Fairer laws about tenancy termination - Greater security for tenants

The problem:

  • Landlords can give termination notices without grounds.
  • The Tribunal has no option but to order termination where no grounds are given.

The solution:

  • Allow landlords to give termination notices on reasonable grounds only.
  • Allow the Tribunal to decide whether or not to terminate, considering certain factors.

Under current renting laws in New South Wales, landlords can give notices of termination on a number of grounds, such as where a tenant is in rent arrears, or where the premises have been sold and the purchaser is to move in.

However, landlords can also give notices of termination without grounds. 

The period of a ‘without grounds’ notice is 90 days – or just 30 days, if given at the end of the fixed term of your tenancy. If you receive a 'without grounds' notice, you are not entitled to know the landlord's reason for wanting to end your tenancy. 

This means that 'without grounds' notices can be used to terminate tenancies for a multitude of bad reasons, such as retaliation and discrimination.

Worse still, when a landlord applies to the Tribunal for termination orders following a ‘without grounds’ notice, the Tribunal has no choice – it must terminate the tenancy, regardless of the circumstances of the case or the hardship it would cause. It can refuse to terminate only if you prove that the termination notice is retaliatory – which can be hard to prove.

The prospect of termination without grounds makes renting insecure and undermines tenants’ rights. In the Tenants’ Union’s 2014 survey:

  • 92 per cent of tenants said they worried that they would not find affordable alternative housing if they had to move; and
  • 77 per cent had put up with problems, or declined to assert their rights, because they were worried about the consequences.

The Tenants' Union believes that tenants should not face termination of their tenancies, and bear the financial and emotional cost of moving house, unless there are reasonable grounds for it. They should also feel that they can continue living in their home – and deal with any problems that may arise with their landlord or agent – without worrying whether they will receive a 'without grounds' notice.

The law should be reformed to replace 'without grounds' notices with a comprehensive list of reasonable grounds for termination, such as where the tenant is in breach of residential tenancy agreement, or the landlord wants to move in, or the premises are to be renovated such that vacant possession is required.

And when hearing applications for termination (on whatever grounds), the Tribunal should be allowed to refuse the order, considering the circumstances of the case, the relative hardship of the parties and, where a tenant is Aboriginal, the tenant’s cultural connection to country. 

Reasonable grounds for termination, and effective scrutiny of termination applications by the Tribunal, would be fair to landlords and give all tenants greater peace of mind and security.

Further reading

TUNSW Report: 5 Years of the Residential Tenancies Act 2015

2014 Survey Report: affordable housing and the New South Wales rental market