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Sometimes you have to change apartments because of unexpected circumstances and need to give notice earlier than planned. In other cases, you just don’t know how to break the news to a landlord or management company.

Don’t despair — just follow the guidelines below and you can say your goodbyes without leaving money or bad feelings behind.

Know Your Lease

Your lease is your guide to the manner in which you should give notice and how much notice is required. Hopefully, you’ve become acquainted with this document during the course of your tenancy. If not, it’s time for a crash course.

Your lease will state all the terms of your rental agreement, how long you signed a contract for,  how many days of notice you need to give (in increments of 30), and what penalties or possibilities exist should you  have to take your leave early.

In some cases, you may owe your security deposit, a month’s rent or more. If you can, always give more notice than the lease requires. If you can’t, you may have to look into ways to get out of your lease early.

Keep in mind that the notice usually must coincide with the rental period, which runs in 30-day cycles and usually begins on the first day of the month. If you give your notice in the middle of the month, the notice period may not begin for another two weeks, when a new rental cycle begins.

Put it in Writing

A written letter and a phone call are the best ways to give notice, but check your lease for details. On your letter, put your full address and unit number and be sure it is dated. Next, provide the address of your manager or landlord. In the body of the letter state your intentions in detail: what day you’ll be moving out, whether you will be getting another tenant (if your lease allows) and if you plan to clean to get back your deposit.

Be sure to have all involved roommates sign the letter and also provide a forwarding address to which your security deposit can be sent. Keep a copy of your letter and either deliver it in person, send it certified mail or get delivery confirmation.

Click here for a sample letter you can use.

If it Gets Tense

Taking the above steps should protect you from any legal action or withholding of your deposit, assuming you have left the apartment in the same condition you found it. However, occasionally disputes do arise.

Know your rights and be sure to have documented any problems with the landlord or other tenants during your stay. Leaving your apartment under bad circumstances is like getting fired, and it can haunt your rental and credit histories, making you a less appealing candidate for the next landlord or lender. Each state and many cities have their own tenant organizations, many of which can be found at HUD.gov.

We don’t always have control of when we have to move, but there are still ways to exit your lease properly. Know the terms of your agreement and give as much notice as you can and you won’t have to worry about what your landlord says about you when you’re gone.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Champion Studio

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