Moving out voluntarily
Notifying your landlord
If you have a lease, follow the notification process outlined in the lease. If you are a month-to-month tenant, be sure to give at least one full 30-day rental cycle as notice, providing the notice on the day before the new cycle starts. That is, if you rent from the first of the month to the end of the month, you should provide your notice on the 31st, as doing so on the first would not be considered giving a full rental cycle as notice. Also keep in mind that, while verbal notice is legal, written notification is more easily verifiable if you keep a copy.
If there are any unresolved points of contention with the landlord, try to reach a settlement and put it in writing. If you are attempting to break a lease, be sure to get any agreements or special arrangements in writing. Use mediation services to resolve disagreements and avoid the time and expense of legal actions in court.
Subletting the apartment
While subletting an apartment is a way for you to get out of your lease, it still requires the cooperation of the landlord, and you may still be legally liable during the term of the sublet. For example, if your "sub-tenant" fails to pay the rent or does damage, you are the one who will be held responsible.
Also keep in mind that a landlord cannot unreasonably deny a sublet if the building already has four or more tenants. There is a very specific procedure for these situations that is described in the attached Tenants' Rights Guide published by the New York State Attorney General.
Cleaning the apartment before you leave
When you prepare to leave an apartment, leave the rooms "broom clean" by sweeping the floors, vacuuming carpets, removing all belongings and trash, wiping down appliances, and restoring or replacing any items that you have changed. If you or your guests have damaged anything, get estimates on repairing or replacing it and discuss it with the landlord. Arrange for an inspection of the apartment with the landlord and compare the current conditions to those from your original move-in inspection, to see if some damages may have existed prior to your move-in. Bring a friend or relative along to observe your discussion if there are any disagreements, get written copies of any agreements you and your landlord make, and/or take photos of the apartment's condition if you expect the landlord may try to unfairly claim damages.
If you have furniture that you no longer want, there is an organization in Troy that accepts donations of pieces in reasonable condition to give to someone leaving a homeless shelter or domestic violence situation. See The Furniture Program/TAUM in the appendix list of contact numbers.
Make sure you move out all of your belongings when you leave an apartment so that the landlord can rent it to another tenant promptly.
Your security deposit
You are only responsible for damages that are above and beyond normal wear and tear. The security deposit should not be used for rent or other charges unless you and your landlord agree to do so. Security deposits are generally returned to the tenant several weeks after the move-out and final inspection. You should provide an address to the landlord about where s/he can mail your deposit.
Return of the security deposit may generate conflict, particularly if the landlord and you disagree about whether or not damages were caused, the extent of the damage, or what the repairs should reasonably cost. If your landlord does claim that you caused damages, ask for a written list of repairs and the estimated cost. This is where your pre-inspection report and a final move-out inspection -- particularly with a witness and/or photos -- can help strengthen your case.
Although you have the right to sue for the return of your security deposit in Small Claims Court, it may be easier to try to negotiate a settlement. Mediation services are available if you and the landlord have disagreements. For more information, see the section of this website on Dealing with legal matters.
Taking care of final details
- Return your keys promptly. If you maintain possession of the apartment past your vacate notification date, you can be charged an additional month's rent.
- Terminate your utility services. Be sure to call Niagara Mohawk to have your power turned off, and notify the landlord -- both verbally and in writing -- of the termination date. (This is especially in the winter, to avoid frozen pipes). Call your telephone and cable companies to terminate services.
- Notify the US Postal Service of your change of address.
Last modified: Apr 29, 2013