Moving out of a rental property entails quite a few responsibilities, to begin with. If you choose to do so before your lease officially ends, the same task becomes a little more complicated. Either way, there are a bunch of responsibilities that fall on the shoulders of the tenant and you need to see through those. We do realize that this process might be confusing and cumbersome. So, here is a 101 on how to move out of a rental property that should make the process as smooth as possible.
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Things You Need To Know/Do
Step 1: To begin with, you need to inspect the house and document everything as soon as you move in. If you haven’t, do so now. Then, make sure you put every repair request, maintenance, and dispute in writing.
Step 2: Make sure to go through your rental agreement to see how much notice you have to give. In most cases, a 30 days’ notice should suffice. However, if your landlord or building manager has specified an amount of time, you need to abide by it.
Step 3: Inspect the property and make repairs that the renter is responsible for. In case you do have any repairs on the property, collect receipts for the same and make sure you keep them with you. This will help you in case a dispute comes up during the process of moving out.
Step 4: Now comes the moving and cleaning. Move out all the things that you brought into the house and clean the house thoroughly. After this, take multiple videos and photos of the entire property and get a move-out inspection arranged with the management of the place, or your landlord.
All of these things are part of the general process of moving out. However, before every step, refer to your agreement and make sure you are following the terms and conditions stipulated. As an extra step for security, go through the local and state laws as well.
In essence, these are all the steps that you would need to follow in order to have a hassle-free moving out process. However, these can also get pretty confusing. So, here’s a breakdown of every step in the process of moving out of a rental property.
Every lease includes the responsibilities of the tenant before they move out. This includes repairs and maintenance obligations, transfer of utilities, and any other task that needs to be taken care of. If you’re planning on moving out, the first thing you need to do is to go through your rental agreement and figure out what falls on your shoulders in order to end your lease properly.
One thing you need to remember is, the extent of a majority of your responsibilities will vary depending on whether you have a fixed-term lease or a month-to-month lease. Moreover, every building manager and/or landlord has their own system, which includes a number of requirements and policies for the tenant. So, you need to familiarize yourself with them as well.
Lastly, the lease will also have the notice period for your vacate notice. In most cases, you have to give your landlord a notice 30 days before you move out. However, if a specific time frame is specified, make sure you abide by it.
Once all of this is done and you have a clear understanding of the tasks you need to finish before moving out, make sure you set deadlines for as many tasks as possible and add them to a calendar. This way, you have an exoskeleton of a plan, making the whole process much more manageable.
Give Your Landlord A Vacate Notice
Every rental agreement contains the amount of time you need to keep between giving a move-out notice and actually moving out. The universal standard for this is 30 days. However, some managers or landlords might stipulate a different time frame. In either case, we recommend you deliver this notice a week before your actual notice period starts.
Your move-out notice should include the specific date when you will move out, your new address, a statement announcing the good condition of the rental property, and a request to have your deposit refunded.
If you’re moving out of your rental property before the lease officially ends, you’ll have to provide the reasons for leaving and ask your landlord to cancel the lease for the remainder of its validity. Another way to deal with this is to ask your landlord or manager to let you sublet the apartment (where you find a tenant who pays you and then you pay the landlord).
However, the landlord has every right to not accept any of the options listed above. Or, it might so happen that you are not able to find a tenant to sublet your apartment to. In either case, you’ll be responsible for paying the rent until the lease ends.
Everything up until now was under the assumption that the reason you’re moving out before your lease ends is not legally justified. However, there are a few scenarios where your reasons might make it legally okay for you to move out. The reasons are as follows.
In all US states, active military service members have the legal right to move out before their lease ends without any penalty. However, a renter who fits this description will have to provide their landlord with a move-out notice. This notice should include their intent to leave and a copy of their orders.
If the lease is a month-to-month agreement, it will end 30 days after the landlord receives the vacate notice. If it’s a fixed-term lease, the agreement will end in the month following the one when the notice was delivered.
Breach Of Peaceful Enjoyment
As a renter, if you feel that your ability to enjoy the rental property is interfered with, you might have justifiable reasons to end the tenancy early. This includes a number of behaviors on the landlord’s end like turning a blind eye to complaints, entering your property without proper notice, and permitting or partaking in illegal activity.
We recommend you contact a landlord-tenant attorney who is familiar with the local laws and precedents before you actually give a notice of this nature to your manager or landlord.
‘Constructive eviction’ is the term that’s used to describe a rental property that is not fit and habitable. A landlord’s failure to maintain the property to an extent where it is inhabitable is often termed a ‘breach of the implied warranty of habitability’. These are the terms you will have to familiarize yourself with if you are to send a notice with this reasoning.
Since the property allocated to you is not livable, you’re essentially evicted for all practical reasons. However, some states do not recognize constructive eviction, or are very stringent about it. So, make sure you contact a local landlord-tenant attorney to make sure you have a standing case.
There’s a list of reasons that most states accept as credible, allowing the tenant to move out before the lease ends. These include relocation for a job, familial issues (mostly health-related), or because the tenant is experiencing domestic violence. However, since there’s no standardized list for the entire country, contact a credible lawyer before you make a move.
Inspect And Repair
First things first, when you’re moving out, you’re supposed to return the rental property in the same condition that it was in when you moved in. So, you need to inspect the entire house for any damage that the property has gone through during the duration of your stay. We suggest you begin with the condition report from when you moved in, to get a clear idea of what exactly you’re responsible for.
