A Surefire Notice to Vacate Your Landlord Won’t Hate

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“It’s not you, it’s me… ”

Breakups, romantic or not, are tough. And they’re especially hard when they entail a potential reference, as is the case with leaving your lease. As eager as you may be to move out of your current pad, you don’t want to burn any bridges that could damage your future reputation as a tenant. So whether the rent is increasing, you’re moving in with your S.O., or it’s just time for a change, it’s best to part with your landlord on good terms.

Here’s how to tell your landlord you’re moving out (without making them hate you):

Double check the terms of your lease

There are two typical types of leases: Month-to-month and fixed-term. Month-to-month leases are typically more flexible, and generally only require 30 days’ notice to the landlord. Fixed-term leases tend to run longer, usually one calendar year. If you’re on a year-long, fixed-term lease, the general rule of thumb is 30 days’ notice before your lease is up (but check your lease carefully – some cities require a minimum 60 day notice). If you break the lease and decide to leave early, you may have to sacrifice your security deposit (and good rental history).  

Other things to look out for in a lease include automatic renewal, and a set termination clause. A set termination clause provides clear instructions on what to do if you’re planning to move out at the appointed, end-of-lease time. If your lease doesn’t have this clause, the safest bet is to follow the rules of your state. In California, for example, unless your lease stipulates otherwise, you must give your landlord 30 days’ notice to terminate a month-to-month lease.

Another important lease stipulation to look at: move-out rules. Do you need to reserve an elevator time, or request a parking spot through your building manager? Does your landlord need a certificate of insurance from your movers? Most landlords won’t hand over the security deposit until after you move out, so making sure your move-out goes smoothly (and doesn’t involve any damage!) is key to getting all that deposited cash back. Using a trustworthy service to help with your move is key – so book a Dolly to get moving help that’s so careful and patient, even your landlord will be impressed.

If you need to leave early, check state laws

If you’re forced to break your lease early because of pressing circumstances, you might be in the clear.

Some states offer protection if your present rental unit violates health or safety codes, like pest control, waste removal, fixing mold problems, and failing to follow structural guidelines. Some also offer flexibility if you need to break your lease because of health issues, or if you need to move for your job. And if your landlord is illegally increasing rent before your lease renews, or breaks your privacy rights – i.e., enters the property without giving proper notice – you can likely leave the unit early, sans penalty.

Start crafting the perfect “Notice to Vacate” letter

Now that you’ve brushed up on the terms of your lease and are sure you’re in the clear (or ready to accept the consequences), cue the knuckle crack: It’s time to get writing your notice of intent to vacate letter.

(Psst: This is where some advance planning comes in handy: if you want your security deposit back by the time you move out, it’s recommended you request it, in writing, two to three months in advance.)

Your “Notice to Vacate” letter should look something like this template (adapted from Apartment Guide):

(Your name and your NEW address – this is where your security deposit check will be sent!)


(Your landlord’s name and official address)

Subject/RE: Notice of Intent to Vacate

Dear (Landlord’s name),

This letter constitutes written notice of my intention to vacate my apartment on (date), the end of my current lease. (You can enter a reason here, if you’d like – but it’s a good idea to keep the tone pleasant or neutral, since you have your rental history to consider.)

Please recall that I made a security deposit of $______ on (date your security deposit was paid). Since the apartment is in good condition, I expect to receive that deposit refunded in full.


(Your name)

Sounds official, right? The notice is a little bit different if you’re vacating before the end of your lease. Here’s a template to use if you need to break your lease, adapted from

(Your name and new address)


(Your landlord’s name and official address)

Subject/RE: Notice of Intent to Vacate

Dear (Landlord’s name),

For the past (number of days/months/years), I have been living at (address of your current rental). Although my lease does not terminate until (lease termination date), it is necessary that I move out earlier due to (list the specific reason you need to leave, such as family emergency, job relocation, etc.).

I intend to vacate the premises on (day, month, year). I will call you on (specific date) to discuss the matter.

Should you need to contact me in the meantime, you can reach me at (your phone number).


(Your name)

Figure out how your notice to vacate needs to be delivered

You have your letter drafted, now it’s time to figure out how to send it. Some landlords require the notice being delivered via mail, others accept email. Check your lease, or contact your landlord’s office, to see what they prefer.

Once you determine how you need to get your notice to your landlord, you can finally say: signed, sealed, delivered – I’m out!

Ask for a reference from your landlord

If everything went well between you and your landlord – in other words, you always paid your rent and utilities on time, and didn’t make too much noise or trouble, and didn’t damage your rental, and followed all above protocol – then don’t be afraid to ask for a reference!

This will come in handy for future rentals, since landlords often go off credit scores and references when vetting potential tenants. Ask for a reference letter vouching for your quality of tenancy, and make sure to keep your landlord’s contact info handy in case you need to forward it when applying for future apartments.

It would be great if you could just send over the lyrics to Billy Joel’s Movin’ Out in lieu of an actual letter. Until that day arrives, follow these steps to make sure everything is kosher during your move-out process. And when you’re ready to move, you don’t need to send a letter to get the best help around – just download the Dolly app and book your Helper for your easiest move yet.  

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