What can we do if our landlord won’t respond to our notice to vacate?

UPDATED: Jun 7, 2011

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What can we do if our landlord won’t respond to our notice to vacate?

Our lease ended 4 months ago but we have continued to pay month-to-month. The landlord has never been prompt to respond to issues with the property (and there have been a lot), but now he won’t respond to the letter or answer our calls/voice messages. We have allowed 30 days notice as the law requires, but we can’t sign for our new lease until we are sure we are getting out of this current property (and our deposit back). If the landlord won’t respond, what can we do? Can we send the letter certified and plan to leave after the 30 days legally, without a response? What if he withholds our deposit?

Asked on June 7, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Rhode Island


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The problem is that once you give 30 days notice, IF  you then stay over, you negate that notice and holdover for another month, requiring a new notice period.

Do what you suggest: send your notice, and send it both certified mail, return receipt requested; regular mail; and also (if your landlord is local) handdelivered or emailed as an attachment. Then leave after the notice period.

As to the deposit: legally, the landlord may only deduct from it for damage you've done or if you had unpaid rent. If the landlord violates the law and holds on to the deposit, you'll need to sue for its return--but that has nothing to do with giving proper notice; it's just a risk you always run, so you shouldn't let it influence your planning.

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Yes, I would send a formal letter more than the thirty days prior (as you have to allow for the time the law requires for mailing so add 10 days to be sure) and the same letter by regular mail with a certificate of mailing but I would also read your former lease and see what it says about notice just in case it is different.  If it is do both, even though the prior lease expired.  Now, be prepared that you may have to fight for your security deposit back.  If the landlord is not answering your phone messages I can guarantee that he or she is not going to make this easy for you.  So make sure that you follow the law in Rhode Island.  Here it is:

The deposit must be returned within twenty days after the tenant gives proper notice, moves out, returns the key, and provides a forwarding address. When returning the deposit, the landlord must send the tenant an itemized notice listing any legal deductions withheld from the money being returned. Such deductions can only be for unpaid rent (not future rent that might be legally owed), and physical damages other than ordinary wear and tear.

So give proper notice - the letters and what it says in the lease - send back the key by certified mail and send your forwarding address by certified and regular mail with certificate of mailing.  Good luck.


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