How to Write a Letter of Notice to Your Landlord

Are you planning a move in the near future? Whether your landlord is your best friend or a property management company, there's more on your to-do-list than renting a carpet cleaner and mailing in your keys. Rental agreements, with or without a written contract, require you to give formal notice to keep you compliant with tenancy laws.

Are you planning a move in the near future? Whether your landlord is your best friend or a property management company, there's more on your to-do-list than renting a carpet cleaner and mailing in your keys. Rental agreements, with or without a written contract, require you to give formal notice to keep you compliant with tenancy laws.

So if you were planning on sending a "break up" text or e-mail to end your rental arrangement, you need to put down that packing tape and gather your documents: It's time to write a good, old-fashioned "Dear John" letter to your landlord. 

Check Your Rental Contract And Your State Laws

Check Your Rental Contract And Your State Laws

Your lease contract should state how much advance notice you're required to give your landlord. It will also set forth any penalties for breaking a lease before its termination date, and the method by which you are to deliver your intent to vacate the premises.

A "fixed-term lease" is a contract binding the tenant to multiple consecutive months' paid occupancy of a unit. A "month-to-month" lease is a rental contract that can be terminated anytime, with appropriate notice. 

Fixed-term leases usually convert to a month-to-month arrangement after the initial period has ended. Double check your contract for any rare exceptions. Typically, a fixed-term lease renewal requires both the landlord and the tenant to sign a new contract.

Your contract should stipulate when you can expect a refunded deposit, and how many deductions are decided. Is your landlord required to provide an itemized list of any deductions or receipts for repairs and cleaning? 

As a general rule, if your contract does not specify requirements for giving notice, breaking leases, or deposit refunds, it is legally considered "silent" on these issues. In such cases, refer to your municipal and state laws for guidance. 

You may wish to compare your rental contract with your state's laws simply to make sure the contract is in compliance; this is also an important step before you sign a contract on your new rental.

If You're Moving Before Your Lease is Up

If You're Moving Before Your Lease is Up

Be aware of the terms in your contract as they pertain to the lease, and be prepared to pay the required penalties. But also be ready to negotiate a compromise with the landlord. 

Landlords usually prefer to lease their units for a period of at least six months. This reduces the time and money they spend advertising, renovating, and cleaning the house or apartment, as well as the effort and expense of interviewing and screening potential tenants. A lease also helps the landlord maintain a steady, somewhat reliable income.

Most lease agreements require a tenant to compensate the landlord for each remaining month in the lease period, but only until the unit is once again rented. In areas with low vacancy rates—meaning a rental housing market in which your landlord should easily find a replacement—you're unlikely to incur a serious penalty for breaking your lease early. If rent prices have dramatically increased since you moved in, and your city has rent-control laws, your landlord might be delighted for the opportunity to raise the rent on your unit, and more willing to negotiate your penalty fees.

You're under no legal obligation to do so, but if you can give notice beyond the required period, your landlord may appreciate the courtesy and be more inclined to leniency. 

Prorating for Partial Month's Rent

Prorating for Partial Month's Rent

Most leases and month-to-month arrangements begin on the first of each month, but if you need to move on a date that falls in between the first or the last, you can ask your landlord to prorate your rent accordingly. Whether you move out on the fifteenth or the thirty-first does not affect the notification period. 

To determine what you owe for any partial month, divide your standard monthly rent amount by the number of days in the month. Next, multiply that amount by the number of days that you, the tenant, retained possession of the property. 

For example, your monthly rent is $1200.00, and you vacated the property at the end of the 10th day of a 30-day month: 

  • 1200 ÷ 30 = 40
  • 40 x 10 = 400
  • You owe $400.00, or if you pre-paid for that month, your landlord owes you a refund of $800.00.

It's important to understand how much you'll owe—or be owed—before you submit your notice or set your final move-out date. 

