Are you ready to leave your tiny, expensive apartment for a bigger, cheaper, better place? Congratulations! But before you hire the movers and turn in your keys, you have something to take care of first. You’ll need to write a lease termination letter to your landlord.
A lease termination letter is a formal notice to your landlord that you will be terminating the rental agreement. Your letter should be sent at least 30 days in advance of your move. If you’re leaving your apartment at the end of your lease, the lease termination letter should follow a standard format and include the following:
1. Specify the date you and your roommates plan to vacate the property. Generally your landlord will expect you to move out on the date your lease ends. You may be able to extend your lease on a month-by-month basis, but adding a few extra days for your move is usually not permitted.
2. Establish what will happen to your utilities. Will you request that service be shut off? Will you transfer the bills to your landlord’s name or the name of the new tenant? You may find guidance about what to do with utilities in your lease.
3. Arrange a walk-through with your landlord or super to inspect any damage and regular wear and tear on the apartment. If possible, you should be present for this walk through to make sure that the damage report is accurate and free of inflated damage assessments. If you and your roommates can’t be present for the walk-through, take dated digital photos of each room in your empty apartment before you leave.
4. Inform your landlord where and how you will return the keys.
5. Establish where the landlord should send your security deposit. Most leases specify when the security deposit will be returned — usually between 30 and 60 days. In most cases, you are entitled to the interest on your security deposit, minus certain fees.
You can find a sample template here: http://www.lscd.com/Home/
Breaking the Lease
Leaving before your lease is up? This will complicate things a bit. Your lease is essentially a contract; in signing it you agreed to the terms specified within it, including penalties for early termination. Take a close look at your lease to see whether it notes penalties that you may face if the lease is broken early, such as the loss of all or part of your security deposit. Even if penalties are specified in the lease agreement, you shouldn’t panic just yet. There are a few ways that you may be able to avoid early termination penalties.
Give Early Notice
If you know you’ll have to break your lease early, let your landlord know as soon as possible. Giving early notice will allow your landlord extra time to show the apartment and screen new tenants. The more time you give your landlord, the less of an inconvenience your early termination will be and the better your chances of avoiding penalties and fees. Call or visit your landlord in addition to sending a letter, and offer your assistance in finding new tenants. A cooperative attitude and a polite tone may make a world of difference in whether your landlord decides to penalize you.
When You Just Can’t Take it Anymore
If you are leaving because something about your apartment makes it unliveable — whether it is your loud neighbors or the disrepair of the apartment — you may be able to argue that your landlord has not held up his or her end of the lease agreement. Again, you’ll have to take a close look at your lease to see whether your landlord has defaulted on any of the promises made by the lease, including prompt repairs or a guarantee of “peace and quiet.” If you have reason to believe that the landlord has violated the lease, include the relevant sections of it in the termination letter. Politely explain how your experiences in the apartment have fallen short of reasonable expectations. If you anticipate a conflict, ask a friend who is an attorney to send the letter on his or her letterhead. Even if you have no intention of taking legal action, the hint of a legal conflict may convince your landlord to simply let you leave.
If all else fails, the Better Business Bureau or a local tenant association in your area may be important allies. You can find information about tenant organizations in your area here:
Again, your landlord may be more willing to let you leave with your security deposit if he knows you have enlisted the help of a tenant-rights group.
Breaking your lease is a risky move, but people do it all the time with few problems. Acting polite yet persistent can go a long way in helping you break your lease without consequences.