It’s time to say goodbye to your tenant for one reason or another. How do you make sure you give proper notice, avoid legal pitfalls, and protect your profits and property?
This short guide gives a rock-solid understanding of the terminology, answers frequent questions, and provides a sample letter template that can help you build your own.
What’s the difference between a notice to vacate, a lease termination letter, and termination of tenancy?
In practical terms, all three things mean roughly the same thing. Part of the confusion is the two-way nature of this type of document. Both the landlord and the tenant can give such a form.
A notice to vacate tells one party of the other party’s intention to end the lease. They’re usually sent 30 or 60 days before the end of the lease. Tenants can also send their notice of intent to vacate to the landlord if they plan to move elsewhere on a month-to-month lease.
Technically, a notice to vacate, also called a lease termination letter, can either bring an early end to a lease agreement or confirm the nonrenewal of an expiring lease.
A notice to vacate states the date and process that will result in “termination of tenancy,” or the end of the landlord-tenant agreement.
There’s even further confusion because others wrongly refer to the notice to vacate as in eviction notice.
Should I use a notice to vacate or an eviction notice?
A notice to vacate is written when either party decides to end the relationship (for a good or bad reason or none at all). An eviction requires court action to remove the tenant from the property.
One other reason for the mental mix up is purely procedural. A notice to vacate can lead to an eviction notice. If the tenant doesn’t leave by the specified date in the notice to vacate, that becomes cause to start the eviction process. The eviction process begins with notice. It just helps to remember the notice to vacate and the eviction notice are two separate documents.
When should I use a notice to vacate?
Five typical situations arise where you would want to draft this letter. Before you make any action, check your state laws and lease agreement:
1. Broken lease terms. If the tenant violated the terms of the lease, but you don’t think there’s cause for speedy eviction. For example, you discover your tenant has an unallowed pet.
2. Causeless termination. If you live in a no-cause state, you can end the contract once it’s up for no reason at all.
3. Lease nonrenewal. Either party may have decided not to renew the lease. Just give the 30 or 60 days your state requires.
4. Month-to-month tenancy end. The lease has expired, but you still must give the tenant adequate time to leave the property.
5. Unrentable property. You want to move yourself or a family member in, remodel, sell, or take the home off the market. Your state may have specific rules for some of these cases. For instance, you might have to jump through unique legal hoops when selling, and the renter wants to stay.
Does my state require 30-day notice or 60-day notice?
Many landlords and property managers set reminders to alert them 90 days before the agreement’s up to determine the tenant’s plans. Just like you’re required to give them notice, a tenant must also give the landlord notice, although some states may allow less time for the renter. Even if your state allows for less from either party, giving 60 days’ notice is a best practice for leases that are not yet month-to-month.
When the clock and calendar are on your side, you have more chances to fix speed bumps before they wreck your revenue and tenant relationship. Repeat customers help any business. Maybe the tenant’s new job that caused the move, now allows remote work. A good tenant could swing back around for a second stint at the current spot or another property.
Check out the minimum number of days of notice for your state’s landlord-tenant laws:
|California||30 (month-to-month) or 60 days|
|Colorado||30 (6-month to 1-year lease) or 90 Days (1 year or longer lease)|
|Louisiana||10 (month-to-month) or 30 days|
|Minnesota||Rent Payment Interval|
|New Hampshire||30 days|
|New Jersey||1 month|
|New Mexico||30 days|
|New York||1 month|
|North Carolina||7 (month-to-month) or 30 days|
|North Dakota||1 month|
|Rhode Island||30 days|
|South Carolina||30 days|
|South Dakota||30 days|
|West Virginia||1 month|
|Wyoming||No Statute (typically 30 days)|
Many states have a 3, 5, 7, 10-day cure or quit notice, also called pay or quit notice, when a tenant violates the lease by not paying or some other reason. For this type of notice, ask yourself four questions:
1. Can you legally ask the tenant to vacate for this reason?
2. What do you want the tenant to do to fix the situation?
3. What time frame will you give the tenant to make it right?
4. Can the tenant amend the situation, or do you want them to move out?
If your notice covers those points and lines up with federal, state, and local laws, you should be good. If you don’t know how to proceed, contact a lawyer.
Should I double-check the rental agreement?
Yes because even if you live in a 30-day state, but your current lease agreement explicitly says 60 days, then you’re bound by the 60 days in your lease agreement. You should also follow any other special clauses you agreed to with the tenant within state and local regulations.
How to write a notice to vacate?
Smart landlords use scripts and templates to save time, effort, and ultimately money. Some landlords craft their own document, while others will use a property manager’s template. Or they may hire an attorney to draft one that can be used repeatedly.
Your letter should include:
- Basic information. Begin with:
- Property address
- Lease term
- Landlord’s name and contact info
- Tenant’s name and contact info
- It may seem redundant, but all formal rental documents should include these points.
- Reason for termination. If you’re ending the lease, selling the property, or the tenant broke the agreement, then you should write that. Note all early terminations should comply with your local laws and ordinances.
- Move out date, process, and security deposit. Include:
- The move-out date
- The detailed move-out process (many landlords include a checklist)
- Inspection date (to ensure good condition)
- The security deposit, precisely how much and when they’ll receive it
- Question, concerns, and contact. Should the tenant contact you, an employee, or a property manager with questions or concerns? Give them the best contact info and try to make the process as painless as possible. You should also get their new address, forwarding address, and any other contact that will help.
Can I email the notice to vacate?
You can, but many attorneys and seasoned landlords might advise against it. It’s recommended to mail it with certified mail or deliver a copy, so you can explain, answer questions about vacating, and have them sign.
If you must use electronic signatures, ensure the tenant’s agreement in the lease or later documentation. Sites such as Adobe Sign, DocuSign, or HelloSign will allow both parties to sign remotely.
What happens after I send the notice to vacate?
Most likely, your tenant may have a quick question or two, you walk them through the process, and then they’ll move out by the proper date. If the tenant refuses to move out, then once the move-out day has passed, you can start the eviction process for the rental unit.
Notice to vacate sample letter template
Lease term: Start date-End date
Address, city, state, and zip code
Landlord’s contact information:
Address, city, state, and zip code
Tenant’s contact information:
Subject: Notice to Vacate for REASON (for example, Lease term completion)
Please consider this letter as written notice to vacate rental property at ADDRESS within 30/60 days. The notice period begins the day you receive this document.
This letter asks the tenant to vacate the property for the following reason (check the bubble):
o Abandonment of the property
o Damaged or Destroyed Property
o Failure to pay rent
o Lease term completion
o Illegal Activity
o Refusal of lawful landlord access
o Unauthorized person or pet living with the tenant
o Other Violation of the lease agreement: ______________________ (for instance, tenant can’t afford rent increase)
You are requested to complete the attached move-out checklist, hand over the keys, and vacate the premises by DATE, which will also function as the inspection and walk-through date. You can reach me at the above contact info with questions or concerns.
Legal Disclaimer: This article is meant for informational purposes only. Steadily makes no guarantees about the suitability of this info to your situation. You should seek professional legal advice for all questions about drafting a notice to vacate or any other document used in your landlord-tenant relationship.