Moving Out When Renting

From Clicklaw Wikibooks

Do give your landlord in writing a forwarding address where your security deposit can be sent. Don't move without giving at least one full month's written notice if you have a month-to-month tenancy agreement.

Giving notice

The landlord must receive your notice no later than the day before your rent is due. For example, if you pay your rent on the first of the month and you are moving on May 31, your notice must be received on or before April 30. Your notice must be in writing. Include your name and address, and the date you are moving out. Sign and date your letter. Keep a copy for yourself.

You can use TRAC's template letter- Notice to End Month-to-Month Tenancy Agreement

Taking back your notice

If you have given written notice that you are moving, and the landlord learns that you will not move on the day that you said you would, the landlord can apply for an order to take possession of the place on the day you were supposed to move. In other words, you can’t give notice that you are moving and then change your mind unless the landlord agrees in writing to let you stay.

Short notice

If you don't give your landlord one full month’s notice in writing, and your landlord can't find a new tenant right away, you could lose money. Your landlord could keep your security deposit or even try to make you pay the next month's rent. If you are breaking a lease, you could be responsible for rent until the landlord re-rents the place or the lease ends.

Serving notice

The landlord can be the owner or the manager of your building, or even another tenant renting to you. There are different ways to serve the notice to your landlord that you are moving:

  • In person: Give the notice to the landlord at home or at the place where he or she carries on business as a landlord. You can also give the notice to an adult who lives with the landlord, or you can give the notice to the landlord’s agent. Bring a witness who has read the notice with you. Write down on your copy of the notice the time, date and place where you delivered it, and get your witness to sign it. Do not give the notice to a child. Make sure you have a witness. The law says the notice is received the same day if you deliver it in person.
  • Post the notice: To post the notice, attach it in a visible spot at the landlord's home, or the place where he or she carries on business as a landlord. For example, you can tape the notice to the door. Bring a witness so you can prove the date that you posted the notice. Ask your witness to read the notice before you deliver it. Do not slide the notice under the door. The law says the notice is received on the third day after you post it.
  • Mailbox or mail slot: Put the notice in the mailbox or through the mail slot. Bring a witness so you can prove the date that you delivered the notice. Ask the witness to read the notice before you deliver it. The law says the notice is received on the third day after it is left.
  • Fax: You can serve your notice by fax if the landlord has provided you with a fax number for sending notices or documents. Keep the transmittal print-out that confirms the date that the fax was received. The law says the notice is received on the third day after you fax it.
  • Mail: You can mail your notice by regular or registered mail. If you want proof that the landlord received your notice, send it by registered mail. The post office will give you a receipt to prove that you mailed your notice. The law says the notice is received on the fifth day after you mail it, so make sure you give yourself enough time.

Breaking a lease

A lease, also called a fixed-term tenancy, says how long you will live in the place. There are two kinds of leases:

  1. Lease with a "move-out" clause: If your lease (also called a fixed-term tenancy agreement) says you have to move out when the lease ends, you might not get any other notice from your landlord. If you want to stay, you must sign a new agreement with the landlord.
  2. Lease without a "move-out" clause: A lease that says you have to stay for a minimum length of time (usually one year), but doesn't give a date when you must move out. This type of agreement lets you stay on after the lease ends and rent month-to-month. If you want to move on the date that your lease runs out, you must give a full month's notice in writing to your landlord. See the section Making Your Tenancy Agreement for more information about leases.

Breaking your lease

If you move out before the end of your lease ("break your lease") without finding someone to take it over, your landlord can require you to pay the rent until another tenant moves in. You may be able to challenge this, if the landlord is not trying to find another tenant. Give as much notice as possible, in writing.

Charges for breaking a lease

If you move before your lease ends, you could be responsible for your landlord’s advertising and administrative costs to find another tenant. This charge is called liquidated damages. The amount should be a reasonable estimation of the cost of re-renting the place. You can dispute an unreasonable amount through a dispute resolution hearing at the Residential Tenancy Branch. Keep in mind that in addition to liquidated damages, you may be responsible for rent until the place is re-rented or your lease ends.

Finding someone to take over your lease

If you need to break a lease that runs for six months or more, you can find a new tenant to take your place. If you want to leave your home and not come back, you can "assign" it to another tenant. In this case, the assignee becomes responsible for the remainder of your lease. However, you may still be held responsible if the assignee does not carry out the terms of the agreement.

If you want to leave your home and come back to it later, you can "sublet" to another tenant. You will be responsible for the place while you are away. You can only assign or sublet with your landlord's written permission. If you have a fixed-term tenancy of six months or longer, your landlord can't be unreasonable or unfair in refusing permission. If the landlord won't give permission, you can go to dispute resolution.

Moving because repairs are not done

You may be in a situation where you are frustrated that repairs are not being done and you want to move. You should still give your landlord proper notice or else you might be charged for the next month's rent in addition to your landlord's cost of re-renting the place. If you are breaking a lease, then you may be charged even more. You have the right to apply for dispute resolution if there are repairs that need to be done.

When problems are so serious you can't stay

Under serious circumstances you can move with short notice because the landlord has breached a material term in your tenancy agreement. You must first give your landlord written notice of the breach and an opportunity to do something about it. Then if the landlord does not do anything about the problem you can end your tenancy. (See section 45(3) and 52 of the RTA.) Keep in mind that the Residential Tenancy Act does not define "material term" because a term could be material in one agreement and not another. If you end your agreement because you say the landlord breached a material term, you need to be prepared to convince a Residential Tenancy Branch arbitrator that as a result of the breach the tenancy could no longer continue. Call the Tenant Information Line or the Residential Tenancy Branch for more information.

Tenant moving out.jpg

Cleaning and move-out inspection

You must leave your place clean when you move out. You are responsible for the cost of repairing damage caused by you or your guests. The landlord is responsible for normal wear-and-tear. If something wears out over months or years of normal use, you may not have to pay for it. Usually, you don't have to paint walls even if there are small nail holes. You might have to clean your carpets or drapes, depending on how long you have lived there and whether you had pets or smoked in the place. You are responsible for any damage that has occurred since you did your move-in inspection report.

If you didn't do a move-in inspection

If you moved into your place, or began keeping a pet, after January 1, 2004, you and your landlord should have completed a condition inspection report. However, even if you moved in before this date you have to do an inspection report when you move out. While you won't have a move-in report to compare your move-out report to, at least you and the landlord will have documented the condition of the place in case you need to go to dispute resolution. You do not have to agree with the landlord on the report, but you must still participate.

Getting your security deposit back

You have the right to get your full security and pet damage deposit back, unless there is damage, you didn’t participate in the condition inspection reports, you owe rent or utility payments, or you left the place dirty. You must provide your landlord with a forwarding address where your deposit can be sent to. You cannot use your deposit to pay part of the last month's rent, unless the landlord agrees in writing. See the section on Security Deposits and Additional Fees.

When the landlord owes you more than the deposit

If you want to claim money that you feel the landlord owes you in addition to your deposit, you can apply for dispute resolution at the Residential Tenancy Branch. For example, you can make a claim for compensation for the time that you lived with a serious repair problem, although you should have evidence of the problem and copies of letters asking the landlord to deal with it.

Landlord's claim

The landlord can apply for dispute resolution to claim money from the deposit for things like cleaning, damage or unpaid rent and utilities. The landlord must give you notice of the dispute resolution hearing, so you can go and tell your side of the story. The landlord has two years from the date you moved out to make a monetary claim against you.

Legislation and links



Resources and forms

This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre, 2012.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada LicenceTenant Survival Guide © TRAC Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.
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