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5 Things to Know About Voluntary Move Out Agreements

What if there was a way to avoid the lengthy, expensive, and often emotionally-draining eviction process every time you needed a tenant to move out? Here are five major things to keep in mind for smooth move outs.
What if there was a way to avoid the lengthy, expensive, and often emotionally-draining eviction process every time you needed a tenant to move out? Here are five major things to keep in mind for smooth move outs.

Managing rental properties can be tough, especially when you want a tenant to move out before the end of their lease.

The tenant could be problematic or a headache to other renters. You could be considering remodeling or selling the rental to buy an investment property elsewhere.

But it is illegal to throw a tenant out in the cold and conducting a lawful eviction is expensive, time-consuming, and frustrating. So, how do you avoid the stress when you need a tenant to move?

A voluntary move out agreement can help.

A Voluntary Move Out Agreement Is Different from a Lease Agreement Breach

The major difference is, in a voluntary move out agreement all parties agree to and sign new terms of the lease. The tenant is expected to move out by a specified date, and the existing lease contract is effectively terminated, meaning it can’t be breached.

Some places, such as Oakland and San Francisco, have specific guidelines on how to go about issuing a voluntary move out agreement, so do more in-depth research about the process in your area.

They’re an Effective Way to Give Both Parties a Way Out

When both the tenant and landlord agree to a move-out and sign a new agreement for it, the new contract cancels the original lease agreement. In the end, both parties benefit from the new arrangement.

Here’s how a move out agreement helps the tenant:

  • They get to lawfully leave the premises.
  • They have a reasonable time to look for another rental, make necessary repairs, and organize for a move.
  • Sometimes, the landlord will offer the tenant money to help them with the transition.
  • They avoid a lawful eviction which can be expensive. Many states retain an eviction in court records for seven years (5 years in Oregon) making it tough for the tenant to find a new rental.
  • If the move out notice is served for inability or for snubbing to pay rent, a voluntary move out agreement can help avoid hurting the tenant’s credit score.

Here’s how it helps the landlord:

  • They get rid of a delinquent tenant without going through the expensive, lawful eviction process.
  • They are free to lease their rental to a preferred tenant.
  • They can carry out renovations.
  • They can legally sell their rental property.

A Landlord Can Buy Out a Tenant for Cash

A relatively new approach to landlord-tenant relationships, agreeing on a tenant buyout, can help a landlord to convince a tenant to move out without legal action.

Also called a “cash for keys” agreement, the landlord approaches the tenant with a notice to move out by a certain date.

The landlord then makes it clear that they are willing to offer a specific sum of money if the tenant moves out by that date — and leaves the premises undamaged.

The specific amount of money will vary, but both parties can negotiate. The landlord can also allow the tenant to take the full security deposit if they agree to move out on or by the specified date — on condition that the property is in the condition the tenant found it, save for reasonable wear and tear.

The Normal Move Out Process Applies

Even in a “cash for keys” arrangement, the landlord still needs to make typical checks to ensure the departing tenant did not cause any excessive damages to the premises.

In most agreements, the tenant pays for any damages to the rental. The estimated cost of repairs is deducted from the security deposit before or on the day of the move.

Any Voluntary Move Out Agreement Has to Be in Writing

A written voluntary move out agreement is proof there’s a new contract.

If either party — tenant or landlord — fails to sign the new move out contract and the issue goes to court, the judgment will be based on the original lease agreement.

The move out request by the landlord or move out action by the tenant shall be treated as a breach of the existing lease agreement.

In some states, the voluntary move out agreement can be agreed upon, exchanged, and signed by both parties online.

Investing in rental properties does not have to be frustrating. Work with a Clever Partner Agent and save money when buying rental properties. You also get to pick their brain on local renters so you can steer clear of problematic tenants.


Ben Mizes

Ben Mizes is the co-founder and CEO of Clever Real Estate, the free online service that connects you with top agents to save thousands on commission. He's an active real estate investor with 22 units in St. Louis and a licensed agent in Missouri. Ben enjoys writing about real estate, investing, personal finance, and financial freedom. He's a serial entrepreneur, having run several successful startups before Clever Real Estate. Ben's writing has been featured in Yahoo Finance, Realtor News, CNBC, and BiggerPockets.

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