Fees – do I have to pay?

No.  Under the Residential Tenancies Act, the landlord or agent can only charge you rent and bond (section 15).  There are no fees mentioned anywhere in the legislation.

If you breach a term of your tenancy agreement and this causes the landlord a loss, you can be ordered to pay compensation.  However, you don’t have to pay this unless/until the Tribunal agrees that you are in breach and has worked out the amount of the loss.

This means that you don’t have to pay any re-inspection fees, late-payment fees or tenant changeover fees.

Perhaps the most common fee charged to tenants is a ‘break-lease fee’ or ‘re-letting fee’ of one week’s rent.   Unlike the other examples, there is a basis for tenants to pay some re-letting costs.  If a tenant moves out early, a landlord can apply to the Tribunal under section 84 for compensation for the reasonable costs of advertising and giving the right to occupy the premises to another person.  This amount is limited to one week’s rent.  However, if the landlord or agent has only put one ad up and spent an hour showing the property and signing a new lease, you shouldn’t have to pay a whole week’s rent.  You should ask the landlord/agent to show what they did to re-let the property, how long it took, and a copy of their receipt for advertising (agents get bulk discounts for ads).

Also, under section 84(4) the Tribunal has to consider when the lease would have ended and the landlord would have had to pay advertising and re-letting costs anyway.  So, it is misleading to say there is a break-lease fee when in reality there are a range of factors that could mean you owe less than a week’s rent. One of the common approaches of the Tribunal in these situations is to determine the total advertising costs you may have to pay for on a pro rata basis. The extract below explains this process:

Jill Dexter v DongRong Lun [2009] ACTRTT 7 (16 February 2009)

The traditional approach taken by the Tribunal and by its NSW counterpart is to view the reletting fee in the context of an abandonment of a fixed term tenancy as a brought forward cost rather than as an entirely new cost. The rationale is that the tenant could have lawfully terminated the tenancy at the end of the fixed term and the landlord would then have been up for the same reletting fee at that point in time. The premature vacation of the premises by the tenant merely brought forward this cost. For this reason the approach taken is to permit the reletting fee at a pro-rata rate depending on the extent of the fixed term that had expired at the time the tenant abandoned the property (Residential Tenancies Law and Practice in NSW, 4th ed., Anforth and Christensen at [2.16.10])

For example if you only have 3 months left on your fixed term tenancy agreement, you should only pay for 3/12 of the advertising costs, which is equal to 25%.

For information on other compensation for breaking the lease, see Tenancy Factsheet: Ending a Tenancy and Breaking a Lease.

If you are being charged fees to use a rent card to pay your rent, see our FAQ on rent cards here and an FAQ other rent payment options here.

Reviewed: 3/12/13


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