I Am Moving Out

Author: Todd Christiansen | Category: Tenants

So what do you do when a tenant calls and says “I am moving out” and it is in the middle of the lease?  Maybe they can’t afford the place any more, maybe the couple is breaking up, maybe the roommates are splitting up.  Hopefully they give you some notice, but often it is very shortly before the next month’s rent is due.  How do you handle this?

This can be very frustrating as a landlord.  The tenant is breaking the lease with little or no concern about the results or bind that they are putting you in.  While you may not want to hear my answers, this may be the most practical and efficient way to handle this.  I think you need to let them go, but act quickly to do damage control.  You can’t force them to stay in the property and they are going to do what they are going to do.  Better to move fast, get them out (or make other arrangements) and then get a new tenant in there to minimize your lost rent.

In a roommate situation, see if the other roommate(s) want to stay.  If they do, can they find a replacement roommate?  Don’t give them months, give them days to find someone.  If they can’t or don’t want to, everyone has to go.  Many landlords have made the mistake of allowing the remaining tenant(s) to stay in the property and pay just their portion of the rent.  Just give the remaining roommates a couple days to decide if they want to stay and pay the full portion of the rent, they want to find a new roommate or go.  If they can’t decide, give them notice that they most go quickly otherwise you will be forced to evict them (as I assume they will only send you their remaining portion of the rent).

If the tenant is not determined to leave, but just being wishywashy, argue with them.  Ask why they need to leave and convince them to stay.  I swear that some tenants just need drama in their lives and they are never going to be happy anywhere.  I had a tenant once say that they needed a cheaper place to live (they were paying $1200 per month).  After grilling her for a while, I asked if I could discount the rent, would she stay.  She said if I could drop the price $50 per month that she would stay.  Ummmm, let me think ($600 per year discount versus the possibility of having a vacant unit at $1200 per month).  Yeah, I will take that deal.

You can certainly threaten or even file an eviction, but I would argue that is just spending extra money on a problem that you already know the outcome to. Alternatively, if you believe the tenant may not move out or if the roommates are not going to get out, you will want to file an eviction to avoid a hold-over tenant situation.  I had a time when a tenant said she was moving out, but when she went to look for a new apartment, she couldn’t find one and then stayed past when she said she would be out.  Sometimes an eviction letter may be enough to let them know that you are serious about pursuing them if they don’t move out as planned.  The fear of having an unlawful detainer may be a good motivator.

Ultimately, you will need to use whatever resources and strategies you can think of to get this situation fixed.  There really isn’t any one-size fits all.

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