Ask LH: Can I End My Lease Without Paying Anything?

Dear LH, I am a non-Australian employed on a work permit in Sydney. I have been renting an apartment in the city .My company has decided to send me back home, and I still have two months of my lease left.

Apartment picture from Shutterstock

I looked up the details on Fair Trading and understand that I would have to keep paying rent until a new tenant is found or the end of the lease, whichever is the earliest. However since I am leaving the country I am really not in a position to continue paying rent until either of the conditions are met.

I have already informed my letting agent that I will be breaking the lease. I was hoping to just pack up and leave on that day and not bother about the lease obligation. However several of my mates have told me that this could lead to various issues with my visa renewal and any residency obligations.

The sum involved is fairly large and I really can’t afford to pay it. So what are my options here? Thanks, Real Estate Of Mind

Dear REOM,

We’re neither legal experts or migration advisors, so we can’t offer definitive advice on the specific point of whether defaulting on your rent might impact any future visa or residency applications. That said, it seems pretty clear that having established an unpaid debt on your first stint in the country would not put you at the front of the queue the second time around. On a more practical level, it will also make it much harder to rent a property the next time around.

Having signed a lease, you are stuck with that obligation. There’s always a chance that your place will be re-let before you depart. However, if that doesn’t happen, the onus is on you to pay the rent until the lease expires. If you don’t do that, the owner will certainly reclaim the bond you paid up front, and is entirely within their rights to pursue you for the unpaid sum.

So what can you do? I’d advise two things. Firstly, you can look at sub-letting your apartment to someone seeking short-to-medium term accommodation. There are plenty of ways to advertise its availability, from classifieds to Gumtree to Airbnb. That should help you cover most or all of the rental, though you’ll need the co-operation of a friend to clean and empty the place when the lease finally expires.

Secondly, under the circumstances I’d be asking your employers for an advance or a bonus to help deal with moving costs. Presumably you took the lease on the assumption you’d keep working in Australia. If your company now wants you elsewhere, it should be prepared to foot some of the bill. Good luck!


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