Things to keep in mind
when ending or beginning a tenancy:
During the course of the year many of you will be leaving your current
rentals and/or moving to new ones. These tips will help you protect
your legal and financial interests during the transition.
Always make written documentation of every significant occurrence
between you and your landlord. Always keep copies of all
Ending a Tenancy
If you have a term lease set to expire, then you probably don't need to
worry about providing notice. If you are on a month-to-month, you will
need to give a 30-day notice. The notice should be written
and you should keep a copy of it.
The notice should state the exact termination date which should be no
less than 30 days from the day the notice is provided. The notice
should use the word "termination." Termination is
different than moving out. Someone who moves out still owes rent.
Someone who's terminated doesn't.
If the notice is mailed rather than hand-delivered,
then the relevant period needs to be at least 33 days and the
notice needs to mention that the extra three days were added and
Your notice should also include a forwarding address
where the landlord can send your security deposit. It should indicate a
date and time at which you would like to conduct a joint
move-out inspection. (See more about the move-out inspection
Ideally, hand deliver the notice and have the landlord or manager sign
your copy acknowledging the day on which it was received and agreeing
to the proposed termination date.
You should make some effort to clean the premises prior to vacating. If
the rental agreement makes you responsible for the grounds, then you
should also make some effort to mow the lawn. After you've made these
efforts, you should take pictures. This is very
important. When a landlord asserts cleaning and repair charges of
$1,000 and says you trashed the place, a picture can be worth its
weight in gold.
Even if the landlord isn't holding a large security deposit you should
make some effort to clean. Otherwise the landlord may bill you for
cleaning and repairs in excess of the deposit. Some landlords have a
nasty habit of charging tenants $30/hour for any labor that the
landlord has to perform.
Aside from taking pictures that document your good-faith efforts, you
should arrange a joint walk-through.
Bring two copies of an inventory sheet. You can get a sample inventory
sheet from the Rental Information Office, Suite 5, EMU. The sheet has
spaces on it to make notations regarding everything in the
One purpose of the walk-through is to get the landlord to confirm that
specific things and areas are being returned in an acceptable
condition. Another purpose is to have the landlord commit to an upper
limit on the charges that he or she will assert against your deposit.
Ideally, you will reach an agreement with your landlord that any
remaining work should not cost more than "x" dollars. You will write
that down on the inventory report and you will both sign it. You will
then keep on copy for yourself.
If you reach that sort of agreement, the landlord should be able to cut
you a deposit refund check on the spot, but that rarely happens.
Deposit Refunds and Accounting Statements
Within 31 days of the termination of your tenancy the landlord
is required to give you your deposit or a written accounting for
however much of it the landlord keeps.
You should keep a copy of any refund check, any accounting statement and
the envelope they were delivered in. The postmark is often crucial
evidence as to whether the landlord complied with the statutory time
If the landlord doesn't return the deposit or the accounting on time,
he or she owes the tenant twice the amount withheld.
If you think your landlord has withheld too much of your deposit or
asserted unreasonable charges against you, make an appointment at ASUO
Breaking a Lease
If you have to move out at the beginning of summer, but your lease runs
until the end of summer, make an appointment with ASUO Legal Services.
We may be able to help you. Your landlord may have committed some
technical violation entitling you to early termination; or, the
landlord may be obliged to accept an assignment or sublet, even though
the lease seems to say they won't. Alternatively, we might be able to
negotiate a reasonable termination penalty or just advise you on how to
protect what limited rights you have in the event of an unjustified
(HINT:If you think you're going to have to break a lease, it's a
good idea to start advertising for potential replacements right now. It
doesn't cost much, and it might save you three months' rent.)
Starting a Tenancy
If you're signing a new rental agreement in the near future, this
information will be important to you.
Choosing a Place
Ask around. Before signing an agreement, try to talk with the previous
tenant or the neighbors and see what they think of the landlord. Find
out about any habitability problems, bugs, mice, abuse of privacy, etc.
We discourage renting a room in a landlord's house or next door to a
landlord. The rent is often less, but there can be a lack of privacy
and there seems to be a tendency for landlords in that situation (even
old, grandmotherly types) to abuse power. Similarly, be cautious about
living above, below, or next to property managers.
If the landlord takes an application/screening fee or a holding
deposit, keep any and all written explanations provided concerning
those payments. If the landlord takes such payments and does not
provide adequate disclosures, he or she owes you the payment plus $100.
Read before signing it. Be clear whether it is a month-to-month or a
term lease. Understand that if you commit to a term lease, you're
potentially liable for many months' rent if you have to break the
lease. Understand that if you accept a month-to-month agreement, the
landlord can kick you out for almost any reason or no reason at all
during the middle of a semester by providing 30-days' notice.
Getting it in Writing
Any assurances that your landlord makes that are important to you
should be in writing. Have it added to the rental agreement and
initialed by all parties. If the landlord is taking any deposits or
fees, ask what they're for. If the written agreement doesn't say what
they're for, add an explanation and have it initialed by all parties.
Understand that co-tenants are jointly and severally liable for things.
That means that if one of you flakes out, skips town, or burns the
house down, the landlord can sue whichever tenant has the most money
for what his or her co-tenant did.
Understand also that co-tenants are "co-adventurers." That means that
if you vacate during the middle of a lease term, you still owe your
co-tenants your share of the rent until they replace you. They don't
have to replace you at all if they can't find a new person with whom
they get along.
Do one! See move-out inventory above. Do a move-in inventory to
protect yourself from being charged at the end of the tenancy for
problems that existed when you moved in.
One common complaint I hear is, "My landlord's charging me $300 for
cleaning, but the place was a pig sty when I moved in and I cleaned
before I moved out." Technically, you're only liable if you don't
return the premises as clean as you received it. The problem arises
when there is documentation of the premises' condition at the end of
the tenancy, but not at the beginning.
Do an inventory at commencement (beginning) of the tenancy. Be
thorough. Be picky. Get the landlord to sign it. KEEP A COPY!
If anything is dirty enough or broken enough that it will show up in a
picture, take a picture. If you have to spend time cleaning, keep a log
of your time and receipt for any cleaning expenses.
Send the landlord a letter noting those expenditures of time and money,
noting that you will want them taken into account at the end of the
tenancy during the deposit refund process.
Whenever you make one, confirm it with a written notice and keep a copy
of it. Experience has shown that verbal requests are not acted on as
promptly as written ones.
This information is not intended to provide legal advice. Any
incidental fee-paying University of Oregon student who has questions
about renter rights may call ASUO Legal Services at 541-346-4273 to
Information disseminated in this website does not
constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney/client
relationship. This page is for information purposes only. For legal
advice, contact an attorney licensed in your state.