Commissioner's Blog: Leaving a rental property
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With Acting Consumer Protection Commissioner David Hillyard
The current economic climate is affecting the rental market in Perth and Western Australia. Some renters are leaving homes for a less expensive option because their financial circumstances have changed, while others are simply taking advantage of the increase in vacant rental properties to choose from.
When it is time to end a tenancy, for whatever reason, WA’s Residential Tenancies Act applies and there are things to consider.
A tenant can end a periodic lease without a reason by giving at least 21 days' notice in writing. However, an owner or agent must give 60 days’ notice to a periodic tenant.
A fixed-term tenancy is for the period agreed in writing but does not end automatically; notice must be given by either party 30 days’ prior to expiry. If neither party terminates, the fixed-term lease automatically becomes a periodic lease.
If a tenant needs to ‘break lease’ they should seek written permission from the landlord (formally called the ‘lessor’) and come to an arrangement, however it can be costly. The tenant should give as much notice as possible before vacating and must leave a forwarding address. Rent may have to be paid until a replacement tenant is found or the original tenancy period expires. A property owner can also seek other reasonable costs, such as for advertising to find a new tenant but the overriding issue is that the landlord must do everything reasonable to mitigate their losses to let the property.
A tenant can seek an order from the Magistrates Court to end a fixed-term tenancy if the owner has not kept to any terms of the rental agreement or refuses to fix a problem. A fixed-term agreement can also end by mutual agreement between the parties.
In cases where a home has been repossessed by the mortgagee, such as a bank, a tenant will be given 30 days’ notice to move out.
For information about breach notices and evictions, see the Consumer Protection website: www.commerce.wa.gov.au/tenancy.
When vacating a rental, tenants should take photos of how they have left the property in case something changes in the time leading up to the final inspection. Tenants must be given a chance to be present during the final inspection.
Property Condition Reports, which are compulsory, should clearly outline damage that existed at the beginning of the tenancy. Tenants should get a copy of the final report describing the condition of the premises after vacation, within 14 days of the lease ending.
Often tenants come to Consumer Protection because they are not happy with the amount of security bond they get back. Owners may want to keep money if the property is not in the same state of cleanliness as it was at the start of the lease, or if there is damage beyond normal wear and tear (for example a carpet with stains or burns versus being worn out due to its age). Claims for costs have to be reasonable. If a dispute over a bond can’t be resolved by negotiation, tenants and landlords can go the Magistrates Court to settle the matter.
At the end of a lease, if there are more monies owing than the security bond, the tenant’s name may be placed on a tenancy database which can jeopardise their ability to rent in future. It is vital for tenants to leave a forwarding address so they can be notified of any money owed. When a new version of WA’s Residential Tenancies Act was introduced in July 2013, the maximum penalty for not providing a forwarding address increased from $1,000 to $5,000.
Consumer Protection’s free app for tenancy matters, iRentWA, includes all the information needed at the start, during, and at the end of a tenancy. It has been downloaded by more than 6,650 iOS and Android device users.
Tenants and landlords can also find videos about their rights and responsibilities under WA tenancy law at www.commerce.wa.gov.au/renting. Help can be sought by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 1300 30 40 54.
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