Q: I’m thinking of giving notice and moving out of my place. Any suggestions?
A: First, are you sure you want to move out? If you’re leaving due to a curable reason, you may want to give the situation a healthy look, especially if the rent or location is hard to match. Potentially curable problems run the gamut from noisy neighbors to increased rents to dripping faucets. Incurable problems include an undesirable location, permanent sources of noise, or a landlord unwilling or unable to fix problems.
If the problem may be curable, consider writing a simple and straightforward letter to the landlord to help iron out the problem. Is your rent too high? Rent increases are not engraved in stone. If rents are lower or the same for comparable units, give a few examples from some local research. Skip anecdotal evidence, such as "The neighbor down the street said I’m paying too much." Offer a specific suggestion for a solution to problems, such as "Please ask the neighbor above me to stop playing their jazz music loudly after midnight" or "Someone keeps taking my parking space on Friday nights."
No reply or simply rebuffed? After giving the situation some thought and effort to improve, consider this: Are you better off in or out of the place? If you’re not sure, start looking around and see if a comparable place is available that fits your lifestyle and budget. You may be surprised at the deal you have, especially with escalating rents and less rental property available in some areas.
In addition, factor in the costs associated with moving. It’s not just a matter of saying "I’m out of here" and packing up the van. Leaving your pad also means schlepping your life to a new location. Security deposits, utility transfer costs and the hassle of taking on a new address can also drain your time and your wallet.
Convinced it’s time to go? A courtesy phone call as far in advance as possible to the landlord or manager is often a good idea. Landlords appreciate the alert, which gives them extra lead time to arrange move-out details and refill the vacancy. Besides a considerate gesture, it helps to be on the good side of a possible reference source.
Be sure to check over the latest copy of your lease. Rental agreements often contain rules that must be observed if you want to see your security deposit again. Look for a section or paragraph covering "Required Notice." The details can be tricky, including time of the month that is acceptable, such as only the first day of the month or day of rental cycle. Giving notice without checking that section could result in extra rent charges. If no date or specifics are in the rental agreement, area law prevails. If you can’t find your rental agreement, request a copy from your landlord from their file.
In addition to lease rules, written notice is a basic pre-move-out requirement in California, usually 30 days in advance of departure. "A tenant who wants to end a periodic tenancy must give the landlord the same amount of written notice as there are days between rent payments," according to the guide "California Tenants," published by the California Department of Consumer Affairs. Their Web site, www.dca.ca.gov, includes a "quick hit" section that leads to landlord/tenant information. The DCA can also be reached by calling 1-800-952-5210 and publications requested at 1-866-320-8685.
What should your written notice include? Nothing fancy, just a legibly written notice addressed to the landlord and sent to the address where the rent is received. "Tenant’s Thirty Day Notice to Vacate" is a typical headline, followed by the date of the letter, move-out date, your name, and the complete address of the rental unit you are vacating. Language such as "the undersigned will deliver possession of described premises to you on or before expiration of 30-day period" is typically used. Date and tenant signature should be at the bottom of the letter. If possible, include the forwarding address for your security deposit or indicate when it will be provided. Put the letter in the mail and be sure it was received by giving the landlord a follow-up phone call.
Giving advance notice isn’t just a convenience, it’s a basic law everyone must observe. Keep in mind that unless another renter is taking over and paying rent, you may be charged the full 30 days, even if you’ve packed up and out and moved on.