The notice to vacate is a common trope in many shows and movies. You often see it as a piece of paper taped to the apartment door of the protagonist, or otherwise being served up by the villainous landlord.
But what exactly is a notice to vacate, and how does one work? Do you need to give one to your landlord if you plan to move out? What happens if you get served with a notice to vacate but your lease isn’t finished?
Let’s answer all your questions!
What is a Notice to Vacate?
A Notice to Vacate is a legal document that you send to your landlord that formally informs them that you will no longer renew your lease after it expires. While it does not need to be notarized, it does need to be recognized by the landlord to be binding. Thus, it is best to create two copies and have them both signed by your landlord. This will serve as proof that you gave a formal notice to vacate in a timely manner and it was acknowledged by your landlord.
You can also send a Notice to Vacate if you plan to terminate your lease early. However, keep in mind that sending a notice to vacate to end your lease prematurely will not exclude you from any penalties written in your lease agreement.
Can My Landlord Send Me a Notice to Vacate?
Yes, your landlord can send you a Notice to Vacate. Typically known as an eviction notice, landlords generally give these to problematic tenants who violate their lease agreement. They can also send this notice in the case of a month-to-month tenancy.
30 vs. 60 Days to Vacate
In most states, the required period to notify a tenant to vacate is 30 days. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. In California, for example, you are given up to 60 days to vacate your apartment if you have lived in the unit for a year or more. In New York, you can have up to 90 days if you have lived in the apartment for more than two years or your lease agreement is good for at least two years.
Tips on Sending a Notice to Vacate
When Should You Send a Notice to Vacate to Your Landlord?
It depends on where you’re renting an apartment. If you live in New York City, you should send a Notice to Vacate within 30 days of terminating your lease. This applies whether you’re terminating early or your lease expires.
However, under the New York City Tenant’s Rights Guide, your landlord will likely offer you a chance to renew your lease approximately 90 days before it is over. It is good practice to respond to the renewal offer with your intent, whether you’re planning to renew or not. If you’re not planning to renew your lease, you should take this opportunity to let your landlord know about your plans.
While it is not a requirement to respond to your landlord’s offer, responding in a timely manner does give you points as a responsible tenant. It might even put you in a good position to ask for a character reference for future rental applications.
Trust us, whether you renew your lease or not, your landlord will appreciate hearing back from you!
How Should You Write a Notice to Vacate?
When you write a Notice to Vacate, it is best to keep it formal, short, and straightforward. You should include the date that you gave the notice, as well as a detailed explanation of your move-out process. You should include the move-out date, your contact information, and a forwarding address. Your landlord will need this information to return your security deposit, forward your mail, and speak to you about any potential issues such as property damage.
If you don’t know how to write a Notice to Vacate, we’ve included a template for you below!
Do You Really Need to Send a Notice to Vacate?
Technically, it will depend on your state’s landlord-tenant law. However, even if your landlord does not require a notice to vacate, it is in your best interest to send a formal letter. If you don’t give proper notice, it’s easy for miscommunication to arise. You might even end up losing your security deposit or you could have a lawsuit filed against you.
What Happens After I Send the Notice to Vacate?
After you send your notice, you should schedule a property inspection walkthrough with your landlord. Make sure to be present during this inspection, since your landlord will take note of any repairs that need to be done to the property. The cost of the repairs will be taken out of your security deposit, so you should make sure that you’re not getting stuck with unreasonable repairs!
If you are breaking your lease early without cause, you will trigger the penalties clause in your lease. Typically, these penalties are equal to around 2-3 months of rent, as well as forfeiting your deposit.
However, you can negotiate with your landlord, particularly if you do this prior to sending a notice. In many cases, landlords will make a good faith effort to mitigate their losses by finding a replacement tenant to occupy the unit. Of course, it will help if you find a replacement before you give your notice to vacate the apartment.
Unfortunately, if you or your landlord cannot find a replacement, you will be on the hook to pay the penalties in full.
How to Write a Notice to Vacate Letter
Here is a template that you can use to provide notice to your landlord.
(Address of Your Apartment, Apt ###)
(City, State, ZIP Code)
Re: Notice to Vacate
Dear (Landlord’s name),
Please be advised that this notice serves as my written (30, 60, or 90) day notice to vacate (Apartment Number and Address). Pursuant to my lease dated (insert lease start date), I will be vacating the unit when my lease expires on (insert lease end date).
Please schedule me at your earliest convenience so that we can schedule a walk-through and inspection of the apartment together. Additionally, I would like to know when my security deposit of $ (amount indicated in the lease agreement) will be returned.
I further ask that you please provide me with an itemized list of deductions that will be taken out of my security deposit to cover repairs and damages beyond normal wear and tear within two business days after our walkthrough.
Please note my forwarding address and contact information for all future correspondence.
(Insert forwarding address, number, and email address, if applicable)
(Your name above your signature)
Note: You can add another section that gives a brief explanation of why you are moving out, but this is more of a courtesy to your landlord rather than a requirement. If you are terminating your lease early, giving a brief explanation might help you with negotiating the penalties. Also, be sure to include a “received” line at the bottom of the notice so that your landlord can acknowledge receipt of your letter.
I received a notice to vacate but I don’t know why. What should I do?
If you receive an eviction notice from your landlord without reason, you can get legal help to find out why. Landlords are not allowed under law to terminate a lease early without cause. If your landlord is unable to give a justification, you can file a lawsuit against them. However, once your lease ends, your landlord can terminate the lease without reason.
Can I appeal a notice to vacate?
To a point, yes. You can appeal an eviction notice. However, keep in mind that if you lose the appeal, this will go on your record as a tenant. Having this mark on your record might make it difficult for you to rent in the future.
Not to mention, filing a lawsuit against your landlord could prove costly. It might make more sense to just find a new apartment.
There are three good reasons why you should take the time to give the notice to vacate to your landlord once you decide to move out. First, it formally marks your intent to end your tenancy and it protects you from any legal issues down the road. Second, you will have the chance to go through a proper walkthrough with your landlord and ensure that you get as much of your security deposit back as possible. Finally, you will be seen as a responsible tenant who knows how to respect a landlord’s time. It’s a win-win-win situation!