Handling paperwork can be daunting for landlords. However, it’s one of the most important responsibilities you have. A very helpful document to have on hand is a move-out letter. A move-out letter notifies your tenant of your expectations when they come to the end of the lease. Sending a well-detailed letter can prove to be extremely useful to your bottom line. 

The goal of sending your tenant a move-out letter is to help encourage them to leave the property in the same condition they found it in, not including normal wear and tear. This will ultimately save you time in trying to make the property rent-ready again. 

Vacancies can be costly to landlords. And that cost can be even higher if the tenant leaves the property in bad condition. That’s why move-out letters are important. The following is everything you need to know about move-out letters. 

The Purpose of a Move-out Letter

Once a tenancy ends, both you and your tenant have the option to renew it or end it. If either one of you chooses to terminate the tenancy, the state law may obligate you to notify your tenant of your intentions. 

In the state of Washington, parties in a periodic lease are required to notify the other before terminating the lease. Whether the lease runs monthly, quarterly, or yearly, you must provide your tenant with a notice of at least 20 days prior to terminating their tenancy. 

open mail box with letters inside

In the notice, clearly outline your expectations to the tenant to avoid potential confusion or misunderstanding. Lay out your inspection procedures and let the tenant know their cleaning and repair responsibilities. 

As already mentioned, tenant turnover can be costly to your bottom line. And while you may be able to use part or all of their security deposit, the time factor may still have an impact on your bottom line. That’s why it’s best to use a move-out letter to minimize this risk.

Benefits of a Move-out Letter for Landlords 

As a landlord, the following are some benefits of sending move-out letters: 

  • Provides tenants an opportunity to fix issues before moving out.
  • Communicates your expectations to the tenant. A proper move-out letter can help avoid miscommunication by properly outlining your expectations. 
  • Helps ensure the tenant leaves on good terms. In other words, it may act as a formal “thank you” to the tenant for renting your property and observing the rules. 

How to Write a Proper Move-out Letter

Move-out letters will vary as no two rental properties are the same. As such, you may want to consult with a legal counsel or a reputable property management company for professional assistance. 

person writing on a piece of paper while someone else observes

That said, the following is some of the important information that a standard letter should include:

  • The delivery date and the manner in which it was delivered to the tenant
  • Your contact information 
  • The move-out date and the reason for the termination
  • Whether you’re going to do a walk-through inspection with the tenant
  • The tenant’s obligation to clean the property
  • The move-out inspection date 
  • What the tenant must have done to get a refund of their security deposit 

The Difference Between a Move-out Letter and an Eviction Notice 

A move-out letter simply notifies your tenant that you will be terminating their lease. An eviction notice, on the other hand, is a legal document that seeks to terminate the tenancy for a lease violation. Common lease violations include nonpayment of rent, excessive property damage, and failure to abide by the lease terms. The following is a basic overview of the eviction process in Washington:

  • Have a legal ground to evict the tenant
  • Serve the tenant with the appropriate eviction notice 
  • File a complaint with the court if the matter remains unresolved 
  • Attend the court hearing and await the judgment 
  • Obtain a Writ of Restitution 
  • Seek help from a sheriff to remove the tenant if the tenant refuses to leave after issuance of the writ 

From start to finish, the eviction process can take anywhere from one to three months depending on various factors. 

legal expert placing document into their briefcase

It goes without saying that you must follow the proper eviction process to be successful in removing the tenant. It’d be illegal to try to “self-evict” the tenant through methods like shutting down utilities or removing their belongings. 

Tenant Responsibilities to Include in a Move-out Letter

Ultimately, what to include in a move-out checklist and letter will vary from one landlord to another. Nevertheless, let the tenant know what they must do to get a refund of their security deposit. 

When it comes to cleaning, let the tenant know they must clean all bathrooms and windows, vacuum the floors, and dispose of the garbage. You must also let them know that it’s their responsibility to repair things they have damaged. 

If the tenant returns the property in good condition, then great! However, if they don’t, then you may have a right to make appropriate deductions to their security deposit. Once you have, you must send the remaining amount to the tenant within 14 days of them moving out. You must also include a written statement indicating the amount you used and why. 

Bottom Line

A move-out letter is vital when owning a rental property. And while this may not be the most enjoyable part of being a landlord, it can protect your bottom line. If you still have a question regarding move-out letters or need help managing your rental properties, turn to the experts at T-Square Properties! We provide expert property management services to property owners in King & Snohomish County. 

Disclaimer: This blog article is for informational purposes. The information contained in this blog article may not be the official policies of T-Square Properties.

Rental Owner looking for Management Services? Start Here