You’d be amazed at the stories I’ve heard from fellow landlords over the past two years of running Landlordology.
From the dirty cat lady to the lucrative traveling tenant who is rarely home, but never misses a rent payment. From meth labs to prohibited subletters, a landlord has to be ready for anything.
My 7 Cardinal Rules
The good news is there are really only seven “Cardinal Rules” for successful property management (in my opinion):
- Screen well and don’t discriminate.
- Make rent payments easy and automatic.
- Have a rock-solid lease and stick to it.
- Always give proper notice before entering.
- Be fair, honest, and make timely repairs.
- Know how and when to use “notices.”
- Only withhold the deposit for actual, itemized damages (material or financial).
Obviously, property management is more complicated and involved than these seven rules, but following them will put you above 99.9 percent of other managers, and help to ensure your success.
In this article, I’m going to review rule six – knowing how and when to use the different types of notices.
The 10 Different Types of Notices
The industry best practice is to send a formal notice via Certified Mail/Return Receipt Requested, via the US Postal Service. Certified mail is the only proof of delivery that most courts will accept, apart from a registered server.
1. Notice to Pay or Quit
“Pay up within X days, or move out because I’m terminating your lease.”
When a tenant doesn’t pay rent when it’s due (plus any grace period), the landlord can send a warning notice that basically says “Pay up within X days, or move out because I’m terminating your lease”.
This notice does not give a landlord permission to change the locks on a tenant or cut off the utilities. You would still have to go through the formal eviction process to have the unlawful tenants removed by the police.
Most states have their own rules on exactly how much notice a landlord must give a tenant. Generally, only three to five days notice is required. Our state law guides will help you research your state’s specific rules.
2. Notice to Cure or Quit
“Fix the violation within X days, or move out because I’m terminating your lease.”
If a tenant violates a condition, clause, or rule within the lease agreement, a landlord can provide them with a notice that says “Fix the violation within X days, or move out because I’m terminating your lease.”
The most common lease violations are:
- Unapproved subletters/roommates
- Unapproved pets
- Unapproved renovation or use of the property
If the tenant remedies the violation, then he or she can stay in the property, and the lease continues as normal.
3. Unconditional Quit Notice
“Your lease is being terminated in X days because of __________.”
In the previous two notices, a tenant is allowed a specific number of days to fix the problem. With an unconditional quit notice, a tenant is not given the opportunity to stay, even if they remedy the issue.
It doesn’t forgive their sins (i.e. unpaid rent or noise violations), but it just means that they won’t be allowed to stay even if they pay up or keep quiet.
The most common situations where a landlord can serve an unconditional quit notice are:
- The tenant has been late on rent more than once.
- The tenant participated in a serious illegal activity (such as drug dealing) on the premises.
- The tenant caused serious damage to the rental property, or damage that cannot be remedied.
- The tenant has repeated the offense or violation (noise disturbances, pet hoarding, etc).
Because an unconditional quit notice is considered to be the most harsh of all the notices, not all states allow for it. Even those that do specifically restrict its use to certain situations.
4. Offer of Renewal
“Your fixed-term lease is set to expire on MM/DD/YYYY, and I’m pleased to offer you a renewal.”
Because most fixed-term leases don’t auto-renew (hence the point of having an end date), the landlord and tenant must sign a renewal agreement in order for the tenancy to continue.
If I want to renew a lease, I’ll notify the tenant of the offer 60-80 days before the end of their current lease. This is because I require 60 days notice of non-renewal from my tenant, so I want to make sure they have enough time to consider their options and are still able to give proper notice if they choose not to stay.
Please, please, please don’t be that landlord who requires 60 days notice of non-renewal but then doesn’t present them with a renewal offer in time – that’s just not fair.
5. Notice of Non-Renewal
“Your lease or monthly rental agreement is set to expire on MM/DD/YYYY, and a renewal will not be offered. You will be expected to vacate on or before MM/DD/YYYY.”
