Updated November 2021
While no landlord wants to have to write this type of notice, you must learn how to handle a notice of termination of lease. Whether the tenant has broken the lease or you are changing the property in a way that requires them to go, a termination notice is a must.
However, you cannot simply write up a letter that says it’s time for the tenant to go! Instead, you must take into account specific timelines and ensure that you give proper notice to the tenant.
If you don’t write and deliver this notice properly, you could actually be taken to court!
To avoid the risk of problems arising, we’ve put together a guide about how to handle this important notice. Learn about what this notice does, when it should be used, and how to write up your own.
This guide can help landlords of all experience levels improve how they handle tenancy termination.
By the end of this blog post, you’ll feel more comfortable handling the removal of any tenant via this type of notice if necessary.
A Table Of Contents For Termination Notices
Ready to get a better grasp on how to write end-of-lease notices and other termination letters? Here’s what you need to know:
- What Is A Notice Of Termination Of Lease?
- Termination Of Lease: When It’s Permitted
- What To Include In A Written Notice Of Lease Termination
- Termination Of Lease FAQs
- Can a landlord terminate a lease?
- How do you end a lease agreement?
- When to give notice on a rental property?
- How do you give a 30-day notice to a tenant?
- How to write a letter to terminate a lease agreement?
- Is terminating a lease the same as eviction?
- Do you have to give a 30-day notice on a month-to-month lease?
- Terminating Leases: Do It Right
What Is A Notice Of Termination Of Lease?
A notice of lease termination is a legal document, which conveys to a tenant that they will be required to move out of the property before the original contract period ends.
These notices are used to communicate important details about the “when” and “why” for the termination.
In most states and areas, it is legally required that you give a written notice of termination to tenants. While you can also give them verbal notice, this legal document must be properly written and delivered for the termination to be valid.
Suppose you skip giving this document to a tenant. In that case, you could be required to allow them to stay on the property for a longer period than you want or you could be held financially responsible for any hardships they go through due to the lack of notice to vacate.
Termination Of Lease: When It’s Permitted
As mentioned above, this notice must be given to tenants if you plan to terminate their lease early. But when is it okay to give this notice and when is it not okay? After all, a lease is a legally binding contract. You cannot simply ask a tenant to leave at any time for any reason.
There are three main reasons that a landlord will want to use a notice of termination of tenancy.
#1: Doesn’t Pay Rent
The first and most common situation where this notice is used is when a tenant is not paying rent or consistently fails to pay rent.
In this case, sending out this notice might not permanently end the lease period. If you give them the chance to pay up and they agree, your lease may continue. Otherwise, this notice will get them off of your property since they are not paying.
Tenants who don’t pay rent on time once are unlikely to be evicted for this offense, but repeat offenders may be able to be evicted for this transgression. If you have a tenant who continues to pay rent late, send this notice to terminate and do not collect any rent from them until you go to court. Collecting rent restarts the process, so you want to wait until you get a court judgment to continue.
#2: Violates Lease Or Rental Agreement
If you discover that a tenant breaks any clause included in your lease or rental agreement, you can send them a notice of lease termination. As soon as they break the lease, you’re free to ask them to leave the property.
Examples of behavior that might lead to this type of termination include doing unapproved renovations, owning secret pets, or having more people living on the property than you agreed to.
Sometimes, tenants will do something that you don’t feel is appropriate at a rental unit but that isn’t an actual lease violation. That is why it is so important to ensure that your lease covers specifics about as many aspects of the property as possible.
For example, make sure to include the following in your lease agreement:
- What day rent is due and how it should be delivered
- Rules on guests and long-term guests
- Information on who is responsible for yard maintenance, snow clearing, etc.
- Information about trash disposal
- Pet rules and deposit information
These are just a few of the areas that you will want to ensure your lease covers. New landlords often have trouble making a comprehensive lease; make sure to regularly review and update your lease template to include as many specifics as possible.
#3: Breaks The Law On The Property
The final reason that many landlords find themselves needing to use this notice is during situations where a tenant breaks the law on the property.
