Yesterday, I discussed situations that might require you to move out of your apartment. Follow these tips for a successful move. I’ve also included advice for breaking a lease early.
How to Break a Lease
If you break the lease early, you may be liable for the rent until your landlord finds a new tenant. However, there may be cases when you can break the lease early without penalty. Don’t sneak out if you need to move early. Instead be direct with the landlord, explain all the variables, and be flexible. Hopefully you’re landlord will find a new tenant quickly so you can get most of your money back.
If You Have a Roommate Staying On
If you’re leaving, but your roommate is staying, inform him that he has 30 days to find a new roommate. The new roommate will have to undergo a credit check, so inform that landlord of your intent as well. Then make sure a new rental agreement is signed before moving out. The new tenant will probably be the one to reimburse you for the security deposit, but some landlords will send you the check instead.
If You’re Moving for Cause
If you want to move due to maintenance issues, then contact your local housing office to determine which items are cause to break a lease. In most cases, the maintenance issue has to be related to habitability, such as a broken furnace. If you have case, you’ll first need to send your landlord a certified letter requesting the repair. If it’s not fixed in 30 days, you may have cause to break the lease. Your housing office can advise you about the correct procedure.
A decline in the neighborhood may not be cause enough because it’s not something your landlord can control, but you may have cause if you’ve been a victim of a crime in the building and your landlord did nothing to address the situation.
10 Steps for a Successful Move
Whether you’re moving in the middle of the lease or at the end of the lease, follow these steps to ensure the move is as straightforward as possible. No move is simple, but the less snags you hit the better.
1. Give written notice. Check your rental agreement to see how much notice you need to give. In most states, it’s 30 days. You should plan to be out at the end of the month, unless your rental agreement runs from a different date. You’ll most likely be responsible for the full month’s rent if you have to move out mid-month.
Include the following in the notice:
- Address and apartment number
- Date apartment will be completely empty and clean
- Future address (if available)
- Phone number for questions
Most landlords want tenants out on the last day of the month, but that could be a challenge if your new place isn’t available until the 1st. Try to find a new apartment that is currently vacant so you have a little overlap between the leases, even if you have to pay pro-rated rent on the new place for 2-3 days.
2. Acquire boxes. Last time I moved, I needed 40 boxes of varying sizes for a one-bedroom apartment. More than half of them were books. Look on Craigslist, eBay, or call a local box store to find what you need. Buy less than you’ll think you need if you’re going to a box store because you can always buy more later. You should also take advantage of all of your suitcases, duffel bags, and other various sacks.
3. Start packing early. I started packing as soon as I knew I was moving. That gave me time to organize my packing and get rid of stuff I no longer wanted. I spent the better part of a month doing a little bit each day.
4. Book your truck. It’s best to make the reservation early so you have time to shop around for the best deal. Get a larger truck than you think you’ll need, especially if you have a lot of books or furniture. I had a 14-foot truck (the recommended size for a one-bedroom) and it barely fit everything – and I’d already moved half the boxes to my new place.
If you don’t have a dolly already, rent one of those, too. U-Haul trucks come with furniture pads, although there is an extra charge. Factor that into your budget because you’ll have to untie them to use that space in the truck anyway.
5. Corral your friends. Call in favors from everyone you’ve helped move. If they can’t help on that day, that might be able to help in other ways. My best friend couldn’t help on moving day, but she did come over to help pack a couple times. Because I was moving into my boyfriend’s apartment (now husband), I was able to move a little at a time, so she also helped ferry stuff over before the official day.
6. Consider hiring movers. Movers are expensive, but it may be worthwhile if you’re moving from a rental to a home you own, or if you have an injury that makes moving difficult. My best friend once moved out of a fifth-floor walk-up. She hired two movers for two hours to lug her stuff down the stairs to the truck and it was well worth the money.
7. Clean the apartment and patch holes. As you take stuff off the walls and break down furniture, you’ll discover the original color of the carpet and walls. The first step is to give everything a good cleaning. Vacuum, sweep, or mop the floors, wash scuffs off the walls, and clean the bathroom and kitchen. Once all the pictures are removed, pull out any wall anchors and then patch the nail holes. Larger holes will probably be noticed during the inspection, so talk to your landlord if you have major damage to the walls, carpet, or tile.
8. File change of address notices. About ten days before you move, file a change of address with the post office. You should also call your cable company, telephone company, and utility companies to notify them of the change and arrange for installation in your new place. If you have online access to your bank accounts and credit cards, change those addresses online a few days before you move. Finally, call the subscription service or go online to update your address for any magazines or memberships.
9. Schedule a move-out inspection. Make an appointment to walk through the apartment with your landlord before you hand over the keys. Ask for a copy of the inspection report and a rough idea of what you’ll be charged for so you can compare it to the final tally your landlord deducts from the security deposit.
In most cases, you can’t be charged for normal wear-and-tear. In some states, you can’t be held liable for paint or carpet if you’ve lived in the unit for more than seven years, or if the paint or carpet is older than seven years. This varies, so check with a local housing office.
10. Provide a forwarding address for the security deposit. When you return the keys, give your landlord a written letter stating your new address. Request that the security deposit be returned to that address. In California, the security deposit less reasonable expenses must be refunded within 21 days. If you don’t receive it shortly after the deadline, send a certified letter requesting payment.
No one likes moving, but these 10 steps will make it easier. Just remember, be as good a tenant moving out as you would be moving in. The more careful you are, the easier it is to get your full deposit back.