Early tenancy termination rules

Lisa asks:
(updated on Wednesday, August 13th 2014)

Hi there, I have a signed tenancy agreement for a fixed term but have informed my landlord that I will be leaving a month early. I paid a breach of contract fee and an advertisement fee. My landlord says that I must keep paying the rent up the original end date if they do not find anyone even though I have paid the breach of contract. But if I must pay the rent, then I am actually keeping the contract and I am not breaching the contract (hence I shouldn’t have paid the breach fee).

Our Experts Answer:

Under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (the Act), a fixed term tenancy cannot be ended by either party giving notice to terminate the contract before the agreed end date. Either party can approach the other to see if they are agreeable to ending the tenancy agreement by mutual consent. Any agreement should be in writing clearly stating the terms associated with the tenancy ending earlier. Another option that allows a tenant to exit a fixed term tenancy is a process called ‘assignment’. Assignment is where a tenant wants to leave and have someone else take over their interest in the tenancy. Once a suitable replacement for the tenant has been found, the obligations of the departing tenant(s) continue until the day the assignment takes effect. This includes responsibility for paying the rent as well as anything that happens up until the day the new tenant takes over, but not after that date. A landlord who agrees to an assignment can recover the actual and reasonable costs associated with the assignment of the agreement from the tenant such as advertising costs and credit check fees. In your situation, it may be that your landlord is calling these costs a “breach of contract fee”. If you feel that the costs that you have been asked to pay in order to assign your tenancy exceed what you think are actual or reasonable, you should approach your landlord and ask them to explain what the “breach of contract fee” covers. Visit www.dbh.govt.nz for more information around ending fixed terms early. Phone 0800 TENANCY (0800 836 262) with any specific questions.

Heartland Bank - Online 1.99
The Co-operative Bank - First Home Special 2.09
HSBC Special 2.25
ICBC 2.25
HSBC Premier 2.25
Kainga Ora - First Home Buyer Special 2.25
AIA 2.29
TSB Special 2.29
The Co-operative Bank - Owner Occ 2.29
SBS Bank Special 2.29
Westpac Special 2.29
Heartland Bank - Online 2.35
ICBC 2.35
HSBC Premier 2.35
TSB Special 2.49
SBS Bank Special 2.49
The Co-operative Bank - Owner Occ 2.59
BNZ - Classic 2.59
ASB Bank 2.59
AIA 2.59
China Construction Bank Special 2.65
Kiwibank Special 2.65
HSBC Premier 2.89
TSB Special 2.99
AIA 2.99
Westpac Special 2.99
ICBC 2.99
ASB Bank 2.99
China Construction Bank Special 2.99
BNZ - Classic 2.99
SBS Bank Special 3.19
Kiwibank Special 3.19
The Co-operative Bank - Owner Occ 3.19
Heartland Bank - Online 2.50
Resimac 3.39
Kiwibank - Offset 3.40
Kiwibank Special 3.40
Kiwibank 3.40
Bluestone 3.49
Select Home Loans 3.49
ICBC 3.69
The Co-operative Bank - Standard 4.40
The Co-operative Bank - Owner Occ 4.40
Kainga Ora 4.43