Any time you want to terminate a daily/monthly/weekly/yearly periodic lease, you’ll need to send a notice of non-renewal. It’s also commonly called a no-cause eviction, because the landlord and tenant can terminate a periodic lease, with proper notice, at any time.
If you have a fixed-term lease, but it auto-renews, and you’d rather it not, then you should use this notice as well.
Again, every state has rules on how much notice is required for periodic leases. The amount of notice required varies from 7-60 days for a monthly lease, so be sure to check out your state laws.
6. Notice of Rent Increase
“Your rent will increase to $X, an increase of X%, starting on DATE.”
Raising the rent is tricky business. If you raise it too high, your tenants will leave. If you don’t raise it at all, you’ll lose money due to inflation.
If you do raise the rent, you need to send proper notice to the tenant, which is usually 30-60 days in advance, depending on your state laws.
My suggestion is reward great tenants by not raising the rent, and then make up the difference when they finally vacate.
For example, if I have an excellent tenant named Bill, who renews twice (three-year tenancy) and I don’t raise the rent 3 percent every year, I can still make up the difference (relatively), by increasing the rent 10 percent for Sookie, who moves in after Bill vacates. Bill is happy and might stay longer. Sookie is none-the-wiser, and I kept a great tenant for three years, whereas he might have moved out after one year if I had tried to raise the rent.
Related: Don’t Always Raise the Rent
7. Notice of Entry/Intent to Enter
“I’ll be stopping by between 2-6pm on Saturday, July 4th, to perform the annual inspection and photograph the property”
Most states, but not all, require that you give proper notice before setting foot on the premises. Meaning, if you just want to walk around the back yard, you still need to give notice.
Even if your state doesn’t have a requirement to give prior notice before entering the property, the industry best practice is to give 24 hours notice.
Most of my intent to enter notices are sent via email or text, but if I don’t get a confirmation from them, I’ll send a postal letter if there is enough time.
8. Notice of Intent to Dispose of Abandoned Personal Property
“Come pick up your stuff, or I’m going to sell it/throw it out/put it in storage.”
Again, each state is different in how it requires landlords to deal with the abandoned personal property of a tenant. Some states require a landlord to send a 30-day letter to the last known address. Others allow a landlord to throw out or sell the belongings immediately after the tenant has abandoned the premises.
Though I always tell my tenants to remove their “Trash AND Treasures,” selling the tenant’s abandoned fish tank can sometimes mitigate the financial damages that the tenant caused.
9. Notice of Repairs/Renovations/Outages
“A contractor will be changing out the electrical panel on Friday, and the power will be out all day.”
This type of notice is often combined with the “Notice of Entry” because someone usually has to enter the property to make the repair.
If you will be cutting off essential services, such as water, electricity, or heat for more than a day, you should consider relocating the tenants to a hotel (at your expense) until the repair is complete.
Without access to essential services, a dwelling is considered uninhabitable.
10. Notice of Transfer of Ownership/Management
“Effective immediately, I have transferred ownership of the property to Mr. Smith. He, or his agent, will contact you soon to provide instructions for your rent.”
When a property is sold, the lease is transferred to the new owner.
Despite what some landlords would like to believe, a lease doesn’t automatically terminate upon the sale of a property. The new owner becomes the new landlord, and the tenant is usually allowed to finish out the rest of their lease.
I rarely give the contact information of the new owner to the tenants, because, quite frankly, I don’t know if the new owner wants to be contacted. As the new owner of the property, he or she can decide if they want to be an active participant, or a silent investor.
The new owner certainly has the right to stay anonymous, and hide behind a property management company, if they choose. I leave it up to the new owner to make contact with the tenants, and to dictate how he/she wants to manage the property.
You can also use this type of notice if you change management companies.
Where to Get These Notices
Though I’d love to give you my personal notices, they wouldn’t work in every state. I’ve compiled a list of my favorite vendors for legal notices. They vary greatly in price, but these links will get you started.
Please know that I DO NOT receive any revenue from these companies, nor am I affiliated with them in any way. I simply think that they each provide a great product, and I hope you find them helpful.