Leases aren’t permanent. Whether you like it or not, they all have to come to an end at some point.
As a property manager, it’s very important that you know how and when to end a tenancy.
You or the tenant may end a tenancy but either way, a valid written notice of termination must be served.
There are so many things that a property manager must keep in mind when it comes to ending a tenancy. Of course, you want the whole process to go as smoothly as possible.
That’s why today, I’ll discuss the basic aspects of tenant notice to vacate. This can help you manage the end of a tenancy in one of the properties you’re managing.
Guide to a Tenant Notice to Vacate
The rules on a tenant notice to vacate differ from one state to another.
Normally, you’ll have to provide a reason for asking a tenant to vacate a property when you serve a tenant notice to vacate.
In some states such as California, you can give someone a tenant notice to vacate even without cause if he has a month-to-month tenancy.
In cases like that, as long as you follow the proper notification processes required by the law, then it’s valid. You just have to give a tenant notice to vacate.
Now I’ve already mentioned several times the term tenant notice to vacate. But what does it really mean?
What Is a Tenant Notice to Vacate?
A tenant notice to vacate is a written document that notifies of the desire to vacate a premise. A tenant notice to vacate can be given by either the property manager or by the tenant.
As a property manager, you have to realize that tenants cannot stay forever in the property.
It’s something easy to think about when you’re dealing with a bad tenant, of course. But when it’s a good tenant, it’s a little less desirable a thought.
A tenant notice to vacate can only be recognized and enforced if it follows the laws and regulations in your state.
That’s why it’s best to consult with an eviction lawyer or a specialist so you know you’re doing the right thing. They can tell you if your tenant notice to vacate is valid.
This will help to limit the overall time it takes for the tenant to vacate the property.
Before you start writing your notice, you have to know the types of tenant notice to vacate.
Types of Tenant Notice to Vacate
Sometimes, you may or may not have a reason for ending a lease. That’s why you have to choose what type of tenant notice to vacate you are going to use.
The first type of tenant notice to vacate is called a Notice to Terminate With No Reason. It gives the tenant ample time to vacate the premises without giving any reason for the lease termination.
You have to check with laws in your area to see if this is legally available.
This type of tenant notice to vacate is given within a specific number of days or weeks before the end of the lease term, depending on state laws.
The second type of tenant notice to vacate is called a Notice to Terminate With a Reason.
This kind of tenant notice to vacate is usually given due to non-payment of rent. However, there are other reasons this tenant notice to vacate can be made:
- Breach of contract by the tenant,
- Sale of premises,
- Destruction of premises, and
Whichever tenant notice to vacate you’re going to use, you need to follow specific laws on eviction notices.
That is, you have to make sure you’re not violating the tenants’ rights.
Also, you want to be clear about what you want to achieve (the eviction) and when it should happen.
This way, you won’t have to start the eviction process all over again because of a mistake.
During Move-out Day
Now that you’ve given the tenant notice to vacate, what’s next?
During the move-out day, of course, you have to be present so you can immediately inspect the premises. Take note of any missing pieces of furniture or equipment.
Also, look for any damages to the property. Lastly, don’t forget to take the keys from your tenants.
The tenant may immediately ask you for the rental deposit. If you’re an organized property manager, you may be able to return the tenant’s deposit on the move–out date.
Having a contractor or handyman readily available can help you during the process. They can evaluate the damage to the property (if any) and give you an estimate of the cost of repairs.
This will give you an immediate idea of how much to subtract from the security deposit (if your lease contract stated that it can be used for repairs, anyway).
Some meticulous property managers warn tenants of this when they serve them a tenant notice to vacate. It helps the tenant know what to expect on the move-out day.
When a tenant vacates a premise, they’re responsible for all their belongings. However, tenants will still have left-behinds for various reasons.
They either forget about them or leave them on purpose after getting a tenant notice to vacate.
Regardless of the circumstances, a property manager must still follow the right processes in dealing with the left-behinds.
Of course, you’d want to remove their left-behinds before the new tenants move-in.
Ideally, you should specify in the lease that any items left behind will be removed at the tenant’s cost. You may even put it in the tenant notice to vacate, to remind tenants of that clause.
Among the most common things left by the tenants are documents. These can include the following:
- Identity documents,
- Bank books or financial statements,
- Memorabilia, and
- Authorization documents.
When a tenant leaves, you are required to hold important documents for a set period of time.
Consult with a real estate lawyer in your area on how long you’re expected to keep the documents.
You should also ask for the specific requirements on how to store the documents.
