Legal Rights When Tenants Move Out

Each state sets the laws for the residents in their area who rent their homes. These laws protect renters while they are living in a rental property and when they move from the rental property. When a tenant moves, the landlord must follow these laws. If a dispute arises between the landlord and the tenant, the tenant can seek legal action.

Final Inspection

Typically, when a tenant moves out, he has the right to ask that the landlord complete a walk-through inspection, known as a final inspection. Many states, such as Colorado, allow for the tenant to request a written inspection checklist. This checklist includes any damages noted by the landlord and both parties must sign the agreement. If the landlord refuses to do a walkthrough inspection, the tenant can still inspect the property either by himself or with a third party. During the inspection, the tenant can make a note or take pictures of the condition of the property.

Security Deposits

Most states allow landlords to collect a security deposit from a tenant before the tenant moves into the rental property. When the tenant moves out, the landlord can deduct the cost of any unpaid rent fees. The landlord can also deduct the cost of any repairs for damages made by the tenant. However, the landlord can only charge a reasonable amount for cleaning or repairs. When the tenant moves out, the landlord must return the security deposit or provide a written list of deductions to the tenant. The amount of time for return varies by state. For example, landlords in California must return the security deposit within 21 days of the tenant vacating the property, according to the State of California Department of Consumer Affairs.

Ending the Lease Early

The lease agreement should state how the tenant could end the lease early. For example, the landlord may allow the tenant to sublet the apartment to another person. The landlord may also allow the tenant to pay an early termination fee or the remainder of the due rent to end the lease agreement. However, many states allow tenants to end a lease agreement early without penalty if they meet certain qualifications. For example, military members who return to active duty or are reassigned to new military base in another state may be able to end their lease without consequence.

Where to Get Help

If a landlord will not allow a tenant to end a lease agreement, charges fees above those listed in the lease for early termination or withholds the security deposit, the tenant can seek help. Tenants can file a case in small claims court to recover withheld security deposits. Tenants who meet low-income requirements can receive help from the Legal Aid Society in their state. Tenants may also be able to receive help from the Fair Housing Authority in their state.