How to Get Rid of Bad Tenants



We’ve all heard the horror stories about bad tenants failing to pay up, damaging the property and generally making a nuisance of themselves.

If your tenant truly is a lost cause that will end up leaving you out of pocket, then naturally you’ll want to evict them as quickly as possible and bring in someone who will help to get your property investment back on track.

However, you don’t have the right to kick them out without following the correct legal framework. Fail to do so and you could find yourself fighting a lengthy and costly battle.

Step 1: Know the law

Tenants have certain rights that are enshrined by law in each state and territory, and the sad truth is that some nightmare tenants know how to play the eviction game and will use the legal framework to draw out the process for as long as possible. It’s vital, therefore, to have a property manager who is familiar with their state or territory’s tenancy laws.

Tenancy laws




State authority

Further info


Residential Tenancies & Rooming Accommodation Act 2008

Residential Tenancies Authority


Residential Tenancies Act 2010

Fair Trading/Consumer, Trader & Tenancy Tribunal


Residential Tenancies ACT 1997

Civil and Administrative Tribunal


Residential Tenancies Act 1999

Consumer Affairs - Department of Justice


Residential Tenancies Act 1995

Residential Tenancies Tribunal


Residential Tenancy Act 1997

Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading


Residential Tenancies Act 1997

Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal


Residential Tenancies Act 1987

Department of Consumer and Employment Protection


 “The legislation is different from state to state,” notes Queensland based Glenda Rajah, from Guardian Property & Asset Management. “They are all along similar lines, but there are different timeframes involved.”

Each state or territory’s residential tenancy legislation will include the following details:

  • The rules for notifying the tenant that they have breached the rental agreement:
  • The timeframe that a tenant must be given to remedy the breach
  • The rules for issuing a notice of termination of the tenancy if they fail to remedy the breach
  • The grounds upon which a landlord can terminate a tenancy

Step 2: Get the agreement right

There are various terms that you can legally include in your tenancy agreement that, if breached by the tenant, will give you legal recourse to issue a breach notice. These include:

  • The rental amount and how frequently it must be paid
  • The tenants’ duty to inform the landlord or property manager of maintenance issues
  • The tenants’ duty to pay for any damage other than fair ‘wear and tear’
  • The tenants’ names, and the number of tenants that can live in the property
  • The tenants’ rights and responsibilities regarding visitors and their conduct

Including such terms in the tenancy agreement at the start of the tenancy will allow you to refer back to the paperwork when issuing a breach notice.

“With all our properties, the leases come with no smoking inside the premises, so if you walk in [at a routine inspection] and can smell the smell of smoke you can breach them,” says Rajah.

Step 3: Conduct regular inspections

Each state and territory’s tenancy laws stipulate how many routine inspections you or your property manager can carry out each year. In New South Wales, for example, you can carry out a maximum of four routine inspections per year – having given the tenant seven days’ notice of the inspection date.

Here are some of the key warning signs to look out for that your tenant isn’t following the terms of the agreement.

  • More beds or mattresses than the number of people on the lease
  • Damage to the property
  • Unreported maintenance issues
  • Uncleanliness

Rajah adds that some of the common reasons to issue a breach notice include cars being parked on lawns, torn fly screens, holes in walls, tears or stains to carpets and unauthorised pets. She warns, however, that it’s important to know the law when it comes to documenting the evidence of a tenant’s bad behaviour.

“When the property managers do their routine inspections, by law they’re not allowed to take photographs of any personal possessions,” she says. “If a car’s parked on the lawn, you’re not allowed to take a photograph of that car because it’s got an identifying registration number. So everything is very tightly controlled.”

Step 4: Issue a breach notice

If your tenant has breached the terms of the tenancy agreement, then it’s important to issue a breach notice as soon as possible – as this is a vital step in the eviction process. Fail to issue a breach notice, giving the tenant the timeframe to remedy the breach that has been outlined in the state legislation, and you won’t be able to commence eviction proceedings.

