Queensland tenants live ‘on knife edge’ after landlords issue new vacate notices in bid to stop ‘lifelong’ tenants

Written by Javed Iqbal

When Lyell Lamborn’s new lease arrived, it came with an $80 weekly increase and a notice to vacate the property.

The Form 12 notice explained that her landlord had the right to terminate her tenancy in Brisbane when her lease expired.

The announcement came after Queensland’s real estate industry peak body recommended all agents implement the “best-practice” strategy in a bid to protect landlords from “lifetime” tenants who can automatically move from fixed-term to periodic agreements, e.g. -month contracts.

Mrs Lamborn’s rental property is an almost 100-year-old worker’s cottage in Manly with a number of outstanding repairs.

Last year, a friend of Mrs Lamborn fell through the worn front steps of the dilapidated tenement.

“I felt that [rent] increase which amounted to $80 a week, which is actually a 23 per cent increase in my rent, that was a huge increase for what I consider to be a very dilapidated house,” Ms Lamborn said.

She said she calculated her options in the current market and felt compelled to accept the increase and therefore the notice to leave.

Rent estate agent sign outside an apartment building in Brisbane
Rental costs in Brisbane are among the highest of any capital city in Australia.(ABC News: Liz Pickering)

“I’m being told that if I don’t sign and there’s no negotiation on the rent increase, then I’m out,” Ms Lamborn said.

“In this market I can’t. I’m going to struggle to find anything.

“It leaves you on a knife edge wondering what you’re going to do every year … it keeps me awake at night.”

Laws coming into force in October will make it difficult for landlords to end periodic agreements.

“Should we have a place to go?”

Dale Billett and Katie Havelberg are sitting on the sofa with two dogs.
Dale Billett and Katie Havelberg were forced to find another property because their West End property was sold.(ABC News: Alice Pavlovic)

This weekend, Dale Billett and Katie Havelberg are packing up their West End home of four and a half years.

It is also the first week Mr Billet has been out of hospital for four months after an accident caused the amputation of his lower right leg.

While he was rehabilitating in hospital, the couple found out their home was being sold and realized they needed to find a new handicap accessible home.

When they did, an unusual contract came out.

Katie Havelberg with Dale Billett and his amputated leg visible as they sit on the sofa.
Dale Billett was recovering from having his leg amputated when he and Katie Havelberg found out they had to leave their rental home.(ABC News: Alice Pavlovic)

“I was working on the lease and getting ready to sign it and at the end there was a notice to quit attached,” Ms Havelberg said.

The couple signed the lease, but the process of property hunting took a toll.

“It just added an extra burden on top of the burden that was already here,” Ms Havelberg said.

“Sleepless nights, days where you’re just constantly worrying, ‘Are we going to have a place to go?'”

The couple is now navigating their way, with Mr. Ticket limited in what he can lift and carry.

‘Like a guillotine over the heads of tenants’

Tenants Queensland CEO Penny Carr in the office.
Tenants Queensland chief executive Penny Carr says the notices are causing tenants unnecessary anxiety.(ABC News: Tim Swanston)

Tenants Queensland chief executive Penny Carr slammed the industry body over the new practice, which she said was causing unnecessary anxiety for tenants already facing a crushing housing market.

“Every tenant in Queensland would live with like a guillotine over their head the whole time they live in their home,” she said.

“And if they are good or lucky at the end, they can be offered a new term.

“It’s extraordinary to call it best practice.”

A woman looks pensive as she stands outside a building
REIQ CEO Antonia Mercorella admitted the recommendation came at a very difficult time for tenants.(ABC News: Lexy Hamilton-Smith)

But the peak body for Queensland’s property industry has stood by its recommendation.

CEO of the Real Estate Institute of Queensland, Antonia Mercorella, said the institute was considering sending the forms’ best practices ahead of new tenancy laws coming into force in October.

“It does not evict the tenant or threaten the tenant in any way as Tenants Queensland suggests,” she said.

“All it does is confirm that the fixed term tenancy ends on that date.

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Javed Iqbal

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