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How to Ask a Tenant to Move Out

When a landlord needs a tenant to vacate for any reason, getting them out is not always as easy as it sounds. Many property owners wonder if there is any other alternative to eviction. Unfortunately, the formal process of evicting a tenant can be lengthy and costly for landlords. The good news is, there are other options! However, getting a tenant to move voluntarily takes some finesse and a little bit of luck. That said, it is still worth a shot. Check out the strategies below to help you avoid eviction proceedings and get your tenant to hand over the keys.

How Can I Avoid Eviction Proceedings but Get My Tenant to Vacate?

The eviction cost is great when you factor in legal fees, lost rent, turnover repairs, and administrative fees. This adds up fast for landlords, making the need to remove a tenant voluntarily all the more important. Below we delve deeper into the alternative options a landlord has.

  1. Simply Ask Them to Vacate
  2. Offer an Incentive or “Cash for Keys”
  3. Offer Assistance
  4. Send a Written Move Out Notice

Simply Ask Them to Vacate

Never underestimate the effectiveness of being direct. Sometimes, the simplest way is the best. If you have a good landlord-tenant relationship, explaining the situation and asking them to vacate with proper notice might work well. An eviction is detrimental to the tenant and can affect their credit rating and ability to find alternative housing. Therefore, they may jump at the chance to avoid conflict and the hit to their financial well-being.

The key here is a thorough explanation; there must be no question why the tenant needs to go, especially if the need to vacate is due to grossly negligent behavior or extenuating circumstances beyond your control.

However, when the problem relates to missing rent or violation of the lease, talking with the tenant may provide another outlet. If you both can understand where each party is coming from, you may reach a mutually beneficial agreement. So, if you find that they can bring payments current or correct the violation, keeping them is potentially better than evicting them. Keeping lines of communication open is extremely important.

Offer an Incentive or “Cash for Keys”

Cash for keys is a useful tool to avoid eviction proceedings and get the tenant to vacate voluntarily. As the name suggests, this method requires landlords to pay the tenants to leave. It is not the best choice for every landlord or situation; however, it is usually very effective. Offering a cash incentive this way will often motivate your tenant to leave the property quickly so you can get it back on the market and find a better tenant. So, for landlords willing to cut their losses and pay up, follow the steps below to offer cash for keys incentive:

Steps to Offer Cash for Keys

  1. Explain the Situation – Firmly let the tenant know that they can no longer stay in your property.
  2. Outline the Consequences – Calmly explain to the tenant that you will be forced to file an eviction case if they do not move out, which will cause a huge hassle for them. Additionally, they will be sued for damages.
  3. Offer a Way Out – Show your tenant that you are willing to work with him or her to avoid the formal eviction process. Offer to give them cash for moving out by a specified date (some tenants will move out for a couple of hundred dollars, and others will only leave for over a thousand – do your best to determine what you should offer).
  4. Make it Official – Once they agree to your terms, go to the property on the move-out date and inspect it thoroughly. This is also the time to pay the tenant the agreed-upon amount of money. After the tenant has turned in their keys onsite, proceed with changing the locks.

Offer Assistance

A landlord’s attitude toward their tenant sets the tone for how a move out process will go in most cases. Many times, industry professionals have contacts that can help out the tenant in need. For example, if you have access to discounted moving trucks or even just cleaning supplies or boxes, offer it to your tenants. This gesture of goodwill can make all the difference.

Additionally, if you have any local connections to other rental properties, offer to help them find a new place. Something as simple as offering contact information to other landlords in the area with a similar price range is helpful to a tenant dealing with an unplanned move. So, when you approach tenants with this more positive attitude, they’ll feel more comfortable with the idea of leaving. Consequently, they may even be more apt to speed up the process.

Send a Written Move Out Notice

There are times when a formal nudge out the door is the only thing that will get someone’s attention. Thus, bringing us to our next option, a written notice to vacate. In Maryland, when a tenant rents on a month-to-month basis, you can usually give them the notice to vacate at any time as long as you give them 30 days’ notice.  You do not have to provide a reason for asking them to vacate on your notice, but keep in mind that asking a tenant to leave as a retaliatory or discriminatory move is illegal.

What Should a Written Notice to Vacate Include?

  • The date of the notice
  • Landlord’s name and address
  • The tenant’s name and full property address
  • A move out date – for clarity, you can state both the number of days until move out and the date they are required to leave the premises.
  • A statement requiring them to remove all their possessions from the property by the move out date
  • Information about deposits, cleaning fees, the move-out inspection, etc.
  • Instructions for returning the keys to you – make it clear that your tenant needs to return the keys on the date that they vacate your property if that’s what you’d like them to do.
  • Landlord’s signature

What if the Tenant Still Does Not Move Out?

Sometimes, tenants will remain in the property, even when you give them the proper notice to vacate. This happens for several reasons, including the tenant simply not having enough money to pay rent and/or move into a new property. If you have a stubborn tenant who is unwilling to move and you want to avoid eviction proceedings, try working with them first. Talk to them so you can figure out why they are unwilling to vacate the property. They may need a bit of extra time to come up with the money to leave. After all, moving to a new place can be quite expensive. Therefore, the tenant likely needs money for deposits and rent at their new place plus a truck rental to move their belongings.

Of course, the tenant’s moving expenses are not your problem. That said, if you find that moving expenses are keeping the tenant in the property, you may want to offer the tenant cash as an incentive. While it may seem like an extreme measure to offer cash to get a tenant to vacate when they should do so without any incentive in the first place, it does help you avoid eviction proceedings.

If all else fails, a formal eviction is your only option. This is a court proceeding, and you should never attempt to remove a tenant on your own forcefully. Not only is it potentially dangerous, but it is also illegal.

Reasons to Evict a Tenant and Your Rights as A Landlord

When you cannot avoid eviction proceedings, understanding the legal ramifications you have is key. While there are illegal reasons to evict, there are also legitimate ones. As a landlord, you have the right to pursue removing a tenant from the property for any of the following.

As a landlord, you can legally evict a tenant for:

  • Nonpayment of rent
  • Tenants break or violate the terms of their lease
  • Tenants cause damage to the property
  • Sale of the property
  • To complete renovations to your property
  • A tenant does not leave upon lease expiration

Examples of Illegal Self-help Evictions

  • Direct orders to leave
  • Threats of any kind
  • Changing the locks while the tenant still lives in the property
  • Removing the tenant’s property
  • Failing to pay included utilities like water, cutting them off

If one of these reasons applies to your situation, you can begin the eviction process by going to the district court to get a judgment against your tenant. If the eviction process is successful, the court will issue an order of eviction, and a sheriff will make the tenant leave the home. Evicting a tenant can be frustrating, but remember, you cannot legally move a tenant’s possessions out of the property or change the locks/cut off utilities while a tenant lives in your property unless you have a court order.


Want to avoid choosing bad tenants that are likely to get evicted? Consider the benefits of property management services in Delaware County or throughout the Philadelphia area. Here at Bay Property Management Group, our Delaware County property management services help ensure that only top-quality tenants are placed into your property, thanks to our rigorous screening process. In fact, our eviction rate is less than 1%. We are so confident in our ability to place tenants that we offer a 6-Month Tenant Warranty. If we place a tenant in your property and evict them within the first year, we will re-lease the property for free. You will not find that kind of service anywhere else! So, if you are interested in attracting high-quality tenants to your property, contact us today!


One thought on “How to Ask a Tenant to Move Out

  1. Frank citro says:

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