While you cannot terminate the lease in the case of someone getting arrested or breaking the law while not on the property, you can terminate the lease if they commit illegal actions on your property.
Though this doesn’t have to be included in the lease agreement, adding a short clause about lease terminations being valid if the law is broken on the property can speed up the process and prevent any misunderstandings.
What To Include In A Written Notice Of Lease Termination
Now that you know when it is appropriate to use a notice of lease termination, it’s time to learn about exactly what you must put in the notice.
As a landlord, it is your responsibility to be fully aware of the local laws for leases and lease termination. While all of the following information is accurate for general notices, you should double-check your local rules on notice periods to be sure you get it right.
The following should be included in your notice:
- Tenant & landlord names
- Notice period (how long they have to leave or otherwise act)
- What they must do to stay (if applicable)
- Details about why they are receiving the notice
Depending on the specific situation, your notice of termination of a lease by landlord may include more information. However, this is the bare minimum that must be included.
Giving as much information as possible about the exact lease violation in question, as well as what is going to happen next, can be beneficial. Tenants may have questions about how to proceed; answering these concerns before they’re asked can help to shorten the overall process.
Anytime you send out a notice of lease termination, you want to let the tenant know if there is anything they can do to fix the situation and stay on your property. Three different situations may apply.
#1: Pay Rent Or Quit
The tenant has a set period (typically 3 to 5 days) to pay up on their rent. If they do not pay up on the rent or otherwise create a payment plan with you, they must leave your property at the end of the notice period.
This type of notice should be used anytime a tenant is late on their rent. Even if you expect the tenant to pay the rent in a day or two, it’s best to send out this notice as soon as a tenant is late and any allotted grace period is over.
If the tenant pays right away, no problem. If the tenant never pays up, you will have already started the process that leads to eviction. Sending the notice sooner rather than later will help to protect your business long-term.
#2: Fix Or Quit
If the tenant violated a specific part of the lease agreement, you can give them a short time period to remedy that violation. For example, you can ask a tenant who has unapproved pets to find them a new home within a month or they must leave.
There are many different situations where this would apply, but giving them a chance to fix the violation could prevent you from having to find a new tenant.
In this situation, it is up to you to determine how much time the tenant has to remedy the issue and how flexible you will be. A tenant who has repainted the entire unit without permission, for example, may need more time to remedy this situation than one who simply needs to mow their lawn.
Consider how long it will take to fix an issue and what is a reasonable amount of pressure to put on the tenant when making this choice. In some cases, the tenant may come back to you and request more time. It’s up to you to decide whether or not to accept an adjusted arrangement. Whatever you do, make sure that you have it in writing.
If you do end up needing to find a new tenant, try using a tenant screening service to ensure you choose a better tenant who is less likely to violate the agreement next time. Having the right tenants from the beginning can prevent this type of violation situation.
#3: Unconditional Quit
If the tenant has done too much to be remedied or has been given notices for late rent before, you may want to give out an unconditional lease termination letter.
As mentioned in the pay or quit section, the tenant has no choice but to leave after receiving the notice to vacate. If they do not leave, you will need to move on to eviction proceedings to reclaim your property.
Before sending out an unconditional quit notice, make sure that the violation or money owed is a severe enough issue to send this type of notice. Sending an unconditional quit notice for a minor infraction can lead to fines and court issues down the line, so you only want to use this in the most serious situations, such as notice when:
- The tenant has violated the lease agreement in a major, unrepairable way
- The tenant has done serious damage that requires long-term repairs in order to fix
- The tenant has not paid rent for multiple months
- The tenant is consistently late with their rent
Termination Of Lease FAQs
Can a landlord terminate a lease?
Yes. As a landlord, you have a right to terminate a lease as long as you are doing it for a valid, legal reason. The specifics of these reasons vary from location to location, but generally include the following:
- Nonpayment of rent
- Breaking lease terms
- Illegal activity at the property
- No longer want to renew the lease agreement
Whenever sending out a written lease termination letter, be sure to clearly explain why the letter is being sent. Tenants need to get an understanding of the reasons so they can move forward with the process with clarity.
How do you end a lease agreement?
