A rental agreement is a legally binding contract between a landlord and tenant, laying out the responsibilities and requirements of both parties. The agreement also specifies the length of the tenancy, and the duties of each party if either wants to terminate the agreement, which may involve filing a Notice to Vacate or an Intent to Vacate.
While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, each form has a different purpose, depending on who is filing -- a Notice to Vacate is filed by a landlord, and an Intent to Vacate is filed by a tenant.
When a landlord notifies a tenant of the end of the tenancy, he files a Notice to Vacate. But if a tenant is giving notification, she files an Intent to Vacate.
Identifying the Filing Party
While a Notice to Vacate and an Intent to Vacate signify the termination of tenancy, the difference is related to which party is filing the document: the landlord or the tenant. If the landlord is the filing party, the proper form is a Notice to Vacate, which provides official notice to the tenant that by a specified time and date the tenant is to vacate the premises. If the tenant is the filing party, the proper form is an Intent to Vacate, which provides official notice to the landlord of the tenant's intent to vacate the premises.
Landlord’s Reason to File Notice to Vacate
If a landlord is dissatisfied with a tenant’s performance under the rental agreement and wishes to pursue eviction, the agreement will be terminated "for cause," and a Notice to Quit, or a Notice to Cure or Quit, will be filed. Sometimes landlords do not have a reason to evict their tenants, but nevertheless want to terminate the tenancy.
Filing a Notice to Vacate terminates the rental agreement without cause, provided relevant state law allows it and the rental agreement has expired. It is common for a landlord to provide 30 to 60 days notice for vacating the premises.
Tenant’s Reason to File Intent to Vacate
Depending on the language in the rental agreement, a tenant may be required to file an Intent to Vacate with the landlord, in order to comply with the terms of the agreement. Landlords may view the Intent to Vacate as the notification they need to start searching for a new tenant. Tenants who are unaware of the specific notice requirements may find out too late that they have to provide written notice of their intention to terminate the tenancy.
Exploring Penalties and Consequences
Proper notice on the tenant by the landlord is required if the landlord ends up taking legal action to remove the tenant from the premises. A landlord’s failure to properly provide a tenant with a Notice to Vacate can delay the legal process.
If a tenant is unaware of, or does not follow, the termination requirement of providing a written Intent to Vacate to the landlord, the tenant may not be able legally to leave the property at the desired time and their rental agreement may automatically renew for another term, or convert to a month-to-month arrangement. Additional consequences could include a loss of security deposit or additional fines and charges.
- Nolo: How Evictions Work: Rules for Landlords and Property Managers
- Apartment Guide: Sample Letter - Giving Notice to Your Apartment Manager
- MassLegalHelp.org. "Chapter 4: What Kind of Tenancy Do You Have?" Page 63. Accessed Sept. 10, 2020.
- Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute. "Landlord-Tenant Law." Accessed Sept. 10, 2020.
- MassLegalHelp.org. "Chapter 4: What Kind of Tenancy Do You Have?" Page 65. Accessed Sept. 10, 2020.
- Maine Legislature. "§6002. Tenancy at will; buildings on land of another." Accessed Sept. 10, 2020.
Blyss Cruz has called Alaska home for 30 years. She has written numerous business, financial and legal documents related to her long-time employment in both the public and private financial sectors. Cruz holds a B.S. in Paralegal Studies and an MBA in business and accounting.