Rubbish and Perishables
As for the rubbish and perishable items, they can be disposed of immediately. For example, trash left can be thrown away. These items have no importance.
Dying plants and perishable food can also be disposed of without the need to get consent from the tenant. That means you don’t have to notify them to dispose of such items.
Sometimes, removing items left by the tenants will cost you some money. You should list those items and deduct the cost of removing them from the tenant’s deposit.
Lastly, make sure that what you’re disposing of is really rubbish and perishable. If in doubt, you can always ask your tenant.
The tenant lease should include a list of items that are considered high-value items.
This can help you in determining which goods are of value. High-value items could include things like these:
- Clothing, and
Check your local laws to see if you’re required to store any items left behind regardless of value. When required by law, goods of value should be stored somewhere safe.
Notify the tenant about the items and ask them to collect these items as soon as possible. In some state laws, those items need to be stored for at least 14 days.
You can also consult a real estate lawyer to check if you need to store all of the items.
What to Do with Left-Behinds
Whatever items are left by your tenants, you have to specify that those will be disposed of at the tenant’s cost.
That means tenants will be charged for the disposal and removal of their left-behinds.
As a property manager, you must follow the proper process when goods have been left behind. Not doing so will result in an obligation to pay compensation.
Is It the End of Tenancy?
Before taking necessary action with regard to the left-behinds, it’s important to verify if the tenancy has already ended.
Keep in mind that tenancy is considered to still be in place unless the following are true:
- The tenant violates terms of their contract, and
- You decide to end the tenancy using local laws and regulations.
Sometimes you might think the tenant has abandoned the property without notice when in fact, they’re just on a vacation.
To verify this, contact them or their neighbors. If in doubt, apply for a tribunal. If not, keep the premises locked.
Follow tenancy removal laws and get court eviction processed correctly. After that, you may take control of the property to prepare to rent for new tenants.
Give Notice of Left-Behinds
Give a notice to the tenant if there are other items left on the premises. The notice can be given:
- In person,
- By telephone, or
- In writing.
You need to negotiate tenant leases. Also, you need to establish if you need to hold, notify or dispose of items left behind by tenants upon vacancy.
Having the lease is your legal protection of any type of dispute that could arise when a tenant vacates a property.
Lastly, if you haven’t heard back from the tenant, you can put a notice in a prominent space on the premises.
In case you have already contacted your previous tenant, you can talk to them about the time and day to pick up their left-behinds. But you should follow the legal procedures required to return them.
As mentioned, you can also charge the tenant for the cost of removal and disposal of their left-behinds. You can deduct that cost from their deposit.
If they have unsettled payments, you can’t take their goods as a replacement for their balance.
In some instances, your local laws or lease will require you to store the left-behinds. If that prevented you from renting out the premises, you can ask for an occupation fee from the tenant.
Occupation fees can be charged for each day goods were stored which equals to a day’s rent.
Sometimes, tenants don’t claim their left-behinds anymore. If that’s the case, you have a variety of options.
You can either donate the items to the charity or dispose of it in a lawful manner.
You can always go back to your lease. If there are terms about the disposal of left-behinds then you should follow that.
Also, always check legal requirements to avoid any legal action against you when disposing of tenant’s left-behinds.
If you want to make something out of those left-behind items, you can also:
- Keep them on the property if useful,
- Sell the items and give money to the tenant, or
- Sell the items and send money to the Office of State Revenue.
Unclaimed documents can be disposed of after 90 days. You can also return the documents to the issuing authority.
For Special Cases
For cases like abandonment or death of the tenant, consult with a real estate lawyer. Ask for help in resolving cases like these in the correct manner.
If you’re not sure what to do, you can also apply for an order from the Tribunal with regards to the goods.
Though this may take a few weeks, asking for their help will definitely protect you from legal actions.
Final Thoughts on a Tenant Notice to Vacate
In this blog post, we talked about the tenant notice to vacate and how to use it to vacate a property.
A tenant notice to vacate is an important document that notifies of a desire to vacate the premises. It’s typically illegal to make tenants move out of a property without a tenant notice to vacate.
You may or may not have a reason for ending a lease with a tenant notice to vacate. You can give a notice to terminate without a reason or a notice to terminate with a reason.
And when the tenant vacates, they might have left-behinds. Important documents and high-value goods should be kept safe for a set period of time. Rubbish and perishables can be disposed of immediately even without the tenant’s consent.
Keep in mind to always check your local laws to know the requirements on how to handle tenant’s left-behinds. If you’re not sure what to do, consult with a real estate lawyer.
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