The state or territory’s official breach of notice form must be issued and delivered in a manner set out by the relevant legislation. This may include giving the notice to the tenant personally, or posting it to them. In most cases your property manager will be posting the breach notice, and legally must allow enough time for the notice to be delivered before the breach period can start. 

In Western Australia, for example, a tenant who fails to pay the rent on time must first be served with an official ‘Breach notice for non-payment of rent’ form. If the tenant doesn’t pay the outstanding rent within 14 days of receiving the form, the landlord can issue a ‘notice of termination’ requiring them to vacate the premises.

A similar process must be followed in each state and territory, and Rajah stresses that following the legal timeframes is vital. 

“A form 11, ‘notice to remedy breach’ can be sent out when they’re eight days in arrears, and you must give them nine clear days to remedy that breach – which includes two days’ postage,” she explains of the process in Queensland.

Step 5: Issue a notice of termination

How to issue a notice of termination:



Action by landlord

Minimum time allowed for tenant to vacate


Issue a Notice to Leave (Form 12)

7 days rent, 14 days general breaches


Issue Termination Notice

14 days


Clause to vacate included in Notice to Remedy Breach of Agreement (Form 2)

8 days


Issue a Termination Notice (Form 1C)

7 days


Issue Notice to Vacate

14 days


Issue a Termination of the Tenancy and Possession of the Premises, specifying a date for vacation of premises.

14 days


Issue Notice to Vacate, stating grounds and date of effect

14 days


Issue Compliance Order, available from VCAT. If ignored, issue Notice to Vacate

14 days

If you have issued a breach notice and the breach has not been remedied within the legal timeframe then the next step is to issue a notice of termination. This will inform the tenant of the reasons behind the termination, and how long they have to vacate the premises. In Queensland, for example, the tenant must be given no less than seven days to vacate in the case of un-remedied rent arrears, and 14 days in the case of any other un-remedied breach.

“On the notice to remedy breach it lists where they’re paid to and how much rent they must pay to stop the breach. So if they don’t pay that amount by the due date, on the next day we then issue a notice to leave. If they’re paid up by the cut-off date of the notice to leave, all is forgiven,” says Rajah. If not, then it’s time to take the process to the next level.

Step 6: Gaining possession

How to properly gain possession



Action by landlord

Response by authorities


Apply to Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a Warrant of Possession

Police oversee the execution of the warrant and hand possession back to the landlord


Apply to the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal for a possession order, then a warrant for possession if order ignored

Local Court sheriff's office oversees execution of order


Apply for an order of the Residential Tenancies Tribunal for vacant possession (Form 7)

Tribunal bailiff enforces vacant possession order


Obtain order of possession from the Magistrate's Court, then property seizure and delivery order if ignored

Court-appointed bailiff removes tenant


Apply to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) for a termination and possession order (TPO)

Police oversee eviction after serving tenant with an extra two days' notice


Obtain order for the possession of the premises by Commissioner or a court, effective within five days

Representative of Commissioner or court takes possession of the premises


Obtain order to vacate from a magistrate, then obtain order for possession if ignored

Representative of court takes possession of the premises


Apply to VCAT for an order of possession

Police evict after a certain period, usually 7-30 days


If you have followed all of the necessary legal steps, but your tenant refuses to vacate the premises by the date specified on the notice of termination, then you can’t simply throw them out. You must go down the relevant legal channels to gain permission to take back control of your property.

In Queensland for example, a landlord can apply to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) for a termination order and a ‘Warrant of Possession’ – and this application must be made within 14 days of the eviction date stipulated on the notice of termination.

If you fail to apply to QCAT within this 14-day period then, as Rajah puts it, “you have to go back to square one again.”

Once issued, the warrant will authorise a police officer or stated authorised person to enter the premises and make the tenant leave.

