- Give the landlord proper notice according to the terms of the lease. If there is no lease, a full rental period’s notice is required (two rental periods in Burlington).
- If you are having problems moving out by the specified date, keep the landlord informed so that the next tenant to move in is not inconvenienced.
- Give the landlord a forwarding address for mail, and where the security deposit can be sent.
- Before moving, go through the apartment with the landlord and inspect for damage. Ideally, both of you should sign a list of the damages, and a third party should witness it.
- If you pay for utilities, provide the landlord with copies of the final bills, if requested by the landlord.
- The apartment should be left clean, the floors vacuumed and swept, garbage removed, appliances cleaned, and generally left in the condition in which you found it when moving in.
Vermont state law requires that before ending a tenancy a tenant must give the landlord notice in writing at least one full rental payment period prior to the move-out date, if there is no written rental agreement to the contrary.
Burlington law requires a tenant to give at least two rental payment periods notice before terminating a tenancy unless there is a written rental agreement that states otherwise.
Moving Out, Tenant Initiated: End of Lease Period
When a written lease expires it does not automatically terminate the tenancy, unless the lease specifically states that the tenancy terminates and the tenant must leave when the lease is up. Very few leases are written with such a provision. If the lease does not state the tenancy ends at the expiration of the lease period, the tenancy becomes month to month after the lease expires, and it is governed by the laws that regulate such tenancies. Or the lease automatically renews for a set period if such a provision is included in the lease.
Tenants who wish to move out at the end of the lease term should give the landlord written notice of their intention at least one full rental period (or two full rental periods in Burlington) before the lease expiration date. Otherwise, the tenant could be held liable for the rent for the month after the lease expires if the apartment goes unrented.
Breaking a Lease
As with any legally binding contract, there is usually a price to be paid for violating or breaking a lease. If, for example, a tenant moves out before the lease expires, s/ he could be held responsible for the rent for the remainder of the term covered by the lease. However, the landlord has a responsibility to make a reasonable effort to re-rent the apartment as quickly as possible. When the apartment is re-rented, the original tenant’s responsibility ends. A landlord cannot keep a security deposit to pay rent if the new tenant is paying rent for the same period. However, a landlord may recover reasonable costs for re-renting an apartment, such as the cost of a newspaper advertisement, from a tenant who breaks a lease.
If more than one tenant signs a lease, any individual signer can be held responsible for all the rent due for the entire lease period. This means that if one of the tenants on the lease breaks the lease, the tenants who remain can be held liable for the full rent. The tenant who broke the lease, however, would be liable to the remaining tenants for any money they had to pay to make up his or her share of the rent, and could be sued by them in Small Claims Court.
A tenant may be able to break a lease with no further liability if the apartment has serious housing code violations that the landlord does not repair, provided the tenant follows the proper procedures. (See Health and Safety Problems, Tenants’ Remedies) Note: Tenants should seek legal advice before breaking a lease or rental agreement.
If a landlord refuses to allow a tenant to break a lease, the landlord may consent to a sublease agreement. The tenant can then find someone else to move in for the rest of the lease period, but the original tenant would still be ultimately responsible for the condition of the apartment and timely payment of the rent. Subletting can be a convenient option for people wanting to return to a particular apartment after an absence, but it requires a great deal of trust in the other people moving in. Tenants should get the landlord’s permission before subletting, preferably in writing.
Abandonment of an Apartment and Unclaimed Property
A rented residence (and any property left behind in it) is considered abandoned if all the following three things are true:
The landlord has good reason to believe the tenant is no longer living there;
Rent is not current;
The landlord has made reasonable efforts to find out the tenant’s intentions.
When a tenant abandons a unit, the landlord must store the tenant’s personal property in a safe and dry location for at least 60 days, regardless of the value of the property. The landlord must send the tenant a letter, mailed to the tenant’s last known address, notifying the tenant that the landlord plans to dispose of the property if the tenant does not claim it within the 60 days. The 60 days begins to run from the date of the notice, not the date that the tenant abandons the unit, so if the landlord intends to dispose of the tenant’s property