Non-payment of rent

Early action

  • If the tenant is a few days late in paying the rent, it’s good practice to send them a reminder letter of the overdue payment. You can also call them.
  • If the tenant is regularly pays the rent late, you should discuss changing the method of payment to something more secure like a credit card. Centrelink offers a free direct bill-paying service (called Centrepay) to customers receiving payments from Centrelink. This service includes rent paid to social housing providers as well as private landlords and agents.

Serving a termination notice

If the tenant falls more than 14 days behind with the rent, you can serve them with a termination notice, giving them 14 days to vacate the property. The notice must:

  • be in writing
  • be signed and dated by you or your agent
  • be properly addressed to the tenant
  • give the day on or by which the tenant is requested to vacate
  • state that the grounds or reason for giving the notice is because the tenant is more than 14 days behind with the rent
  • include a statement informing the tenant that they do not have to vacate if the tenant pays all the rent owing or enters into, and fully complies with, a repayment plan agreed with the landlord.

You can write your own notice or use the NSW Fair Trading <sample notice form>.

Repayment plans

A repayment plan is a plan you may agree on with the tenant for the outstanding rent to be paid over a period of time, on top of the normal rent payments.

The arrangement should be put in writing and signed by both parties to avoid any misunderstanding or disputes over what was agreed.

Applying to the Tribunal

You can apply to the Tribunal at the same time or after serving a termination notice to the tenant.

If you apply at the same time as giving notice, this will save you time, as the Tribunal will be able to list your hearing sooner. The application fee is not refundable if the tenant leaves or catches up the rent and you do not need a hearing. If you have applied and then find you do not need a hearing, it is important to let the Tribunal know so the hearing can be cancelled.

Alternatively, you can wait until after the termination date in your notice before applying to the Tribunal. This way you will know if you need a hearing, because the tenant has not moved out or has not paid (or is not paying off) the rent owed. The application cannot be made more than 30 days after the termination date in the notice, unless you apply for and the Tribunal grants you an extension.

There is a specific form for Tribunal orders relating to termination for non–payment of rent. Download it from the <NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal website>.

Guarantee of tenancy continuing

There is a general guarantee that the tenancy will continue if the tenant catches up with the rent or you agree to a repayment plan and they stick to it. If this happens after you have already applied to the Tribunal then a termination order would not generally be able to be made.

If the tenant catches up the rent or enters into and complies with a repayment plan after the Tribunal has given a termination order, the general guarantee of the tenancy continuing still applies. This means you are unable to enforce the order even if you have already obtained a warrant for possession. The exception is where the tenant frequently pays late.

Frequent late payers

The Tribunal can make an order that the tenancy will definitely end, even if the tenant pays the rent they owe.

You will need to provide evidence to the Tribunal, including rent records, reminder letters sent to the tenant or previous applications to the Tribunal about rent.

Certain costs recoverable

As well as unpaid rent, you can recover from the tenant the cost of:

  • replacing rent deposit books or rent cards lost by the tenant
  • the amount of any bank fees for dishonoured rent cheques, insufficient funds for direct debit rent payments and the like.

You cannot recover other costs such as Tribunal application fees, or the cost of enforcing the warrant or impose any form of penalty (eg. interest) for late payments.

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