“QCAT sends a copy of the warrant to the local police station and they have about 14 days in which the police then go out and serve the warrant on the tenant,” says Rajah, adding that the police can forcibly remove tenants who still refuse to leave.

It’s also worth noting your state or territory’s regulations when it comes to dealing with any property that evicted tenants have left behind. You may well be required to organise the removal and storage of furniture.

“That is all at the tenant’s expense,” explains Rajah. “And that’s again why tenant default insurance is extremely important, because these sorts of things can run into hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.”

Step 8: Going to court

Few tenancy disputes make it to court, but it’s worth covering your back and preparing for this eventuality all the same. Your tenant may be able to take their dispute to the highest level, for example, or – even if you have managed to evict them – you may choose to chase them up for damage or unpaid rent.

According to Western Australia’s Department of Consumer and Employment Protection, common disputes that find their way to court include:

  • refusal to return bond money
  • overdue rent
  • damage to property
  • maintenance of the premises
  • problems when ending tenancy agreements

It’s important to keep records of both your conduct and your tenant’s conduct in relation to the tenancy agreement. The Department of Consumer and Employment Protection suggests using the following checklist:

  • Can I establish that I had the right to let the premises, or an authority to act if I am not the owner?
  • Do I have a copy of the tenancy agreement?
  • Did I lodge the bond correctly?
  • Have I kept proper records of the rent paid and the date of the last payment?
  • Did I issue receipts for rent paid, and are they in order for quick reference by the Magistrate?
  • If the rent was paid directly into a bank account, do I have the appropriate statements?
  • When the rent fell behind, did I serve a notice on the tenant on the correct day?
  • Did I follow correct procedures when serving a notice to end the tenancy agreement?
  • Have I arranged for witnesses to appear at the hearing (if required)?
  • Have I gone through my evidence thoroughly?

Rajah notes that, in her experience, most disputes that make it to court revolve around non-payment of rent. By the time that the tenant has been evicted, for example, the weeks of unpaid rent may not be covered by their bond and therefore you may wish to file a compensation claim.

She warns, however, that the lengthy process of going to civil court, tracking down the tenants and getting the bailiffs involved makes it “nigh on impossible” to actually recoup the unpaid rent from your ex-tenant.

“The bond will only cover so much, so then we go to court for what we call a compensation claim,” she says, adding that this is another example of why it’s vital to get adequate landlord insurance cover.


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  • Ginny says on 06/10/2012 03:17:19 AM

    Hi, im in a property owner which is tenanted by tenants in qld who have resided in my property for 9 weeks and not paid a cent in rent. They seem to have no intent on paying or moving out and we go to court end of the month. In the mean time they get to live of me for free. I cant afford two mortgages and want them out. The agents are tied by tenancy laws and can't do anything further. What can i do? Are there any loop holes? Can't i just put their belongings on the curbside? Please any advise, would be hugely appreciated and valued!

  • JB says on 17/10/2012 10:13:33 PM

    Sounds like you have an incompetent property manager. A good one would have checked the tenants' references to see if they paid rent in the past.
    To add insult to injury, they are too lazy to fix the problem. has all the information you need here:
    Take that info to your property manager and tell them what they should be doing. Once they have sorted out the situation, take your rental to a new agent that deserves your money, or manage the property yourself where you can meet the tenants and check references yourself.

  • L. VB says on 03/04/2013 11:56:31 PM

    We have tenants in our house while we rent. They checked out on TICA. and their reference was good. Turns out it was fake. They have not paid rent for 10 weeks and trashed the place. They appear to have done a runner and left 1 week before the court date. They have 4 kids and are pregnant again. They seemed so nice and their history was ok. We tracked down their real old landlord who said they did the same to him.
    There needs to be better services that private lessors can utilise to prove a tenant is ok such as credit history, criminal, outstanding fines, bills etc. And when they dont pay rent it should be regarded as criminal theft. They broke a legally binding contract and effectively stole money from us. The legislation protects tenants not the home owners that work their butts of to get where they are.

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