- Most standard rental agreements are on a month-to-month basis and you can pretty much move out anytime you want (as long as you give due notice, but more on that later). A lease, on the other hand, requires you to stay put and to keep paying rent for a specified period of time—typically a year, but some landlords will let you lease out an apartment in six-month increments. Check which one you have first. If you can't locate it, ask your landlord for a copy.
- Give due notice. In most cases, providing your landlord with 30 days notice before moving out is sufficient but this isn't always the case. In your initial excitement to sign on the dotted line and get your stuff moved into your new place, you might have overlooked a 45-day notice requirement. Make it a priority on your moving checklist to go over the paperwork with a fine-toothed comb and confirm what the required notice is.
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- Cover your bases. Give your notice in writing and in person, or by phone if your landlord isn't readily available or lives offsite. This is important, because it eliminates the possibility that your landlord could come back at a later date and say that she didn't receive timely notice.
- Clean up. In order to be able to collect on any cleaning deposit you may have made when you first moved in, it's important to have the place looking spick and span once you're gone. Otherwise, your landlord might decide to keep the cleaning deposit—and he'd be perfectly within his rights to do so.
- Shut down. Contact any utilities that you established in your name and arrange to have them turned off. Usually, water and electricity may be included in your monthly rent but if you've had phone, cable or satellite services installed you'll need to care for this yourself.
- Lock up before you leave. Your last stop before heading out for greener pastures should be the landlord's office or the business office of the apartment complex to turn in your keys, after you've ensured all windows and doors are closed firmly and locked. Don't forget any spare sets the landlord may have given you when you first moved in. Losing these could result in your receiving a bill in the mail with a friendly request to pay the locksmith's fees.
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If you're moving out of an apartment and into another rental, download our Moving Planner for Renters to help streamline the process!