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Home of Your Own

A self help tool for renters affected by family violence

Breaking or ending a lease

How to end a rental agreement early if you want to leave your home due to family violence.

When leaving your home, understanding whether you are listed as a renter on the rental agreement, and what type of rental agreement you have, is important to avoiding extra costs and understanding your rights and options. 

If you signed a formal document that you returned to the rental provider or real estate agent when you first moved into your home, it is likely that you are listed as a renter on the rental agreement.

If you are not sure, you can contact your real estate agent. If the agent is not able to tell you or will not send you the lease, it is likely that you are not on the rental agreement. 

I’m on the rental agreement, but I want to leave, what can I do?
If you leave your home while the agreement is still ongoing, you will still be responsible for paying rent, and may be held liable for costs like unpaid rent, maintenance or damage. 

You have rights and options if you leave because of family violence such as ending the rental agreement early. If you apply to VCAT to end your rental agreement, VCAT can also make orders to protect your portion of a bond or to determine who owes money for unpaid rent, damage or bills.

If you do not apply to VCAT to end your rental agreement, you may still have rights to protect your bond or avoid having to pay unpaid rent or damage if VCAT hears an application about your bond. These protections are not as strong so, if you want to leave, we recommend applying to VCAT to end your rental agreement. 

You can end a rental agreement if you get consent from other renters on the agreement and the rental provider.

To end your rental agreement by consent, you can send an email or speak directly with your real estate agent or rental provider to agree on a date the rental agreement will end. If you end your rental agreement by consent, make sure you confirm the agreement in writing (for example, in an email).

If you agree to end a rental agreement with the other renters and the rental provider, it does not provide protection from unpaid rent or damage. However, if VCAT hears an application about your bond, you may be able to ask VCAT to protect your share of the bond or make orders about unpaid rent or damage.

If you are concerned about unpaid rent or damage caused by family violence, we recommend that you apply to end your rental agreement by applying to VCAT because there are better legal protections for people experiencing family violence compared to other options.  

If you're not a renter listed on the rental agreement, you can move out without giving notice to the rental provider. 

You can't be added to a tenancy database, or ‘blacklist’, if you weren't a renter on the rental agreement. 

If there are outstanding costs associated with the rental, such as costs for repairs or unpaid rent, and you are not listed on the rental agreement, you are not responsible for these costs. 

If you are a co-renter on a rental agreement with a person who has used violence against you, you have two options for removing them from the rental agreement: 

  1. If the co-renter and rental provider agree, you can transfer the rental agreement into your name only. 
  2. You can apply to VCAT for an order ending the current rental agreement and creating a new one in your name. You can do this even if your co-renter does not agree. 

    Read more about changing a lease.

    Ending a periodic (month-to-month) rental agreement 

    If you are on a periodic (also known as month-to-month) rental agreement, then you can give a notice of intention to vacate to your rental provider.

    You will not have to pay any lease break costs if you are on a periodic rental agreement and give the correct notice period. 

    Generally, if you are on a month-to-month rental agreement, you will need to give your rental provider at least 28 days' notice.

    There are certain circumstances when you can end your rental agreement with 14 days’ notice, including: 

    • Your rental provider has successively breached their obligations, 
    • You need special or personal care that you cannot get at your rented home, 
    • You have accepted an offer of social housing, 
    • You are moving into temporary crisis accommodation, 
    • You have a disability and your rental provider has refused a request to make reasonable alterations, 
    • You have received a notice to vacate for certain reasons.  

    You can read more on the Consumer Affairs Victoria website about giving a notice of intention to vacate

    Ending a fixed term rental agreement

    Generally, if you have a fixed term rental agreement (for example a 12-month lease) you can’t leave before the end of that fixed period without paying lease break costs.

    However, if you are experiencing family violence there are specific options available to support you to end your rental agreement and leave your home while reducing what you owe to your rental provider.

    If you need to leave your home early because of family violence, VCAT can order that you are not responsible for paying these costs. You should get legal help if the rental provider is asking you for your bond or for compensation in this situation. 

    The rental provider may apply to VCAT for your bond or for compensation if there is unpaid rent or damage to the property at the end of your rental agreement.

    Usually, it is the shared responsibility of all renters to pay these costs. However, if the loss or damage happened because of family violence, VCAT may order that you are not responsible for paying these costs.

    If your rental provider is seeking compensation through VCAT, you should get legal help about your options.

    Read more about dealing with damage or unpaid rent when leaving a property. 

    Applying to VCAT to end a rental agreement

    If you or your children who live with you have been subjected to violence by a person who is on the rental agreement, you can apply to VCAT to end your agreement. Once the application is made, VCAT must list it for hearing within 3 days. For this reason, we recommend getting legal help before you make the application.

    If you need to end your fixed term rental agreement because of family violence and the person using violence is not on the rental agreement, you can apply to VCAT to end your rental agreement based on ‘hardship’. The hardship you can base your application on is family violence.

    Important information about your keys
    Even if you have left the property, it’s important to keep your keys until after the VCAT hearing.

