Termination of leases can be a complex minefield from both a
practical and legal perspective. It has not been made easier by the
Courts finding that ordinary contractual principles apply to
leases, including principles dealing with termination for
repudiation or fundamental breach and breach of an essential
In the current economic climate there is even more reason to be
resolute in managing tenant defaults in order to secure a constant
Potential Traps for Landlords
The Supreme Court Case of Dee-Tech Pty Limited & Anor v
Neddam Holdings Pty Limited has highlighted the need to ensure that
termination of a lease by notice is done in no uncertain terms, to
ensure "an unequivocal act or statement that the innocent
party is treating the contract as at an end".
In this case, the managing agent for the landlord sent a Notice
of Breach of Covenant to the lessee in compliance with the
Statutory requirements, for failing to insure the premises.
Under the lease this was an essential term, which upon breach
entitled the lessor to terminate. Almost four weeks later, the
lessor's managing agent then sent a Notice to Vacate to the
lessee, not for having failed to insure the premises, but for the
failure to pay rent.
The notice advised that the Agent had been requested to
terminate the current lease by the lessor, and that the lessee had
to vacate the premises by a particular date BUT it
did not seek immediate possession.
When the dispute between the lessor and lessee came before the
Court, it was found that the Notice to Vacate failed to terminate
the lease. The Court made this finding on the basis that the
Notice, amongst other things, did not say the lease
was terminated and did not terminate the lease
immediately, anddid not contain a demand for
In the case of Keswick Developments Pty Ltd & Anor v Kevroy
Pty Ltd & Ors, the Court found that a failure to pay rent and
maintain public liability insurance was not deemed
to be a repudiation of the lease.
In this case where there was no specific right to terminate,
repudiatory conduct of a lease must be of a serious nature, and one
must look at all the circumstances, in order to determine if the
Lease has been repudiated.
Examples of repudiatory conduct include:
Abandonment of the premises;
Abandonment of premises including a failure to pay rent and
other covenant breaches;
Gross breaches of covenant for quiet enjoyment.
A Landlord can elect NOT to terminate a lease, as a lease is not
terminated unless the Landlord elects to treat the repudiation as a
repudiation of the lease. A Landlord cannot be coerced to make such
a decision or to act reasonably.
A Landlord, at their option, can therefore keep the lease on
foot. If a Landlord elects to keep a lease on foot then at Law
there is no duty to mitigate. In practice this means that even if a
tenant is able to find a new tenant to take over the lease, the
Landlord is still able to keep the lease on foot and sue for unpaid
rent as it continues to fall due.
Points to Remember
With Managing Agents increasingly taking on the role of
liaison, or relationship manager, between the Landlord and Tenant,
it is important that Landlords keep in mind their legal obligations
and look to experienced lawyers when it comes to drafting important
It is important to seek professional legal advice on the
circumstances surrounding a breach of the Lease, prior to taking
action to terminate;
Landlords are under no obligation to elect to terminate a Lease
and as such to mitigate any loss.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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