Breaking lease?

Adriano asks:
(updated on Friday, November 23rd 2012)

I am on fixed term contract for 12 months but I need to break it as I am moving my studies to another city. Is there anything that I can do to avoid paying the rent til the end of the contract? I talked to the property manger and gave her 21-days notice but she said that I can't move out until the lease ends.  When I signed the contract they did not mention that I can't break the lease earlier. Can you please help?

Our Experts Answer:

You may like to look at a document called Renting and You on Tenancy Services’ website, www.dbh.govt.nz. This document spells out the difference between a fixed term tenancy and a periodic tenancy. In a nutshell, a fixed term tenancy is precisely that – a fixed term is agreed between landlord and tenant, and the tenancy runs for the fixed term. It cannot be terminated by you giving notice. The property manager isn’t required to tell you that you can’t break a fixed term tenancy early. By its very nature the tenancy is for a fixed term, and end date is agreed by all parties. If you wish to break your tenancy, you will need to get the property manager to agree to a break. If no agreement is reached the property manager is not obliged to re-let, and you will owe rent for the duration of the fixed term (or until a new tenant starts paying), regardless whether you are living in the property. However, if the property manager agrees to allow you to break, it may be on condition that you accept all the costs arising from your break. Such costs will typically include advertising for a replacement tenant, rent until the next tenant starts paying, and the costs incurred in reference and credit checking the next tenant. Are you moving your studies to another city because you have to, or because you simply choose to? If you have to move because of unforeseen circumstances beyond your control, you may apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to break your tenancy. You will have to convince the Tribunal, and even then you may find that some apportionment of cost will be ordered against you. The best course of action, however, is to try to come to an agreement with your property manager. It will save a lot of delay, heartache and money. You may like to look at a document called Renting and You on Tenancy Services’ website, www.dbh.govt.nz. This document spells out the difference between a fixed term tenancy and a periodic tenancy. In a nutshell, a fixed term tenancy is precisely that – a fixed term is agreed between landlord and tenant, and the tenancy runs for the fixed term. It cannot be terminated by you giving notice. The property manager isn’t required to tell you that you can’t break a fixed term tenancy early. By its very nature the tenancy is for a fixed term, and end date is agreed by all parties. If you wish to break your tenancy, you will need to get the property manager to agree to a break. If no agreement is reached the property manager is not obliged to re-let, and you will owe rent for the duration of the fixed term (or until a new tenant starts paying), regardless whether you are living in the property. However, if the property manager agrees to allow you to break, it may be on condition that you accept all the costs arising from your break. Such costs will typically include advertising for a replacement tenant, rent until the next tenant starts paying, and the costs incurred in reference and credit checking the next tenant. Are you moving your studies to another city because you have to, or because you simply choose to? If you have to move because of unforeseen circumstances beyond your control, you may apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to break your tenancy. You will have to convince the Tribunal, and even then you may find that some apportionment of cost will be ordered against you. The best course of action, however, is to try to come to an agreement with your property manager. It will save a lot of delay, heartache and money.

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