Communtity Law Manual | Tenancy & housing | Giving notice to end an indefinite (“periodic”) tenancy

Moving out: When and how tenancies end

Giving notice to end an indefinite (“periodic”) tenancy

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, ss 2, 50, 51

“Periodic” tenancies are ones that run indefinitely, with no fixed end date in the agreement. If one side wants to end the tenancy, they have to give the legally required amount of notice. The notice period is different depending on whether it’s you or the landlord who gives notice.

Any notice to end a tenancy has to be in writing.

How much notice do I have to give when I move out?

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, s 51(2)

If you want to end the tenancy you have to give your landlord at least three weeks (21 days) notice, unless the landlord agrees that you can give less notice than this.

How much notice does my landlord have to give me if they want me to move out?

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, s 51(1)

Your landlord must give you at least 90 days (three months) notice if they want to end the tenancy.

However, they only have to give you 42 days (six weeks) notice if

  • they’ve sold the property and their sale agreement says that the place will be unoccupied (that is, sold with “vacant possession”), or
  • the landlord or one of their family wants to live in the place as their main home (usually it has to be immediate family), or
  • one of the landlord’s employees is going to live there, and the landlord told you before the tenancy started that the property was used for housing employees.

If you’re given only 42 days’ notice in one of those situations, the landlord’s written notice to you must give the reason for ending the tenancy.

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, s 47

Note: The landlord has to give you written notice if they put the property up for sale.

Exceptions: When the usual notice requirements for indefinite tenancies don’t apply

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, ss 50, 52, 53, 53A, 60A

The usual amount of notice doesn’t have to be given in these situations:

  • By agreement – Your landlord can agree in writing to you ending the tenancy early.
  • Renting from your boss – If you landlord is also your employer, and you quit the job or are fired or transferred, the notice period is 14 days, and in some situations less. (These are called “service” tenancies.)
  • Student hostels – If you’re staying in a student hostel run by a university, polytech or other tertiary education organisation, and you stop being a student, the notice period is 14 days.
  • Tenancy Tribunal order – The Tribunal can allow a shorter notice period, and it can also bring the tenancy to an end in some cases – for example, if you’re three weeks or more behind in the rent.

Does my landlord have to give me a reason for wanting me to move out?

Residential Tenancies Act 1986, ss 12, 51, 54, Sched 1A

If your landlord gives you only 42 days’ (six weeks) notice, they have to have one of the reasons set out above (see “How much notice does my landlord have to give me if they want me to move out?”). If they give you the full 90 days’ notice, they don’t have to give you any reason.

However, the landlord can’t end the tenancy in retaliation against you because you exercised your rights as a tenant (for example, if you had urgent repairs done after trying unsuccessfully to contact the landlord about them), or if they’re discriminating against you illegally (for example, if they’ve given you notice because they’ve found out that you and your co-tenant are a same-sex couple).

In those cases, you can go to the Tenancy Tribunal to get them to declare that the landlord’s notice isn’t legally valid. The Tribunal can also order the landlord to award you “damages” of up to $4,000 for this.

Example: Retaliation for exercising your rights?

Case: Tenancy Tribunal 4100884

A tenant rented a room in a boarding house with a total of 14 residents. This shared house was run by a charitable trust that provides accommodation for vulnerable people who find it hard to rent in the private market or to get council or state housing.

The tenant, who had a mental illness, was given notice by the landlord that they were ending the tenancy. The tenant had made a number of complaints to the landlord about the place and the other residents – for example, that the light in the toilet didn’t work and that the other residents had been rude to him. The tenant argued that the landlord gave him notice to end the tenancy to get back at him (“retaliation”) for making complaints.

The charitable trust told the Tenancy Tribunal that the tenant’s behaviour, not his complaints, were the reason for ending the tenancy. They had fixed the problems he complained about. They said he’d been annoying other residents and had sent the manager a large number of texts about very trivial things (like other tenants leaving cereal on the bench).

The Tribunal concluded that the landlord hadn’t given notice because the tenant had asked for some work to be done at the boarding house, but because of the tenant’s behaviour and the way he communicated with staff and other tenants.

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