COVID-19 and ending your tenancy

COVID-19 and ending your tenancy

Renting laws in Victoria have changed because of COVID-19 coronavirus. The new laws will last until 26 September 2020. These laws change the way you can end your lease (tenancy agreement) if you are renting your home. If you live in a rooming house or caravan park, these changes only apply if you have a tenancy agreement.

If you are a tenant and want to end your lease, there are four things you need to know:

  • you may be able to end your tenancy early if you are suffering severe hardship or your landlord has applied for an order to end your lease
  • the process for ending your tenancy depends on your situation. You may be able to give your landlord a notice or you may need to apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal
  • if you end your tenancy early, you will not have to pay extra costs if you follow the right process
  • if you are not sure about your rights, you can get legal advice. See Get help with housing and tenancy.

Can I end my fixed-term lease early?

A fixed-term lease means that you and your landlord have agreed you will rent your home for a certain amount of time. Often a fixed-term lease is for six months or a year.

You can ask your landlord if they agree to end the lease early. If they agree, you should ask for this in writing.

If your landlord does not agree, you may be able to end your lease early if you are suffering from severe hardship. Severe hardship could include:

  • being unable to pay rent for a reason related to COVID-19 coronavirus
  • if you need to leave for your safety because of family violence
  • if you have been ordered to stay away from the house in a family violence intervention order or personal safety intervention order.

You may also be able to end your lease early if your landlord has applied for an order to end your lease. For more information about being evicted, see COVID-19 and being evicted.

How do I end my fixed-term lease?

You have two options:

  • give your landlord, or their agent, a document saying you will end your tenancy in 14 days and telling them your reason. This document is called a notice of intention to vacate. The notice must be in writing and signed by you and any other tenants. For more information and a form you can use, see Consumer Affairs Victoria tenant giving notice of intention to vacate. If your landlord disagrees with your notice, you will have to ask the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to make an order ending your tenancy early
  • ask the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to make an order ending your tenancy early. You do not need to go to the tribunal in person. You will have a hearing by telephone.

If you are not sure which option is best for you, get legal advice. See Get help with housing and tenancy.

What happens if I apply to the tribunal?

If you want to apply to the tribunal, you must first register your application with Consumer Affairs Victoria. Consumer Affairs Victoria will decide whether your application should go through its new dispute resolution process or be referred to the tribunal.

If Consumer Affairs Victoria decides your application can go to the tribunal, it will give you a reference number to put on your application. You can then apply to the tribunal online or by post.

The tribunal will tell you when your hearing will be and will call you at that time. It is important that you answer your phone at the time of the hearing. Make sure your phone is with you and you are available for a few hours, in case the tribunal is running behind or the hearing takes some time.

You will need to prove that you will suffer severe hardship if your lease does not end early. You can explain your situation to the tribunal.

It is also a good idea to show the tribunal any proof you have. This could include:

  • a copy of your intervention order
  • bank statements
  • a letter saying you have lost your job.

You should include this proof with your application. Otherwise, you must email it to the tribunal at least 48 hours before your hearing.

The tribunal will also consider whether ending the lease early will cause hardship for the landlord or other tenants. They will be able to speak at the hearing to say what effect it will have on them if the lease ends early.

If the tribunal thinks there is enough evidence that you will suffer the most hardship, it can make an order for your lease to finish early.

If the tribunal makes an order to end your lease early, you will not have to pay any costs for breaking your lease.

Can I get help at the tribunal?

Yes. There have been changes to services at the tribunal in response to COVID-19 coronavirus, but you can still get help.

You can get free legal advice:

  • before your hearing date – you can get legal advice or a referral to another service by calling Legal Help on 1300 792 387
  • on your hearing date – you can speak with a duty lawyer by asking the tribunal for one before or during your hearing.

Can I end my periodic lease early?

If you have a periodic (month-to-month) lease, you can still give your landlord 28 days’ notice that you will be leaving. That means you give them a notice 28 days in advance.

If you are suffering severe hardship or your landlord has applied for an order ending your tenancy, you can give your landlord 14 days’ notice that you will be leaving.  Severe hardship could include:

  • being unable to pay rent because of a reason related to COVID-19 coronavirus
  • if you need to leave for your safety because of family violence
  • if you have been ordered to stay away from the house in a family violence intervention order or personal safety intervention order.

How do I end my periodic lease?

You need to give your landlord, or their agent, a document called a notice of intention to vacate and tell them your reason. The notice must be in writing and signed by you and any other tenants. For more information and a form you can use, see Consumer Affairs Victoria tenant giving notice of intention to vacate.

If you are ending your tenancy early because of severe hardship, you must give this notice at least 14 days before you leave and stop paying rent. If you do not give 14 days’ notice, you may have to pay extra fees or costs.

If you are not leaving because of severe hardship, you must give this notice at least 28 days before you leave and stop paying rent. If you do not give 28 days’ notice, you may have to pay extra fees or costs.

If you are not sure whether you can end your lease, or how to do it, get legal advice. See Get help with housing and tenancy.

More information

Learn more about legal issues and COVID-19 coronavirus

See COVID-19 and reducing your rent

See COVID-19 and being evicted

See Consumer Affairs Victoria Coronavirus (COVID-19) and your rights

Visit our ‘Find legal answers’ page on Renting

Where to get help

See Get help with housing and tenancy

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