    Returning the keys often means the rental agreement ends. VCAT cannot make an order ending the agreement if it has already ended, and  and you would not have the protections available to you in relation to unpaid rent, damage or utilities.  

    Will I have to pay costs for ending the rental agreement early? 
    If VCAT ends the rental agreement because of family violence, VCAT can order that you do not have to pay lease break costs to the rental provider. 

    If VCAT makes an order ending your rental agreement, VCAT also make orders about: 

    • what should happen with the bond 
    • who is responsible for any unpaid rent or damage 
    • who is responsible for any outstanding utilities costs. 

    What evidence do I need to apply to VCAT? 
    If the co-renter who has used violence against you is a family member or intimate partner, you will need to include evidence of the violence in your application. For example, an intervention order, a letter from a family violence worker, a written statement from someone else, or a report from the police.

    You will also need to show evidence of the hardship you would face if the rental agreement continues. If you have children living with you, you should also provide evidence of the hardship that they would face if the rental agreement continues.

    What will happen when I apply to VCAT?
    Your application will usually be listed for a hearing within three days. You will receive a notice in the mail or by email which will show you the date, time and location of the hearing. If you misplaced the notice, you can call VCAT on 1300 018 228 to check the details. If you have not heard from VCAT within two days of making the application, you should call VCAT to confirm if a hearing has been listed.

    At the hearing, VCAT will ask to hear from you first, and then will hear from your rental provider. VCAT may also hear from the other person on the rental agreement. VCAT will consider all the evidence then decide whether to make an order ending the rental agreement.

    Where can I get help to apply to VCAT? 
    You can get free legal help to understand your rights, and help you understand the VCAT application. A lawyer may also be able to represent you at VCAT. 

    A support worker from a family violence service may help you prepare evidence of family violence and support you with other things that you need.

    See our list of services, for free legal, family violence and housing support.

    A VCAT family violence worker can help you if you are making the application because of family violence. 

    If you need to end your fixed term rental agreement because of family violence and the person using violence is not on the rental agreement, you can apply to VCAT to end your rental agreement based on ‘hardship’. The hardship you can base your application on is family violence.

    If VCAT agrees that you have experienced hardship, VCAT can make an order to reduce or end your fixed term rental agreement. This means you will need to show VCAT that: 

    • You have experienced an unforeseen change of circumstances which will cause you severe hardship if the order isn’t made, and 
    • The hardship you would experience outweighs the hardship faced by the rental provider. 


    How do I prove that I am experiencing hardship?
    If you have an intervention order (IVO), this can be used as evidence of unexpected hardship you are experiencing due to family violence.

    If you do not have an IVO, you can use other forms of evidence such as a letter from a support worker from a family violence service, or statements from witnesses.

    Will I have to pay costs for ending the rental agreement early? 
    VCAT will decide if you must pay costs to the rental provider for ending the rental agreement early. If you have experienced family violence, you may not have to pay extra costs for ending the agreement early. 

    Can the rental provider take my bond?
    After a tenancy ends, either the renter or the rental provider can apply to VCAT for the bond to be returned to them. When considering that application, VCAT can make orders that the renter is not responsible for the loss or damage suffered by the rental provider if: 

    1. the renter has experienced family violence; 
    2. the loss or damage suffered by the rental provider was caused by the person using violence against the renter; and 
    3. the renter has an intervention order or family violence safety notice. 


        Where can I get help to apply to VCAT?
        You can get free legal help to understand your rights, and help you understand the VCAT application. A lawyer may also be able to represent you at VCAT.

        A support worker from a family violence service may help you prepare evidence of family violence and support you with other things that you need.

        See our list of services, for free legal, family violence and housing support.

        A VCAT family violence worker can help you if you are making the application because of family violence. 

        It is important that you go to your hearing because VCAT can make a decision even if you are not there.

        If you have good reason for not being able to go to your hearing, you can ask for an adjournment (a change to the date of the hearing). Read more about the rules and timeframes when asking VCAT for an adjournment. 

        If you miss the hearing and had a reasonable excuse for not attending, you may be able to apply for a review hearing.  

        There are dedicated family violence support workers at VCAT who can help to keep you safe during a VCAT hearing. They can help to:  

        • arrange for you to attend the hearing by phone, or from another safe place  
        • fill out paperwork or prepare for a hearing  
        • support you at a hearing. 


        Read more about VCAT family violence support.  

        VCAT may share evidence with all the parties in a matter. If you are worried that sharing evidence of family violence may put your safety at risk, you can ask VCAT for a hearing to decide how the evidence is used and who it is shared with. 

        This will usually happen before the main hearing and is called a directions hearing. You should contact VCAT’s family violence workers if you are worried about your safety.  

        Where can I get more help? 
        You can get free legal help to understand your rights, and help you understand a VCAT application. A lawyer may also be able to represent you at VCAT.

        A support worker from a family violence service may help you prepare evidence of family violence and support you with other things that you need.

        See our list of services, for free legal, family violence and housing support.

        A VCAT family violence worker can help you if you are making a VCAT application because of family violence. 

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