What happens at the end of my fixed term lease? Do I have to sign a new one?
No. There is no requirement to renew or re-sign a fixed term tenancy agreement
When your lease expires, your tenancy automatically converts to a periodic tenancy. This is set out in clause 5 of the standard tenancy agreement. If the landlord wants to prevent a periodic tenancy from starting, they have to give you written notice to move out at the end of the lease, and they MUST give this to you at least 26 weeks before your lease ends.
A periodic tenancy is a perfectly legitimate form of tenancy, and continues indefinitely until somebody validly ends it. You can even sign an agreement for a periodic tenancy – the standard lease on our website has a section to say whether the tenancy is periodic or not.
A periodic tenancy is nearly the same as a fixed term tenancy, except for a few different rules about how you or the landlord can give notice to end the tenancy.
If you don’t want a periodic tenancy to start, i.e. you want to leave at the end of the fixed term lease, clause 88(1) of your tenancy agreement states that you need to give notice in writing to your agent/landlord 3 weeks before the end of your fixed term. You can then move out without any penalty on the day your lease ends. Remember, you can give 3 weeks notice at any time during the last 3 weeks of your tenancy.
Although a periodic tenancy is often called a ‘month-by-month’ tenancy, the landlord cannot just make you leave with 1 month’s notice. Read Tenancy Factsheet: Eviction in the ACT for the ways that a landlord can end a periodic tenancy. If they want to end the tenancy for no reason, they have to give you 26 weeks’ notice. If you want to end a periodic tenancy, you have to give 3 weeks’ written notice.
Don’t get caught out!
It is common practice amongst some real estate agents to say to tenants that they will be given a 26 week notice to vacate if they do not sign a new fixed term lease. The Tenants Union views this type of conduct by landlords and agents as unfair and threatening. This type of conduct potentially comes under the provisions relating to retaliatory eviction in the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (ACT). If you think you have been given a 26 week notice to vacate because you refused to sign a new fixed term, call the Tenants’ Advice Service.
If you are in a share house situation and the tenants have changed, this can end a periodic tenancy. A new periodic co-tenancy in the names of the new co-tenants can start by implication, or by explicit agreement with the landlord. It is important that all tenants living on the premises are either co-tenants, or have written permission to be there as sub-tenants. Download our Share Housing Booklet Crowded House for more information, and call the Tenants’ Advice Service for specific advice.
What if I sign a lease with new terms in it?
Sometimes leases contain terms which are void and unenforceable. Read our FAQ: Standard Leases and extra terms – what terms are enforceable?.
“Void” means a term is inconsistent with the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (ACT) and can never be part of any tenancy agreement
“Unenforceable” means the term cannot be relied on by a landlord or agent because it is inconsistent with all the other terms of your tenancy agreement and the Tribunal has not endorsed it, and said it can be part of the tenancy agreement
“Enforceable” means the term is either consistent with all the other terms of your tenancy agreement or is inconsistent but the Tribunal has endorsed it and said it can be part of the tenancy agreement.
If you sign a new lease, the following changes are enforceable if you agree to them:
- Changes to rent payment method (unless the only option is paying through a third party)
- Changes to the amount of rent (it is probably not possible to challenge the amount of a rent increase if you agree to it)
- Changes to the services that the landlord agrees to pay for (eg gas, water, electricity) – see our FAQ: Electricity/Water/Gas – who pays?
- Changes which exclude part of the premises from the agreement (eg you can no longer use the garage)
- Changes which limit your right to exclusive possession of the premises e.g. your right to do what you want at your property (if the lease says you cannot have pets or smoke, the Tribunal sees this as a valid limit on your right to exclusive possession).
Remember that you cannot be required or made to sign a new agreement.