After all the hard work of advertising your property, holding inspections, screening tenants and getting the lease signed, it is hard to imagine why you would want to give your tenants a Notice to Vacate. However, I can say from experience that reasons do come up.
As bad as it is to receive notice that your tenants are moving out, having to tell them to leave can feel even worse. The process of sending a notice to vacate seems rather formal and complicated. It really isn’t, but it is one of those things where you need to follow all the steps correctly or you will have to start again.
The reason that the notice to vacate procedures are so rigid is to protect both you and the tenant. It goes back to the notion that “every man is king in his own castle”. The house may be your property, but it is the tenant's home.
What does complicate things just a little (especially when writing these tips) is the fact that every state has their own procedure for the notice to vacate process. Generally, they are all very much the same, but the details will be different for each state.
Are you in a Fixed Term Lease?
Unless the tenants have broken the terms of their fixed term lease (done something wrong), you cannot give a notice to vacate unless the vacate date (move out date) on the notice is after the last day of the fixed term lease.
If your tenants are on a periodic lease (month to month) you can give them notice to vacate just about anytime you please. However, your reason for giving the notice will determine the form and amount of days notice you need to give.
The Reason for the Notice to Vacate
The type of notice you give and the form you need to use will depend upon your reason for giving the notice. For example, in NSW (on a month to month lease) I can give a notice to vacate for no reason at all, but I have to allow 90 days before the tenants have to leave. However, if they are 14 days late in paying the rent I can give them 14 days notice to vacate regardless if they're on a fixed term lease.
How Should I give the Notice
If the notice to vacate is disputed, the last thing you want to have the tenants claim is “We never received the notice!”
If at all possible, and especially in cases of the rent being late, I prefer to deliver the notice personally. With rent problems (and most breaches), every day that the tenants remain in the house is costing money, so there is little sense in waiting for the postal service. The biggest benefit is that I am 100% sure that the tenants have received the notice. I take two identical copies of the notice with me. After I hand them their copy I will ask them to sign mine as proof that they received it.
Some states specify that the notice to vacate must be sent via registered post. This is actually a good idea; with registered post you will have the proof you sent the notice and the tenants did indeed receive the notice. However, if your state requires the registered post (like Victoria) and you have sent it via normal post, the notice becomes null and void. The tribunal will just throw it out and you will have wasted two weeks or more.
Allow time for Postage
There is a reason we call it snail mail, postal service takes time. This is another reason I prefer hand delivery of the notice, but if you prefer to use the post you must allow time for the delivery to take place. This usually means allowing at least three business days, but be sure to check the rules in your area. For example, in NSW you have to allow four full working days for delivery.
This means that if I want to give 14 days notice, if I post the notice on Tuesday afternoon, the move out day will be the 14th day starting from the following Tuesday!
Ensure you use the Correct Form
There is more to giving proper notice to vacate than sending a letter with “GET OUT” written in big letters. Each state has their own form. Again, the purpose of the form is to protect both you as a property owner and the tenants. You can find the forms on your state's government website.
Giving notice to vacate doesn't have to be an unpleasant experience. Following the guidelines set forth by your states property regulatory body will ensure that everything goes without a hitch.