According to the Census Bureau, 11.2 percent of people picked up and moved in 2016.
For most people, the move is to a new part of town or a city a few miles away. Even still, moving into another part of the building can be stressful enough because if you rent – you need to tell your landlord.
Almost all lease contracts have a clause titled “notice to terminate tenancy.” It governs how and when your landlord may terminate your lease, and how and when to tell the landlord that you want to end your contract.
Do you know how much notice to give a landlord? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about moving on up – and moving on out.
Start with Your Lease
If you have a diligent landlord, they included instructions for terminating your lease in the text.
You’ll typically find the answer there.
The answer you receive, however, often depends on the type of lease you have.
If you have a month-to-month lease, then you will need to give them a minimum of 30 days’ notice. You may also have to provide the notice by a specific calendar date, often a full calendar month before you pay the last month’s rent.
If you signed a one- or two-year lease, then you can typically provide notice to terminate your tenancy between 30 and 90 days before your formal contract ends.
What If I Am in the Middle of My Lease?
Do you have several months left on your lease? If so, things get trickier.
In most cases, you’ll need to speak to your landlord or the real estate company managing the property to learn your options.
Working things out with your landlord is your best option. Your lease is a legally binding contract, and moving out (and ceasing to pay rent) before the end of the agreement puts you in breach of contract.
Like any other contract, a landlord can collect the money owed or even sue you for breach of contract.
State Law Protects Specific Groups
Some states have renters’ protection rights that allow certain groups of people to leave their lease early without penalty.
For example, the state of California allows you to break your lease if you or a member of your household are victims of domestic abuse/violence, stalking, elder abuse, or sexual assault. You can walk away from a lease if these things happen as long as you meet other conditions. For example, you must also file for a temporary restraining order.
You can also get out of your contract if your landlord:
- Harasses you
- Violates your right to privacy
- Fails to provide a safe rental unit
- Violates state health and safety codes
Additionally, California landlords can’t just sue you for the rest of your rent. Even if you don’t fall under one of the protected categories, California law requires your landlord to find a new tenant and collect rent that way. They cannot charge you the remainder of your rent and then accept rent from a new renter at the same time.
Consider Finding Your Replacement
In some cases, you can let a landlord down easy by finding an appropriate replacement for your lease. It takes out much of the work required for the landlord.
It’s also a thoughtful way to show that you want to move but don’t want to be inconsiderate.
Your landlord may not accept the alternative. However, it is more likely to start the conversation on the right foot.
Giving Your Notice to Terminate Tenancy
If you have a month-to-month rolling lease, then you are free to give your notice according to the rules in your contract.
You cannot merely provide noticed in a fixed-term tenancy unless the lease is nearly over. If you have more than a few months left on your occupancy and want to vacate immediately, go back to step one.
When you are ready to provide your notice, it needs to be in writing.
You’ll need to include at a minimum:
- The address of the property where you are a tenant
- The date of the requested end of the tenancy
- The signatures of relevant parties (whoever signed the lease)
You should also address it to the landlord and the property management company – if there is one.
Make sure you keep a copy of your notice with your lease and saved on your computer.
Don’t forget to allow several days for it to reach its destination. Factor the delivery time into the process and be sure you send it on time to avoid discrepancies.
What If My Landlord Wants Me Out Now?
One of the concerns some tenants who were previously burned by landlords have is the risk of being kicked out early.
For example, they might worry that providing 90 days notice is too much time. What if their landlord wants to put another tenant in next month?
Requesting the end of the tenancy is one of your rights as a tenant. As with other rights, like asking for mandatory repairs, landlords are not allowed to try to evict you.
These evictions are called “retaliatory evictions.”
Almost every state in the U.S. considers landlord retaliation to be illegal.
You also have protection from landlords who do other things to try to punish you for leaving. For example, if they refuse to pay a bill included in the rent (according to your contract) or remove the laundry facilities, then they typically violate state law.
In 20 states, the law almost automatically sides with the tenant in cases when a landlord ends a tenancy (or retaliates) within a set period after exercising a legal right. States that employ these laws require the landlord to prove otherwise.
What if I Want to Move Now?
Do you have a great new place waiting for you right now, but you can’t afford to double your rent?
In some cases, you can sublet your apartment. However, you can only do this if your lease allows it.
Legally, you remain the tenant on the lease and responsible for paying the rent. However, you also collect rent from the person who accepts the sublet.
Subletting is a tempting option for those looking to make a move ASAP. However, remember that if your landlord bans subletting, then you are in breach of contract by engaging in it.
Again, you want to avoid breaching your contract, so tread carefully.
What Ending Your Lease Costs You
If you want to end your lease early and you don’t fall within a protected class of people, then you may need to pay.
Your financial responsibility may include the rest of the rent due on your contract. Your landlord will likely try to rent the property out quickly, but if they can’t, they can ask you for the money.
If the apartment moves quickly, you’ll only be responsible for the amount of time the property remained vacant.
It is also legal to charge you fees when you leave. They can add legitimate expenses to your leaving bill. The costs of advertising the property are the most common type of bill a tenant receives.
In some cases, your landlord may not be able to rent the property at the current price. If they re-rent it for an amount lower than what you paid, you could pay the difference.
Things the Landlord Can’t Charge You For
There’s not much the landlord can’t charge you for, but keep an eye out for bills that include their time.
They cannot bill you an hourly rate for time spent advertising and meeting new tenants. If they do, you are not obligated to pay.
Does the Landlord Need to Rent Your Property Right Away?
After giving notice to the landlord at the end of your tenancy, the landlord can put your unit up for rent whenever they like. It makes no difference to you.
When you break your contract, you might hope they do the same. However, landlords are not legally compelled to do so. A landlord does not need to advertise the unit you intend to leave before other comparable properties.
Landlords can’t hide your unit. If someone asks about it, then they must say that it is available. A landlord can’t purposely keep your unit vacant when there is interest in it.
Know Your Rights
As tenants, you have rights that govern how you and your landlord act when you want to end a lease.
A fixed-term lease is hard to get out of, particularly if you have a significant amount of time left on it. However, it is not impossible to provide a notice to terminate tenancy on a fixed contract.
The key to ending a lease on good terms is to be honest, polite, and helpful. If you desperately need to move, your landlord is unlikely to stand in your way, and laws prevent them from making the process more difficult than it needs to be.
Are you a tenant and curious about where you stand? Click here to learn 5 Important Tenant Rights a Renter Should Be Aware Of.