When renting an apartment, a tenant should not assume that a lease term will end when the lease agreement says it will. Tenants should read lease agreements carefully to make sure they understand everything they are responsible for as tenants. For example, a lease agreement may contain an intent-to-vacate clause. If so, the tenant must provide written notice of the intent to leave, even if the lease term is about to end naturally.
Q: What, exactly, is an “intent to vacate” clause?
A: These are clauses (usually found near the end of the lease agreement) that deal with what will happen to the lease agreement at the end of the lease term. They usually require the tenant to give the landlord advance written notice of the tenant’s intent to leave the property at the end of the lease term. Such clauses let landlords know when they will need to find new tenants, but they may act as traps for unwary tenants who may not realize they must give written notice of their intention to leave.
Q: I didn’t realize my lease agreement contained an intent-to-vacate clause, and I figured my lease was up at the end of the year. I told my landlord I was leaving, but I didn’t give him written notice. Will I be stuck with a renewed lease?
A: Maybe not. If you can show that you told your landlord you intended to vacate, then a lease agreement requiring written notice will not be enforceable. Also, check to see how much notice your lease agreement required. While courts have upheld 30-day notice of intent-to-vacate clauses, they have not upheld clauses that require a 60-day notice of intent to vacate. It is unclear whether a clause requiring 45 days’ notice would be enforceable.
Q: What happens if I don’t give the required notice of my intent to vacate?
A: It depends upon what is in your lease. If you don’t give the notice, however, intent-to-vacate clauses usually call for one of two things to happen: 1) even after the lease term has ended, you will continue to be a tenant, but you will be on a month-to-month arrangement; or 2) the lease agreement renews itself for another year.
Q: How can I prove that I gave my landlord notice?
A: Send your landlord a letter saying you will not be renewing your lease agreement. Sign and date the letter and make a photocopy of it. If you send it by certified mail, and request a return receipt, then the landlord will have to sign for it when he gets it, and the receipt will be returned by the post office. If you staple the return receipt to your copy of the letter, you will have pretty good proof that you gave your landlord notice.
This "Law You Can Use" column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA). It was prepared by Columbus attorney Eric E. Willison, of the Law Office of Eric E. Willison.