Landlords and property managers generally require a formal notice to vacate when you leave a rental unit. The notice alerts the landlord or property manager that you no longer want to rent the property, and that he should start looking for another tenant to occupy your space. The notice period -- that is, the amount of time between giving written notice and leaving -- can vary based on state law, how long you've rented and your lease terms.
In most states, you must give at least 30 days notice to the landlord, noting that you're not renewing the lease and that you'll be vacating. However, this sometimes depends on how long you have been renting. If you have rented for less than a year, you often have to give 60 days notice.
Period Between Payments
In some states, the amount of time between rental payments determines proper notice, as asserted by the California Department of Consumer Affairs. For example, your landlord may have you pay in bimonthly installments. In this instance, because there are two weeks between payments, you must give a two-week notice to vacate.
The Lease Agreement
Typically, lease agreements spell out how much notice you have to give when you want to move out. Landlords may choose to extend the minimum notice specified by law, usually doing so in increments of 30 days. For instance, if state law required a minimum of 30 days for notice, the landlord may require 60 days. Landlords do this because they know from experience approximately how long it takes them to rent a unit at a particular property. If your lease specifies how much notice you must give, then that is the notice duration you must follow, as your lease is a legally binding contract.
If you move out without giving proper notice, you can be held liable for the remaining amount of rent left on the lease (usually one month's rent if your original lease has expired and placed you on a month-to-month). However, you can give the notice at any time. For instance, you could give notice on the 15th of January and move out on the 15th of February. In this instance, the landlord normally would prorate your rent so you wouldn't be charged the full amount for February. Notably, not all landlords agree to prorate if your move-out date is inconsistent with the leasing cycle period. If your landlord doesn't agree to prorate -- which should be stipulated in your lease -- then you are responsible to pay for the entire cycle in which you left.