How to fill out a notice to vacate

A small but important step for any renter at the end of their stay

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Where are you moving to?

document entitled vacate in all caps

When you decide not to renew your lease on an apartment or house, you need to inform your landlord with a notice to vacate letter. It may seem like a minor step, but it's one that ensures you don’t violate your rental agreement. We’ll go over what information you should include, when to send it and what could happen if you don’t.


Key insights

In most cases, a notice to vacate should be sent 30 days before your move-out date.

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Review your lease before writing the letter to ensure you’re complying with all rental terms.

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A notice to vacate must be sent in writing by email or regular mail.

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Notice to vacate explained

Moving is a labor-intensive job that requires you to stay organized and focused. In addition to the countless tasks on your to-do, list like switching over utilities, packing up your belongings and renting a moving truck, you also have to send a notice to vacate to your landlord. Also called a lease termination letter, this is a formal letter sent from a tenant to their landlord stating they won’t be renewing their lease agreement and will move out.

This letter should include the date you plan to move as well as your forwarding information should any questions come up and so your landlord can get in touch with you about returning your security deposit.

What to write in the notice to vacate letter

Your notice to vacate letter doesn’t have to be long, but it should contain the following information:

  • The current date (the date you send the letter)
  • Your landlord’s full name and address
  • Your full name and current address, including your unit number if applicable
  • A clear statement that you’ll be vacating in 30 days (or the number of days listed in your lease) and the move-out date
  • Your phone number, email address and forwarding address
  • A request that the landlord contact you to schedule a walk-through

This letter should always maintain a respectful tone, regardless of the circumstances under which you're leaving. You may choose to include a simple reason why you’re moving (e.g., needing a bigger space, relocating due to work), but don’t use this as an opportunity to go over all the problems you’ve had either with their management or with the home.

A notice to vacate is a legally binding document, and you want to preserve your relationship should you need your landlord as a reference in the future. It pays to be polite.

When should you write the letter?

Most renters should send this letter 30 days before their lease termination date, but this can vary based on your rental agreement. This is why you should always read through your lease to make sure you’re staying in compliance.

Most states require 30 days or one month’s notice, but others will differ, so it’s worth checking your particular state’s regulations. For instance, in Delaware you have to give 60 days of notice, while in Louisiana a tenant only has to give 10 days’ notice on a month-to-month lease.

Letter template

You can find examples of notices to vacate by doing a search online. Read over the example fully to make sure you understand the language before filling one out.

How to send your notice to vacate letter

Nowadays, it’s common for letters to be sent by email or through the Postal Service, but you can contact your landlord to see how they prefer to receive it. Seamus Nally, the CEO of TurboTenant, which assists landlords with rental management, was quick to echo this. “These days emails are usually just fine, but there are still plenty of landlords out there that require a very specific format and type of letter in order to consider it official,” he said.

If you do send a notice through regular mail, make a copy to keep for your own records. You may even consider sending it as registered mail to confirm delivery. “If you're not sure, I would just recommend doing both a formal, physical letter as well as an email to cover your bases legally,” Nally said.

Things to keep in mind when writing a notice to vacate

A notice to vacate is a fairly straightforward document, but there may be special considerations to take into account, depending on the terms of your lease. Before sending your notice, run through this checklist to make sure you have addressed the key points:

  • I’ve reviewed my lease beforehand and am in compliance with the terms.
  • I’ve included the date of the letter and the date I’m moving out.
  • My current address and forwarding address are included.
  • My contact information includes my phone number and email.
  • I’ve clearly stated my intent to vacate.
  • I’ve only included the necessary information.
  • My landlord’s full name and address are included.

What happens if you don’t provide a notice to vacate?

If you fail to provide a formal notice to vacate, you’ll be in violation of your lease and left vulnerable to the consequences. This most commonly means you’ll be on the hook for paying another month’s rent or a prorated amount, but it could also result in losing all or a portion of your security deposit or having to pay a penalty.

If you’re violating the terms of your lease by leaving early before the end of the lease term, you may be responsible for months of unpaid rent.

Where are you moving to?

FAQ

Is it always necessary to submit a notice to vacate?

It’s not always necessary to submit a formal notice, but this depends on your relationship with your landlord. At the very least, you need to send some kind of documentation to your landlord, even if it's just a short email. If you do opt for an informal route, always ask if they need to receive an official notice to vacate.

Can I take back my notice to vacate?

After you’ve sent your notice to vacate, it cannot be rescinded since it’s a legally binding document. However, if you later decide you do want to renew your lease and your landlord agrees to let you stay, then it may be allowable.

What if it’s not in my lease how many days I have to vacate the property?

When your lease doesn’t outline how the notice to vacate process operates, then state law determines the guidelines. Nally, the CEO of TurboTenant, says it is crucial that tenants look for these terms in their lease and, if they’re not there, turn to state law. “For example, in my state of Colorado,” Nally explained, “these notices have to be submitted at least 30 days before the tenant intends to move out, but in other states that time frame might be shorter or longer.”

Do I have to pay rent for the entire month that I move out?

You are responsible for paying rent for any time you’re in the unit, and this includes your final month as you’re moving out. One exception would be if you prepaid the first and last month’s rent when you initially signed your lease. Either way, check with your landlord so you’re on the same page. Ask about prorating if you plan to move out in the middle of the month.

Bottom line

Although some landlords may be OK with a more informal process for a tenant moving out, it’s generally a good idea to err on the side of caution and send a formal notice to vacate. By taking this simple step, you’ll give yourself peace of mind, knowing you’ve met your responsibilities as a tenant and are in full compliance with your lease. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and the more documentation you have to protect your interests, the better.


Article sources
ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
  1. The Delaware Code Online, "Title 25 Property Residential Landlord-Tenant Code." Accessed April 10, 2024.
  2. Louisiana Department of Justice, "Moving In, Moving Out, and Everything in Between!" Accessed April 10, 2024.
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