There are plenty of reasons to terminate a rental agreement. Sometimes, the situation just doesn’t work out and you decide it is time to find a new place. Rocky relationships with roomies, landlords, or neighbors may drive you away. Or, you may find a new job or graduate before your lease runs out, and need to leave as soon as possible. This can be a problematic process if you don’t follow the right procedure. Below is a list of basic principles that everyone terminating rental agreements should know.
Basic Principles for Ending a Rental Agreement
- Look Over the Original Agreement Carefully. To make sure you end the rental agreement without having a conflict with your landlord, you should look over what it is you agreed to in the first place. There should be clear instructions on the proper way to end your lease.
- Give Notice. You cannot verbally mention to your landlord that you are considering moving out, and then expect him or her to accomodate you the next week. In the original lease, there should be a clear time listed as appropriate for notice (sometimes it can be up to several months, so always think ahead.)
- Put Everything in Writing. Notifying your landlord of your intention to leave should be done in writing. You should include all of your specific information- the date you intend to leave, your name and which unit you are occupying, and how to be contacted.
- Clean Up After Yourself! If you hope to get your safety deposit back, make sure you consult your original records and photographs and make a clear list of any damages and repairs that incurred during your tenancy. Also, clean the unit as best you can so you do not get charged for cleaning. After doing this, ask your landlord to inspect and sign approval of the state it is in. (You don’t want to get a bill a month later informing you of damages you are responsible for.)
- Subletting… If you are terminating a lease before the agreed time, you may need to sublet. This makes you the new in-between landlord, and you should yet again protect yourself in every way possible. Collect a safety deposit and full contact information from whoever you are allowing to sublet. Make sure your landlord is aware and in agreement with the new tenant. Draw up a new lease and have everything in writing. If this individual causes damages to the apartment, you want to have protected yourself as much as possible from legal liability.
- Closure Until you have handed in your keys, terminated the lease in writing, and settled all debts, do not assume you are free from responsibility. Make sure you have covered all your bases, discussed (and hopefully, received) your safety deposit, and discuss both verbally and in writing if anything remains left to be done with your landlord. It is better to be overly attentive to detail than to move on and be contacted weeks later to be informed you are still being charged due to a simple misunderstanding!