A rental agreement is a legally binding contract between a landlord and tenant, and lays out the responsibilities and requirements of both parties. The agreement also specifies the length of the tenancy, and the duties of each party if either wants to terminate the agreement, which may involve filing a Notice to Vacate or an Intent to Vacate. While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, each form has a different purpose.
While a Notice to Vacate and an Intent to Vacate signify the termination of tenancy, the difference is related to which party is filing the document: the landlord or the tenant. If the landlord is the filing party, the proper form is a Notice to Vacate, which provides official notice to the tenant that by a specified time and date the tenant is to vacate the premises. If the tenant is the filing party, the proper form is an Intent to Vacate, which provides official notice to the landlord of the tenant's intent to vacate the premises.
Landlord’s Reason to File Notice to Vacate
If a landlord is dissatisfied with a tenant’s performance under the rental agreement and wishes to pursue eviction, the agreement will be terminated "for cause," and a Notice to Quit, or a Notice to Cure or Quit, will be filed. Sometimes landlords do not have a reason to evict their tenants, but nevertheless want to terminate the tenancy. Filing a Notice to Vacate terminates the rental agreement without cause, provided relevant state law allows it and the rental agreement has expired. It is common for a landlord to provide 30 to 60 days notice for vacating the premises.
Tenant’s Reason to File Intent to Vacate
Depending on the language in the rental agreement, a tenant may be required to file an Intent to Vacate with the landlord, in order to comply with the terms of the agreement. Landlords may view the Intent to Vacate as the notification they need to start searching for a new tenant. Tenants who are unaware of the specific notice requirements may find out too late that they have to provide written notice of their intention to terminate the tenancy.
Penalties and Consequences
Proper notice on the tenant by the landlord is required if the landlord ends up taking legal action to remove the tenant from the premises. A landlord’s failure to properly provide a tenant with a Notice to Vacate can delay the legal process. If a tenant is unaware of, or does not follow, the termination requirement of providing a written Intent to Vacate to the landlord, the tenant may not be able legally to leave the property at the desired time and their rental agreement may automatically renew for another term, or convert to a month-to-month arrangement. Additional consequences could include a loss of security deposit or additional fines and charges.
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