A notice to vacate is a formal legal document mostly written by a tenant to a landlord or a property manager informing them of the intention to terminate the lease/rental agreement. The lease agreement normally stipulates the length of notice needed. Failure to provide notice may expose the tenant to financial and legal challenges.
Just like a tenant can give the notice to vacate to a landlord, the opposite can happen. A landlord or a property manager may give the notice to vacate to a tenant. Mostly, the landlord will give a notice to vacate if the rental agreement is coming to an end and doesn’t wish to renew it. In some other cases, the landlord may wish to terminate the lease/rental agreement due to various reasons. They must indicate the reason they are doing so in the notice and give adequate notice as prescribed. Before the landlord evicts you, they have to send you a notice to vacate. An overview of this preliminary process is discussed in the short video below.
While the video above discusses the eviction process in Florida, similar processes exist in other states. One of the key differences is in the lead time required for the notice to be valid. Some states like Florida require 3 days lead time. Other states require as much as 30. Whatever the case may be for you, preparing a notice to vacate helps you and your tenant avoid any legal and economic road blocks after the lease agreement is terminated.
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Reasons why a Tenant may give a Notice to Vacate
- The lease agreement is coming to an end
- They have a month on month rental agreement that they don't wish to renew
- The tenant wishes to relocate from
- Challenging living environment
- The tenant has been called for military service
As a tenant, it is nice to let your landlord know why you are moving out. It could be due to a new job, change of state, family-related, or due to difficult living conditions in your current environment. Landlords would appreciate honest feedback, especially if the decision to move was caused by something that the landlord can work on for future tenants.
Reasons why a Landlord may give a Notice to Vacate
- Property damage
- Health and safety hazards
- Disturbing other tenants
- Illegal/criminal use of the property
- Late rent
- Persistent failure to pay rent on time
- Violation of the lease agreement
- Doesn’t wish to renew the lease/rental agreement
- To allow for owner or relative move-in
How to Write a Notice to Vacate
If you are a tenant and wish to vacate a property for whatever reason, you need to draft a Notice to Vacate to your landlord or property manager. It may seem daunting at first, or you may even be sure on how to go about it, but it is a fairly straightforward procedure. In this chapter, I want to take you through all the legal minefields that you should be aware of before issuing a notice to vacate.
Read the Lease Agreement
The first step is reading the lease or rental agreement, particularly clauses that stipulate how the lease can be terminated and the notice required. If you get this wrong, say give a 30-day notice rather than a 60-day notice, you may be open to legal and financial penalties. Check out this 3-minute guide from Smartland Apartments which tells you the basics of how to properly move out.
Read carefully the delivery method specified. In some jurisdictions, the law states how the notice should be delivered. In other cases, the lease will state how a notice should be delivered to either party. Delivering in any other method may expose you to a legal challenge.
Prepare the Notice in Writing
Even if you have discussed your intention with your landlord verbally, you should always have your notice in writing. This ensures that both of you have a record that can be consulted in case of a dispute. The notice should preferably be typed rather than handwritten. This ensures you have print your copy and also the notice can be legible.
Digital notice is good enough in most cases as it performs the intended action. Many landlords are satisfied to receive any communication including notices by email. If they have indicated so in the lease, then this shouldn’t be a problem. You can use the downloadable sample at the end of this guide when preparing to write your notice.
Deliver the Notice Properly
State and local laws stipulate how a notice to vacate should be delivered. Some states require that it should be done in person. In addition, the lease agreement can further state the acceptable ways the landlord or the tenant may issue such a notice. The common methods are:
- In-person by the landlord/tenant or their representatives
- By certified mail
This 5 minute guide by Ernie Garcia shows how proper delivery is done in the state of Texas. Watch it and see which of the rules apply for your state.
Whatever method you choose to deliver the notice; it is good to have some proof of it. If by hand, you can have the recipient sign a delivery copy to signify they received it. Certified mail will have delivery confirmation. If by email, it is good practice to request a confirmation email that the notice was received and read by the recipient.
What Happens after you Send the Notice?
If a landlord sends a notice to vacate, the tenant can either choose to vacate the property or disregard the notice. If they vacate the property, the lease agreement is terminated, and any security deposit is refunded to them subject to no damages to the property.
If they disregard the notice, the landlord should start the formal eviction process after the stipulated notice period. It is never a good idea to force a tenant out through any other means. The formal eviction process ensures that you are not breaking any laws. Most tenants do not want to have an eviction on their records and will comply. However, in some cases, the landlord may be acting illegally, and the only option is to fight it out in court.
If the tenant sends the notice to vacate, the landlord should ensure they have given adequate notice as situated in the ease. The law stipulates a certain category of people who can break a lease without giving a notice.
If your tenant is not in these categories and are satisfied with the notice, you can contact them to request an inspection of the property before leaving. You can also ask them if they are okay with you showing the rental unit to prospective tenants as they serve their notice. Once they leave, you should look out for any damage they may have caused and have it repaired. You should then process the balance of the security deposit and send it to them.
For the tenant, after you give a notice to vacate, you should fix any damage to the property before you vacate to ensure you get a full refund of your security deposit. Arrange for a property walkthrough even before you leave to take notice of any outstanding issue.
Notice to Vacate FAQs
Do I need a notice to vacate if my lease is ending?
Even if you are not obliged to give a notice to vacate to your landlord when your lease is ending, it is good practice to do so. This way, you make your move out smooth and solve any outstanding issues there may be.
How much lead time should I allow for my notice?
The length of the notice is situated in your lease/rental agreement. Always read your lease carefully to understand the obligation on your part to avoid legal or financial consequences
What happens if I change my mind and decide to stay after giving a notice?
In such a case, you'll have to talk with your landlord about your change of heart. They are not obliged to continue the landlord-tenant relationship. It is up t them to decide if they still want you to continue as a tenant.
Is a Notice to Vacate the same as an Eviction Notice?
No, these are different documents. A notice to vacate is given by a tent to a landlord or a landlord to a tenant when either party wants to terminate the lease. An eviction notice is a result of a court/tribunal process. An eviction notice goes to your rental history and credit report.
Can I challenge a Notice to vacate from my Landlord?
Yes, you can challenge the notice if you believe it was given to you as retaliation or due to a discriminatory reason.
Always read and understand your lease. Failure to adhere to just one clause in the lease may lead to legal challenges in the future. Give a written notice even if the lease doesn't require you to. Keep the notice to vacate simple, precise, and professional in tone and language; it is not the place to bring up complaints you may have.
Keep in mind that if you were on a fixed-term lease, breaking the lease lead to financial consequences. Be sure you have a justifiable reason and speak to your landlord first to come to an amicable solution. Be aware of your rights and obligations as a tenant or a landlord. In our next, guide, we will be talking about the final document you need to serve a tenant whom you want to leave - an eviction notice.