Landlords will often have to give their tenants legal notices even if they have the most upstanding tenants. Not all notices are associated with evictions and many are used to inform tenants of day to day changes at your property. A legal notice is any formal communication to your tenants that informs them of any legal action or intent. You should always err on the side of caution and provide your tenant with a notice if you wish to inform them of something that could possibly lead to a lawsuit. The notice is a way to protect you should you find yourself in a legal battle.
As a landlord, there are ten types of notices you should be aware of and ready to use.
The ten types of notices
1. Notice to pay or quit
This notice demands two things from your tenant: they either make their rental payment or they vacate the property. This notice lets the tenant know that you are serious about their non-payment and that if they do not make the payment within the amount of time provided, they will receive an official eviction notice through the courts. Most states require that you give your tenants 3-5 days to pay their rent before you can evict them. However, if they fail to pay, you can file a notice with the courts.
2. Notice to cure or quit
If a tenant has violated a term or condition of the rental agreement, then you can serve them with this notice. For example, if a tenant has a pet that is not a service animal and your property has a no-pet policy, the notice will require them to either get rid of the animal or vacate the property. Other violations include having an unauthorized roommate, subleasing the property without your permission, or interfering with the other tenants’ peaceful living.
Depending on the violation and your state, the tenant will have somewhere between 3-30 days to fix the violation or move out. This notice, much like the Pay Rent or Quit notice, gives them the opportunity to fix the problem before they are evicted. Should the tenant continue to violate their rental agreement, you can file a formal notice with the court and begin the eviction proceedings.
3. Unconditional quit notice
If you have repeatedly given your tenant a notice to Pay or Quit and/or a notice to Cure or Quit and they continue to make late payments or violate the rental agreement, you can serve them with an Unconditional Quit notice. This gets rid of your tenant’s opportunity for a second chance and they will not be given the opportunity to fix the problem. For example, if your tenant repeatedly has unauthorized roommates or fails to pay the rent, you can serve them with this notice. The tenant then has the choice to either vacate or go to court.
This notice is usually used when the tenant has repeatedly violated a term in the rental agreement; was involved in criminal activity on your property; has repeatedly not paid their rent on time; or has caused irreparable damage to the property. Keep in mind that because this is the most sever of the eviction notices, some states will not allow you to use it. If you are legally allowed to use this notice, make sure that you have ample evidence to support your claim should you end up in court.
4. Lease renewal letter
Because most rental agreements and leases do not auto-renew, you will have to use a notice of lease renewal to inform tenants that their lease is almost up and that you would like them to continue living in the property. You should give this notice to your tenants one or two months in advance in order to ensure they have enough time to decide to stay or go. Most rental agreements require your tenants to provide you with 30 days’ notice if they are moving out, so you should ensure you give the tenant enough time to think about what they want to do before this deadline.
5. Notice of non-renewal
If you chose not to renew a fixed term lease or rental agreement, you will have to send this notice to your tenants to inform them that you require them to move out at the end of the lease term. This is often referred to as a “no-cause eviction” because you do not need a reason to not renew a rental agreement. In addition, if your rental agreement auto renews, you should use this notice to end it. State laws vary on how much time you need to give the tenants before they must move out, but it is usually between 7-60 days.
6. Notice of transfer of ownership or management
This notice announces to your tenants that you have sold your property and transferred ownership; it is also used if the property management has changed. It lets the tenant know that the new owner or property manager will be contacting them shortly with more information. With this notice, you should not include any of the new owner’s contact information because they may be a silent partner or not want to be contacted directly.
7. Notice of rent increase
All rent increases must be announced through a notice of rent increase even if you have included rent increases in the original rental agreement. Depending on your state, you will have to give them proper notice in advance; this is usually 30-60 days. You will only be allowed to give your tenants this notice if you have written rent increases into your rental agreement.
8. Notice of entry/intent to enter
Almost all states require you to provide a written notice of your intent to enter if you plan on entering a rental unit. You will even need to provide this notice if you are planning on entering a tenant’s backyard. If you do not give your tenants this notice, they will be able to sue you for harassment, which you want to avoid.
You can only enter a tenant’s dwelling for the following reasons:
- You tenant has consented to the entry and they are present at the time of the entry
- To show the property to potential new buyers or renters
- To make an inspection
- During an emergency
- To make renovations and/or repairs that both you and the tenant have previously agreed upon
- Entry pursuant to a court order
- The tenant has abandoned the property
For all reasons other than an emergency, you must give the tenants notice of your intent to enter their dwelling. Provide the tenant with the time, date, and reason for the entry so that they are prepared. Lastly, remember that you should not use this notice to harass your tenants and frequently enter their home; even if you’re giving them notices, they may still sue you for harassment.
9. Notice of intent to dispose of abandoned personal property
State laws differ on how to handle a tenant’s abandoned personal property; however, the majority of states require you to give tenants notice that you intend to dispose of their property. All states other than Colorado require that you store abandoned property until this notice is given. If you do dispose of abandoned property without sending this notice to your tenants, they may be able to sue you. Some states have a monetary threshold that dictates what property can be disposed, so be aware of state and local laws.
10. Notice of repairs, maintenance, renovations, and outages
You must give tenants notice if you are planning on entering the property to conduct repairs, maintenance, renovations and outages unless it is an emergency. Most states require you to give 1-2 days’ notice before entering a rental unit for maintenance reasons. When you provide your tenants with this notice, make sure to give them the approximate time and date you will be making the maintenance and repairs. This notice should also be used if you plan on interrupting a tenant’s utilities for repair or maintenance reasons. Remember that these outages can only be short term before you should consider paying for your tenant to stay in a hotel temporarily.
How to serve notices
There are five ways you can serve your tenants with a legal notice:
1. Deliver it to them yourself
If you chose to go this route, you must get the tenant’s signature so that they cannot deny receiving it from you if you end up in a lawsuit.
2. Through a personal server
A personal server will get proof of delivery that will stand up in court. This service will take care of the hard work for you and ensure that you are covered in the event of a lawsuit. However, you will have to pay a fee for the convenience and peace of mind.
When mailing a notice, you should use certified mail through the U.S. Postal Service that will provide you proof of mailing and receipt. Again, this will give you evidence that will be useful in a lawsuit.
Posted notices must be done in a way that is considered “conspicuous,” which means that anyone will be able to read it. Most landlords will choose to tape the notice to the tenant’s front door so that it cannot blow away and is visible to the tenant. Although this is easy, you should combine posting with other means of serving the tenant such as mailing or delivering it personally.
5. Serving the notice to another person at the rental unit
You may give the legal notice to another person in the rental unit only if they are of a proper age and preferably are a member of the family who is renting the unit. Make sure to get the person’s signature and mail a copy of it to the tenant through certified mail to ensure that the actual tenant cannot claim that they never received it.