Notice to Vacate: Everything Landlords Need to Know

Renter turnover is something that comes with the job of being a landlord. Sometimes, it’s time for renters to move on whether they are moving states or buying a house, and other times landlords are ready for a new tenant who is better suited to the property. When it comes to the term “notice to vacate” this can mean several different situations for landlords and tenants. In most states, so long as a longer-term is not in effect, landlords and tenants can both send a no-cause notice to terminate the lease. On the flip side, both parties can give cause notice to end the rental agreement if the other has breached the rental agreement. These terms can seem confusing, especially for new landlords, so it’s important to know the difference and to be educated on your state and local laws regarding notices and what is required with them. Below we have separated out the four types of the most frequent notice situations landlords and tenants will want to be familiar with: 

#1: Tenant to Landlord: No-Cause Notice to Terminate

The first type of notice to vacate involves a notice to vacate letter from a tenant that is given to the landlord. This is a no-cause notice that serves as a lease termination letter – it is a written statement from a tenant to inform their landlord they will not be renewing their lease and will move out of the rental property. Landlords obviously should reach out to tenants beforehand in the lease renewal period to let them know how long they have before they need to let them know – a 30-day notice to vacate is typical, but there might be different time frames depending on the state and lease type. It should also be laid out in the lease agreement. This notice is the most common and counts as no cause because there were no landlord violations – a tenant just wants to move out. Renters should check the lease to see if a formal notice to vacate letter is required or if an email will work instead. The notice to vacate from tenants should include a few things:

  • The tenant’s current address
  • A forwarding address for return of the security deposit
  • The date they intend to terminate the rental agreement
  • The current date (to ensure the notice deadline is met)
  • Tenant’s signature

If a tenant lets you know they won’t be renewing their lease by phone or in-person, you can easily provide them with a notice to vacate agreement for them to fill out that has the necessary information listed above to make it easier – you can find this form, along with other important landlord documents, here.

#2: Landlord to Tenant: No-Cause Notice to Terminate

The next type of notice to vacate is similar to the above but comes from the landlord. This situation is uncommon because most landlords want to keep good tenants and continue to run their rental business. However, it does happen, for example, a landlord could send a no-cause notice to vacate if the landlord wants to personally move back into the rental, fix it up, or try to sell it. It’s important to know that most states allow no-cause notice, but some like California have restrictions where you can only ask tenants to vacate for specific reasons – a no-cause notice to terminate is not an eviction notice. 

Remember, as a landlord, you should always be thinking about how to get the best ROI out of your rental properties, having great tenants and consistent rent is the best way to ensure this. If you’ve done proper tenant screening and you’ve found a tenant who is cooperative and pays rent on time, pushing for a lease renewal is the ideal situation. Check out our full lease renewal guide here.

#3: Cause Notice to Terminate: Landlord to Tenant

Cause notice to terminate from a landlord to a tenant occurs when the tenant has done something in violation of their rental agreement – such as failure to pay rent, unauthorized guests or pets, or other lease violations. This type of notice requires a cause/reason and must specify the reason and allow tenants a certain amount of time to “correct” the wrongdoing. For example, if a tenant fails to pay rent, landlords usually have to give a few days for the tenant to make the payment; in another example, if there was an unauthorized pet, the landlord could give notice that the lease would be terminated unless the tenant pays the pet deposit, or removes the pet if they aren’t allowed. 

Certain violations you have to allow the tenant to correct, others you don’t – such as damaging the rental property. Remember, the amount of time and specifics can vary from state to state so make sure to double-check with your local laws. Also, keep in mind that a termination notice lets tenants know when the lease will end if they don’t fix the problem at hand, but an eviction notice is given only after tenants remain at a property when their lease has been terminated. 

#4: Cause Notice to Terminate: Tenant to Landlord

A cause notice to terminate the lease by a tenant to a landlord happens when the landlord is at fault. For example, if landlords do not fix problems that disrupt the warranty of habitability, which implies that landlords will take care of any repairs that make the unit uninhabitable, then a tenant can give notice to the landlord. Things, like not fixing the toilet, not repairing the heat, or taking care of pest infestations, would qualify for this type of notice. 

However, it’s important to know how long a landlord has to fix something – often, it depends if the repair is deemed critical or non-critical. Critical repairs like a broken heater during the winter need to be taken care of typically within 3-7 days.  Repairs such as screen tears, dripping faucets, or noisy radiators would be considered non-critical and usually have a longer timeframe to repair, typically 10- 30 days. 

Other Things to Keep in Mind

While these different situations might seem confusing, as a landlord, there are a few things you should always remember:

  • In the lease, make sure you are following any state or local laws regarding how long the tenant has to give notice, and the way the notice can be given.
  • Be responsive with open lines of communication and know how to communicate with your tenants so any problems with each other or the rental can be fixed ASAP.
  • Unless the notice to vacate is no-cause, you can avoid having to terminate the lease by selecting great tenants from the get-go. This means thorough tenant screening with a credit check, background check, and eviction history to ensure you have the best person for your rental.

Notice to Vacate FAQs

Can my tenant give notice in the middle of a lease?

Typically no, they’d need to wait until the end of the term of the lease to give you notice, unless the landlord is violating the lease or laws, in which case they could provide a notice for cause.

Is a notice to vacate for cause the same as an eviction notice?

No, a notice to vacate establishes what is wrong, and a timeframe to correct or terminate. An eviction notice is given once the lease is terminated but a tenant still holds over and resides at the property beyond the end of the lease.

Can renters change their mind and take back their notice to vacate letter?

If a tenant has already given you their notice to vacate letter and you’ve found a replacement, then the agreement still stands and you are not legally obligated to allow them to stay. However, if you haven’t found a tenant replacement, you can consider working with the current renter to discuss lease renewal options.

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