Choosing Your Move-Out Date

Choosing Your Move-Out Date

Selecting the ideal date to vacate your current rental is comparable to walking a tightrope: You need to coordinate your work schedule, transportation, and the date when you have the keys to your new home. You'll likely have an overlap between one occupancy and the other, but this extra expense may be well worth it if you want enough time to properly clean your old rental and prepare your new one. Plus, there may be delays in taking possession of your new home. 

When you choose your ideal moving date, give yourself some "breathing room". Don't rely on your refunded deposit to finance your move or the rent (or mortgage) payments at your new home. Choose a day when you can arrange off-site child and pet care, when you can enlist the help of friends, and when you're assured you'll have access to a moving truck. If you plan on hiring professional cleaners, now's the time to book their services.

Composing Your Letter of Notice to Your Landlord

Composing Your Letter of Notice to Your Landlord

Once you've reviewed your contract, selected your move-out date, and made arrangements for help, it's time to write your letter. You'll be mailing a "hard copy" and, if your contract or state laws require you to do so, delivering a second hard-copy to your landlord by hand. 

Formal business letters are a dying art, but they're alive and well when you're terminating a contract. Choose a  template that lets you include your landlord's name and physical address, the date, and your physical address. Note, you may opt to write and send the letter well before the date which begins your final 30 days, though most states allow you three days in addition to the official notification period to account for postal delivery. In any case, don't wait until the last minute to send your formal notice. 

The first paragraph should clearly state your intent. For example:

I, (Your Full Name), hereby inform you in writing that on (move-out date), 30 days from (date which you wish your notice period to start) I will be vacating the premises at (full address of rental property).

Your second paragraph may include a request for a walk-through, which you'll want to schedule on or as close to the date you move out. 

In order to facilitate the return of my (dollar amount) security deposit, and to ensure you are satisfied with the unit's condition, I would like to schedule a walk-through between (available times/dates).

Next, you should clarify the status of your final rent payment: 

  • Enclosed is my final payment for (month's) rent
  • As you are aware, I paid my last month's rent upon signing our original contract.
  • Enclosed is the prorated rent for my final month to compensate my occupancy through the 15th.
  • Given that I paid my last month's rent upon signing our original contract, but I'm vacating on the 15th, I will expect the prorated balance on or before (cite date in the contract, if any; otherwise, you can request that it be included in your deposit refund).

Finally, provide your forwarding address and, if you wish, a comment about your deposit refund:

Please send my deposit to the following address. Should you find the need to deduct expenses from my deposit, I request that you itemize the damages and provide receipts for cleaning and repairs. 

Close your letter with a simple "sincerely", and sign your full name. Be sure you've typed your letter so that your printed name is below your signature. 

Delivering Your Notice

Delivering Your Notice

Most states require you to mail a single hard-copy to your landlord. Others require that, in addition to your mailed notice, you personally hand a copy directly to your landlord or their official representative. Your contract should specify the required method of delivery. If not, do both or refer to your state's laws.

It's a good idea to send your notice via USPS Certified Mail  so that you'll have a record of the delivery.

If you requested a walk-through and you haven't heard from your landlord within several days after your letter's expected delivery date, reach out to them via e-mail with a reminder. It's not your responsibility, though, to make sure your landlord has read the letter if you have confirmation of delivery. If your landlord continues to be out-of-contact, refer to your local laws about your rights should you not be granted a walk-through or acknowledgment of your letter to vacate the premises. 

Moving Forward

Moving Forward

Be sure to keep copies of the notice to your landlord with your original lease contract and any other important documents related to your tenancy. Once you've completed your walk-through, it's appropriate to ask your landlord for a letter of recommendation; it's not in their best interest to write one before you've left the premises in satisfactory condition. 

Every rental arrangement is different, so be prepared for the unexpected. VerticalRent can help you navigate tenancy laws and help you protect your interests, whether you're moving in or moving out—or, if you become a landlord yourself, moving up.


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