1. Do You have a Lease or a Month to Month Rental Agreement? If you have a Lease, the expiration date is stated in the Lease itself. If you have a Month to Month Rental Agreement, then your obligation to pay rent ends 30 days after you give your landlord written notice that you are moving out. It does not matter what day of the month the rent is due. For example, if you have a Month to Month Agreement, and you give your landlord notice that you are moving out on March 10, then your obligation to pay rent rent ends on April 10. The fact that your rent is due on the first of the month is irrelevant. In this example, on April 1, you only have to give your landlord 10 days rent, not 30.

2. Proper Notice. Your move-out notice must be in writing. You have not given your landlord proper notice by telling him verbally that you are moving out or by calling him on the phone and leaving a voice mail message. Your notice must be in writing. it must be dated, it must state the address being rented, it must include a specific date by which your apartment or house will be vacant, and the notice must be signed by everyone named as a tenant in your lease or rental agreement. Your move-out date must be specific and definite. I sometimes get a notice like this: "I am moving out on July 1, unless I can't find another place to rent by then." This is not a valid notice because it is not clear that the tenant is leaving. You can deliver your notice to your landlord or the property manager in person. If you mail a move-out notice to your landlord, you should call him a few days later and confirm that he received it.

3. Surrender of Possession. Regardless of what you said in your move-out notice, you have not moved out until you have returned possession of the property back to your landlord. As long as people, pets, or your personal property is still on the premises, you have not moved out, and you, your roommates, and your co-signers continue to be liable for the payment of rent.

4. Cleaning and Garbage. Your landlord has a right to expect that your apartment will be left empty, clean, and undamaged, aside from normal wear and tear. Check inside all of the closets, cabinets, the stove, refrigerator, shed, and storage areas. The floors should be swept and carpets vacuumed. The stove and refrigerator should be clean. You have to take your junk with you. You cannot leave junk on the premises or piled up around the garbage can. Anything that cannot be put inside the garbage can with the lid closed must be removed from the premises when you leave. You cannot leave personal property on the premises for pick-up later. This includes furniture, bicycles, and motor vehicles. If you have roommates, make sure they are acting responsibly. You are responsible for your co-tenants, and they are responsible for you. If your roommates leave trash or personal property on the premises, remain in possession after the move-out date, damage the property, or in some other way obligate themselves financially to your landlord; you too are responsible for that, along with your co-signer.

5. Security Deposit Refunds. Security deposit refunds are regulated by state law. I cannot issue security deposit refund checks until possession of your apartment has been returned to me, and I cannot make exceptions to this rule. See Surrender of Possession above. Unless I receive written instructions to the contrary, I will issue just one check for the refund of your deposit made payable to everyone named in the lease. After a group breaks up, it is often difficult to get everyone to endorse one check. I can issue separate checks to each tenant in a group if you send me a letter, signed by all the co-tenants in your group, instructing me to do that. Your letter should state the name and mailing address of each person to receive a check and the percent of the deposit to be given to each person.

Several years ago, a tenant renting a house from me gave me a 30-day written notice that he was leaving. On the move-out date, all of his stuff was out of the house, just as he promised. The same day, the guy left town for vacation. I was shocked to discover the next day that all of this guy's stuff was still on the premises. He had taken all of his personal possessions out of the house and put them in the crawl space under the house. This guy had a lot of stuff. He had over 200 books in the crawl space, plus furniture, electronics, clothing, bedding, and a lot of other things. In his mind, he had moved out, but that wasn't the way I saw it, and I would not return his security deposit until he returned from his vacation and removed all of his property from the premises.

6. My Advice. If you are in a group, you should consider how you will pay the residual bills, that is, utility bills that arrive after everyone has moved out, so that the person who has the utilities in his name doesn't get stuck. Rid of junk NOW! The single most common mistake that tenants make when moving out is waiting until the last minute to get rid of their junk. This is a big mistake! Please remember that I cannot issue security deposit refund checks until all your stuff has been removed from the premises.

Mark Tarses

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