The Facts

Parties enter into residential lease agreement

A husband, his wife and two children lived with the husband's elderly mother in a house that she owned.

This enabled the husband and wife to rent out their home, becoming landlords under a residential tenancy agreement with the tenants.

Under that agreement, the tenants leased the premises for a period of 52 weeks, commencing on 12 August 2019 and ending on 9 August 2020.

Landlords seek order for early termination of lease due to Covid-19

On 30 March 2020, the landlords served the tenants with a notice of termination.

The notice required the tenants to give vacant possession of the premises on 9 August 2020, being the end of the 52-week lease period.

However, with the Covid-19 pandemic, the landlords became worried about putting the husband's elderly mother at risk of infection by living with her.

On 16 April 2020 they applied to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal, requesting an order for earlier termination of the lease.

The landlords claimed that in the special circumstances that existed, they would suffer undue hardship if the residential tenancy agreement was not terminated.

The tenants opposed the early termination of the lease, saying that they would suffer if it was terminated early.

It was up to the tribunal to decide whether to grant the order.

Both parties appeared at the tribunal via telephone due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

case a - The case for the landlords

case b - The case for the tenants

  • The law requires that special circumstances exist to terminate this lease early. If the Covid-19 pandemic is not a special circumstance, then I don't know what is.
  • We live with my mother, who is 77 years old and has chronic health problems, including diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease and high blood pressure. By living with her, we are putting her at significant risk of contracting Covid-19 and dying.
  • This is especially so since I work in close proximity with people in the construction industry, putting me at high risk of contracting the virus and passing it on to my mother.
  • My wife and children also live with us and have frequent contact with my mother, further increasing her risk of contracting Covid-19.
  • This situation is also causing us undue hardship. It makes it impossible for my elderly mother to self-isolate in accordance with Australian government health recommendations for people like her.
  • Living with my mother during this pandemic is also putting considerable emotional and financial pressure on the family. The tenants say that we should just rent somewhere else, but this is not an option. We cannot afford to pay the mortgage on our home as well as paying rent on another property.
  • The tribunal should grant our application for an early termination order so that we can keep my mother alive by moving out of her house, back into our own premises.
  • We would suffer considerable financial hardship if we were required to vacate the premises. Our moving costs would be approximately $5,000, at a time when we have already experienced financial hardship. We recently had to pay thousands of dollars for our daughter to return home from Peru when she was stranded there due to Covid-19.
  • The real reason the landlords want to terminate early is in retaliation against us for being temporarily in arrears on our rent while our daughter was stranded, and for insisting that necessary repairs be made to the premises.
  • In any event, there is no need for the landlords to move out of their mother's home. The government has only said that elderly people should stay at home, not that they should totally isolate themselves. Nor did the government order people living in the home of an elderly person to relocate.
  • The landlords' argument that they can't move into alternative accommodation because they can't afford both mortgage and rent makes no sense. If the landlords evict us, they will no longer receive rent from us and so will be no better off. Besides that, the landlords have not even tried to find alternative accommodation.
  • If we are forced to move out early, it will cause severe disruption to our family of five and render us homeless.
  • The tribunal should dismiss the landlords' application for an early termination order.

So, which case won?

Cast your judgment below to find out

Anneka Frayne

Disputes and litigation

Stacks Law Firm

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