including notice periods and, in some cases, penalties).
In some jurisdictions, pandemic provisions meant tenants could break their lease with limited/no notice and limited/no penalty. In general, this is no longer the case. However, one provision that has remained in many RTAs is allowing a tenant to break the lease immediately, and without penalty, where there is domestic violence involved.
Insurance note: For a landlord to make tenant-related loss claims, such as rent arrears or damage, the tenant must first be legally evicted.
By understanding and respecting your rights and obligations – and those of your tenant – you can avoid unpleasant interactions and potentially costly legal battles. And that’s a win for everyone.
*While we have taken care to ensure the information above is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances and legislation after the displayed date may impact the accuracy of this article. If you need us we are there, contact 1800 661 662 if you have any questions.