To end a lease agreement, you must send a tenant written notice to terminate the tenancy. This lease termination letter will include the specifics of when and why it is necessary to end the agreement.
Even on a month-to-month lease, you have to stop the automatic renewal with a termination notice. If your lease agreement has any specific information regarding lease termination, the language used in the lease agreement should be followed.
When to give notice on a rental property?
Many landlords wonder when the appropriate time is to give the notice to terminate a tenant. Rather than being solely focused on the “why” of this notice, new landlords also need to learn “when” to send it.
You always want to send this notice as soon as it is legal and relevant to do so. The longer that you wait to send a notice, the longer it will take to resolve the situation.
If you are worried about a tenant paying rent or remedying the issue before they receive the letter, you can add some simple verbiage to the letter to account for this: “If you have already caught up on paying your rent before receiving this letter, please disregard the remainder of the letter.”
This simple sentence can prevent you from offending anyone with a letter while still enabling you to send out the notice as soon as possible.
Landlords who wait to send their notice until the issue has been going on for two weeks or longer are going to lose that much more time and money while trying to regain control of their property. Don’t fall into this trap; act quickly.
How do you give a 30-day notice to a tenant?
To give a 30-day notice to a tenant, you must send them a written notice letter. This letter should detail when they need to vacate the property, why they need to vacate, and where they can contact you with any questions.
Additionally, the letter should include information on what will happen next if they do not vacate the property by the specified date.
When sending this letter, using certified mail can be a great way to ensure the tenant receives and reviews the letter. By having the tenant sign to receive the letter, you can be certain they received it. Should you need to file an eviction case, the tenant will not be able to claim they did not know about their transgressions.
How to write a letter to terminate a lease agreement?
Are you ready to send out a letter to terminate a lease? This can be scary when you haven’t done it before, and sometimes using a template can make the process a bit easier the first time around. Learn more about this form and how to write it in our complete article here.
Writing letters like this one can be scary for new landlords, and that’s okay. Taking time to come up with a template for when you encounter each of these situations for the first time will set you up for long-term success. When you face the same situation again, you can simply load your template, make simple adjustments, and begin to seek resolution.
Is terminating a lease the same as eviction?
No. While there often is overlap between a lease termination and an eviction, they are not the same thing. Eviction is a legal process handled by the court system after a tenant will not leave the property following a valid lease termination by their landlord.
Terminating a lease can be done for reasons that aren’t nearly as dire or negative as eviction. For example, a landlord may be planning to sell the property, so they send out a lease termination letter to their month-to-month renters to clear out the property.
Eviction only occurs when a tenant will not comply with a valid and unconditional notice to vacate. A notice to vacate requires that the tenant leave and will lead to eviction if they do not.
Here’s a simple way to remember the difference:
- Terminating a lease is a formal way of ending an agreement between two parties on the status of the property.
- Eviction is a legal process that, when successful, leads to the removal of an unwilling tenant from the property.
Do you have to give a 30-day notice on a month-to-month lease?
Not necessarily. Many states require a 30-day notice to be given when terminating a month-to-month lease, but this varies from state to state. In some states like North Carolina, the amount of time required is as little as seven days; others require up to two months.
Research your state and local laws to find out what period is applicable to terminating this type of lease in your area before you send out a lease termination letter.
In the future, keep this clear between you and your tenant by specifying these kinds of terms in the original lease agreement. By researching it before the lease agreement is signed, you’ll be prepared for any potential confusion down the line.
Terminating Leases: Do It Right
Giving notice of lease termination can seem like a very stressful experience, but it doesn’t have to be. All it takes is a bit of planning and a clear structure to ensure that you are following the correct procedure when sending a lease termination letter.
Remember these important steps to protect yourself from potential issues when sending out a notice to terminate a lease:
- Have a valid reason for giving the notice
- Include the appropriate information
- Be prepared to file for eviction, if necessary
Going through giving notice like this to a tenant is one of the stickier parts of being a landlord, but you must be thorough with your work to ensure that you protect your business and investment.
Giving a lease termination letter as soon as there is a problem gives both you and the tenant a chance to make things better, and that can make all the difference!