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12 ways to terminate a tenancy agreement

29 January 2023

Photo: Old House by GPS 56

There are multiple reasons why a landlord or a tenant would want to end their tenancy. It is important to understand the rules that apply to different situations.

Here are 12 reasons to terminate a tenancy agreement:

1. When a fixed term has ended, and correct notice has been given

A fixed-term tenancy only lasts for a set amount of time. No notice can be given to terminate the agreement early. Fixed-term tenancy automatically becomes periodic upon expiry unless both a landlord and a tenant mutually agree to not continue with the tenancy.

Landlords can only end the tenancy with a valid reason for termination. This includes selling the property, converting it into commercial premises, planning extensive renovations, or intending to move into the property permanently. In such cases, the landlord must provide the tenant with the required notice period (commonly of at least 63 or 90 days).

2. During a periodic agreement and correct notice has been given

The person ending the agreement must give correct notice in writing, by signing the document and stating the address of the tenancy and exact date when the tenancy is due to end.

If the tenant doesn't want the tenancy to continue, they can give a 28 days notice. The landlord can also terminate the tenancy but needs to give a reason for termination (notice period is normally 63 or 90 days)

3. By mutual agreement

Both parties can mutually agree to terminate an agreement early. The agreement should be in writing and may include penalties.

The landlord may charge tenants a fee for ending a fixed-term tenancy early, but these fees should only reflect actual and reasonable expenses incurred, such as advertising costs to find new tenants.

4. Breach of the tenancy agreement or the Act

Either a landlord or a tenant can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to terminate the tenancy early if the other side has breached the tenancy agreement or the Residential Tenancies Act.

5. Breaking a Lease

If a tenant or a landlord decide to end a fixed-term tenancy agreement early without sufficient reason, they’re breaking a lease. A tenancy agreement is a legally binding contract.

Landlords must consider all requests to assign a tenancy (including fixed-term tenancy) and cannot decline unreasonably.

6. Abandoned premises

If a landlord has reasonable grounds to believe that a property has been abandoned, they can issue 24 hours’ notice (plus appropriate service time) to enter the property to confirm it has been abandoned. The landlord can then apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to have the tenancy terminated and possession of the property returned to them.

7. Death of a tenant

In circumstances when a solo tenant dies, the tenancy ends 21 days after written notice is given due to the tenant’s death or the day agreed by the landlord and the tenant’s personal representative or their next of kin.

8. Severe hardship

If either a landlord or a tenant experience unexpected changes in circumstances, they can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal for help. The Tribunal can choose to end fixed-term tenancy early if they believe the applicant will suffer from severe hardship if they continue with the tenancy.

It is always advisable for the tenant and landlord to discuss these circumstances first between themselves prior to taking their matter to the Tenancy Tribunal.

9. Property got sold

If a tenancy is fixed-term, the property is to be sold with the tenants and the tenancy in place, meaning the landlord can’t make their tenants move out until the term is over. The new owner will take over the tenancy agreement and serve as a new landlord. Alternatively, both the tenant and the landlord can try to agree to end the fixed-term early.

If the tenant is on a periodic agreement, and the purchaser wants to move in right away, proper notice will have to be given to the tenant.

10. Mortgagee sale

If the property owner fails to make necessary loan repayments on their investment property and defaults on their mortgage, the bank can sell their property to get back the money owed. When the bank takes possession of the property, they become the new landlord. With a mortgagee sale the bank is given special rights and can give notice to end both periodic and fixed tenancies.

11. Termination by notice for physical assault by tenant

A landlord can end a tenancy by providing written notice of minimum 14 days in a proper form, if the tenant has physically attacked the landlord, the owner, the landlord's family member, or the landlord's agent and police have filed a charge against the tenant for the attack. The landlord must present proof of the filed charge to qualify.

For more information, please visit Tenancy Services site

12. Withdrawal from a tenancy following family violence

A tenant suffering from family violence during a tenancy can leave the property by giving the landlord written notice of at least 2 days in the accepted format, with evidence of the violence. This allows the tenant to depart without incurring financial consequences or requiring approval from the landlord and applies to both fixed-term and periodic tenancy agreements. Victims of family violence do not have to go to the Tenancy Tribunal to end their tenancy.

For more information, please visit Tenancy Services site

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    Te Hana

    If I have been advised by someone (not tenant on the tenancy agreement), that the tenant is now in jail what do I do? Rent is still being automatically paid so far.

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