The typical wear and tear that happens in a house that is lived in is generally accepted. However, any holes and cracks in the walls, dents or chipped paint on the walls and doors, broken windows, and damage to all appliances like the oven, the dishwasher, the AC, etc. are the responsibility of the tenant.
Lastly, take a look at the plumbing, electricals, and embellishments like light fixtures and wall hangings along with the color of the walls (if you changed that after you moved in) to make sure they are in appropriate condition as well.
If you have to get any repair work done, make sure you document all of it and collect receipts for it as well. If you’ve made any improvements alongside repairs, you can request your landlord to deduct the amount you spent from your rent.
If you have any unpaid bills after you move out of your rental property, your landlord has the legal right to make those payments from your deposit. So, make sure you pay off any utility fees, service bills, and any other taxes that might be due.
Next, inform all of your service providers about the date of your moving out and ask them to disconnect their services from that date. Make sure you take readings of all meters like gas, water, and electricity on the day you move out. We recommend you photograph them too. If it so happens that you have to move before some bills are due, leave that amount with your landlord unless those bills can be paid online.
Empty The House Out
Regardless of whether you’re taking everything from your rental unit to your new house, you need to take all of your belongings out of the old house. Otherwise, the landlord can charge you for having to dispose of your belongings.
So, make sure you go through every inch of storage and take everything out. Even stickers on the walls and magnets on the fridge. Look around the yard, too. Make sure you haven’t left anything there. Lastly, take all the trash out of the house, since that can be charged for as well.
Most leases will have specifics about how much cleaning is expected of the tenant when they move out, or simply a clause stating that the house is to be returned ‘neat and tidy’. In any case, we recommend that you try to leave the place cleaner than it was when you moved in. Also, document it as much as possible. This will help you save the stress of haggling with your landlord about dust on a ledge.
As a tenant, we recommend you take one part of the house on and keep on cracking until you run out of space. Dust the furniture, wipe the doors, windows, and frames. Disinfect wherever possible, and steam or dry clean curtains, mattresses, and carpets. Then move out of the actual house and clean any patios, decks, sheds, and garages that might be on the property.
If it’s affordable, hire professional cleaners to help you with the task. You can also reach an agreement where you get a little bit of a discount if you help them with the cleaning. If you are cleaning the entire place yourself, start as early as possible, and maybe get some friends to help in exchange for beer and pizza!
Once you are ready to move, you should keep some proof of the condition you’ve left the rental property in. We suggest you click photographs and videos of the place before and after cleaning as well as any repair work to be done that you’ll be paying for.
Make sure you also document the place after you take everything out and try to include the date in the photograph. This will serve as evidence in case any complaints, disputes, or general grief comes your way after you leave.
Get A Move-Out Inspection
After you’re done cleaning the entire place, and ideally even moving all your belongings out of the house, arrange an inspection with your landlord. Contact the landlord and ask them to conduct a walkthrough of the place to see if what you’ve written in the vacate notice, and what they have written in the rental agreement, checks out.
When the walkthrough inspection is going on, make sure you are present. If you won’t be able to make it, appoint somebody to be there on your behalf. That way, if any issues do arise during the inspection, a mutual solution can be worked out then and there.
Collect Your Tenancy Deposit
You are legally entitled to collect the tenancy deposit that you paid when you moved in. After you move out, you need to send a written request to your former landlord by certified mail. Make sure that you request a return receipt when you send that request across.
Depending on where you live and where your last rental unit was, the landlord will have about two to three weeks to send the deposit back to you. If the landlord doesn’t send the money across, they need to send a written statement of all deductions from the deposit.
However, if the landlord does not communicate with you in any way, or you disagree with the deductions, you are entitled to sue them in a small claims court to settle the issue.
To put it briefly, moving out of a rental unit is not rocket science. You need to read the documents that you ideally should have in your possession, clean, pack, document, move out, and ask for your deposit. However, the thing with a process like this is, it can become very messy, very fast. So, keep calm and take a breath every now and then. We hope you found what you were looking for in our guide for moving out of a rental house. Happy moving!
FAQs On How To Move Out Of A Rental Property
Can I Just Leave My Rented Property?
The only way you can move out of your rental property without paying rent for the validity of the tenancy is if your lease has a break clause. However, if you abscond your property/landlord, they might take you to court or file a complaint with the local police department.
In order to tell your landlord that you’re moving out, you’ll have to send them a vacate notice, which is also known as a move-out notice. This notice is generally sent to the landlord one month before moving out.
Can A Tenant Move Out Before The Lease Expires?
Of course, a tenant can move out before their lease expires. However, if they are moving out before the end of your lease, they will have to give a justifiable reason, or work it out with the landlord.
What Happens If I Break My Lease?
If you break your lease agreement without proper communication (improper reasons or notice period), you might end up losing your tenancy deposit. These can be justified by the landlord as repair costs, advertising costs, or any other cost incurred when re-renting the unit.
Alex Sherr is the founder of My Long Distance Movers, a blog that provides moving information and resources for people who are relocating. He has more than two decades of experience in the moving and relocation industry, and he is passionate about helping people relocate smoothly and efficiently. When he's not writing or blogging, Alex enjoys spending time with his wife and two young children.