Renovations, Selling or Moving In: The Illegal Reasons Landlords Give To Evict Renters Early

Illegal evictions are commonplace in Australia, but little is been done to enforce laws against landlords who kick tenants out early.

Across Australia, landlords are telling tenants they plan to move in or renovate properties in order to persuade them to terminate a lease early. The property is then either immediately leased out again with a higher rent, or sold.

These evictions are illegal.

Although the rules vary state to state, lying to a tenant to persuade them to move out is illegal and landlords can only terminate a lease early for a few reasons, such as a violation of the terms of the lease.

It is unclear exactly how widespread the practice is, but the experience seems to be common. One Sydney tenant who spoke to PEDESTRIAN.TV said their landlord pressured them to terminate a lease early so they could sell the property.

“Our real estate agent came in and told us that the landlord wanted to renovate because they wanted to sell, and that it would be best for us to move out six months before the lease ended rather than deal with renovations and sales,” they said.

“We disputed, but ended up moving out. They never renovated the place, and sold it a month after we left.”

They said they believed the landlord lied to motivate them to leave so they wouldn’t get in trouble for kicking them out.

In Australia, landlords can sell a house at any time, however, neither a new or old landlord can terminate a lease early.

Speaking to P.TV, Jordan van den Berg, a lawyer who runs the website and TikTok series ‘Shit Rentals’, said he had heard stories of illegal early evictions “many times”.

“I’ve definitely seen that a lot — the commodification of something that’s a human right is just wrong,” he said.

“It’s incredibly negative on tenants — successive government failures have created a servant class of people, renters who for their entire lives are paying off a mortgage on something that they’ll never own, and that’s just wrong.”

He said such evictions were illegal however they were rarely, if ever, prosecuted. He said that once a tenant no longer lived in a property, there was little they could do.

“It’s literally an offence to relist, but of course no enforcement happens,” he said.

“Imagine if the same thing happened with murder, in that the victim had to go to the police to initiate anything.

“It’s ridiculous.”

Van den Berg said a simple solution would be for the government to set up a group that enforced renting rules. He said it was wrong that tenants had to raise issues with a tribunal, rather than owners ensuring the property was fit for purpose.

His recommendation matched a suggestion made by the National Inquiry Into The Rental Crisis in its final report tabled earlier this month, who recommended the government implement stronger rental rights.

The committee found that current laws were failing to address the rental crisis, and urgent reforms were needed to address skyrocketing rents and poor accommodation standards.