The process of moving out will vary depending on the type of lease agreement you have. You might be leaving a share house or vacating an entire property. Many people in share houses find someone to take over their room and forget the necessary details that end their association with that property. Things like transferring the bond properly and getting their name off a lease or bills. Don't let this come back to haunt you. Other tenants wrongly assume that because there is an end date on a lease their tenancy finishes automatically and that they can simply move out on the lease end date. In fact a tenancy continues along until either the landlord or the tenant gives valid advance notice. All of this means that you need to think ahead about your intentions and you should be organised in your approach to moving out.
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What kind of leasing agreement do you have?
A verbal or written agreement between tenant(s) and landlord running for a set period of time (usually 6 or 12 months). There is a start and end date to the tenancy. If the end date is reached and the tenancy continues without a new lease being drawn then a fixed-term tenancy becomes a periodic tenancy.
A verbal or written agreement between tenants and landlord that runs from week to week or month to month.
You and your housemates have a joint agreement with the landlord and all tenants have equal status and responsibilities. A co-tenancy may be either a fixed term or a periodic tenancy.
One person has an agreement with the landlord. This person is known as the 'head tenant'. The head tenant then rents out part of the property to you. This means that the head tenant is your landlord. Note that you may not be covered by tenancy legislation if you are sharing a property with your landlord. You are likely to be covered by consumer law.
Giving notice to vacate and ending your tenancy
Ending a fixed-term tenancy
If you plan to move out on the end date of the lease you must formally end the agreement by providing the landlord with 28 days notice to vacate in writing. If you do not provide notice your lease will change to a periodic tenancy and all obligations including rent will continue.
If your fixed-term tenancy has some time to run, and you want to leave early, you should request permission in writing from your landlord to end your lease early. Leases can be ended by mutual consent and your landlord may be obliging. However the landlord is within his/her rights to say no which means your options are to assign or break your lease.
Ending a periodic tenancy
Because there is no specified end date to the tenancy, you can give notice at any time. However you must provide 28 days notice to vacate in writing. This means you have to inform your landlord 28 days before you plan to move out and pay rent until that date. If you do not provide sufficient notice you may be liable for rent even though you have already left the property.
Vacating a share house
In some shared households it is agreed that it is the responsibility of the outgoing tenant to find someone else to replace them. In others, the people who remain in the house want to be involved in the choice of their future housemate. Be clear on who is responsible for what tasks. Your course of action will depend on whether you are named on a lease or not and what your household has discussed. As a courtesy, it is advisable to provide 28 days notice that you wish to leave. If your name is on a lease, bills or listed with the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority in relation to bond, be sure to have all documentation updated upon your move, otherwise you could be held responsible for the future actions of others. As well as leaving your room in good condition have a go at cleaning common areas before you leave.
Assignment of lease
Assignment means transferring your interest in a property (your lease) to another person. You must get your landlord's consent to assign but this cannot be unreasonably withheld and no fee can be charged to you for assigning.
You can find someone to take over your lease by advertising through noticeboards, websites or friends. Arrange to have the new tenant's name replace yours on the lease and always complete the Transfer of Bond form. Then you can prepare to move out as if you were ending your tenancy normally.
Breaking your lease
There are costs involved in breaking a lease. You could be liable to pay compensation costs based on the proportion of your lease that has not been fulfilled. Expenses include:
- Reletting fee (usually one or two weeks rent)
- Advertising costs
- Rent for a reasonable period until new tenants move in, or until the end of the fixed-term lease (whichever comes first)
Breaking a lease is often expensive. We strongly advise students not to sign any documents or make agreements with agents, property managers or landlords until you have sought independent advice about what is reasonable to pay the landlord. Further information on lease breaking can be found on the Tenants Union of Victoria's 'Breaking Your Lease' leaflet.
To minimise costs you should facilitate the finding of new tenants by allowing prospective tenants to look through the property at pre-arranged times, displaying a "For Lease" sign etc.
Give your landlord as much notice as possible and advise them in writing indicating the date you intend to vacate. Keep copies for your reference. In terms of cleaning, rent etc, prepare to move as if you were ending your tenancy normally.
Preparing to move
Cleaning the property
You must clean the property thoroughly if you wish to get your bond back. This means:
- Removing all of your belongings. Don't be tempted to leave behind items that you 'think' others might use.
- Ensuring that the garden is neat and tidy.
- Paying particular attention to skirtings, bathroom, kitchen and laundry areas.
- Washing windows and cleaning the windowsills.
- Steam cleaning carpets (keep the receipt).
You can hire professional removalists or hire a van/truck yourself. A removalist's trolley is also helpful. They usually cost about AU$15 to hire, but ask if you can have the trolley included with the trailer or van at no extra charge. Ropes and old blankets make the job easier, safer and kinder on your furniture.
You usually have to place your goods in the storage site yourself, and then move them out at the end of the storage period. Make sure you use your own locks. Check the storage site first rather than booking it over the phone. Look out for security, pests, weatherproofing and asbestos.
At the end of your tenancy, ensure that a final reading is taken when you vacate the property (give at least 48 hours notice for any reading). If you do not do this, it may result in you paying for services accrued since the last meter reading (after you have left the property).
Redirect your mail and updating your address
Redirecting your mail with Australia Post is a good way to protect your privacy. Setting one up for several months can help you catch mail from companies or organisations that do not mail you often. You should update your address:
- Banks, my.unimelb, online accounts
- Government organisations and charities
Final inspection/condition report
Arrange an appointment with the landlord/agent for a final inspection – try to be present and sign the outgoing condition report. Make the appointment in the morning so that if further cleaning is required, you can follow up immediately.
It can be helpful to take photos as evidence of how you left the property, just in case there is any dispute about getting your bond back.
Getting your bond back
Your tenancy officially ends on the date that you have removed all possessions and belongings and returned all keys. If the landlord has issues he/she cannot just keep your bond. There are processes to be followed to claim your money. The onus will be on the landlord to prove why he/she is entitled to your bond.
- Complete the Bond Claim Form with landlord/agent at the final inspection.
- If there is something that should be addressed, try to agree on the amount due back to you. This may mean getting quotes for damage, cleaning etc.
- If you are ending your tenancy, complete a Bond Claim Form.
- If you are assigning or moving out of a share house, complete a Transfer of Bond Form.
- Remember that your landlord must have your consent to claim money from your bond.
- If there is disagreement about the bond amount due back to you, your landlord has 10 business days to apply to Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to make a claim from the bond before you can apply to get it back.
- If the matter goes to VCAT and you are overseas, you can request a postponement of the hearing or give evidence by phone.
Only sign forms when all details are completed. Never sign a blank form. Either cross through, write 'not applicable' or zeroes where no dollar amount needs to be included.
The Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA) returns your money to you for to the amount stated on the Bond Claim Form. It can be deposited into your Australian bank account or issued by a cheque (which can be posted to an overseas address if required).
It helps to know your rights and responsibilities. Seek advice from a Student Housing Adviser if you are unsure. Be tactful and communicative in negotiations. It helps sometimes to keep the interests of your landlord or housemates in mind when trying to work things out.