Problem of Surrender and/or Abandonment of Rental Property

Updated 5/14/24

What happens if a tenant abandons or surrenders their apartment?

A tenant surrendering their apartment in California means they are voluntarily giving up their rights to occupy the apartment and returning it to the landlord. This process can have different implications depending on the specifics of the lease agreement and the circumstances of the surrender. We’ll discuss some points to consider.

Problem of Surrender and/or Abandonment of Rental Property

Rental Lease Agreement Terms

Is there an early termination clause in your rental lease agreement?

Your rental agreement should include a clause that outline the terms and conditions in the event where a tenant wishes to terminate the lease early. This often involves the tenant providing some sort of notice, a time period and establishing any fees related to terminating the lease early.

Notice to Surrender Requirements

Tenants should be required (per your rental agreement) to provide a written notice to the landlord if they intend to surrender the apartment. The common time frame for notifying the landlord of intent to surrender a rental unit is 30 days, but you can specify other time frames in your rental agreement.

Related: What is a Notice of Abandonment and When Can it Be Served?

Financial Consequences

Even if your tenant is notifying you of voluntarily surrendering the apartment, they may still be responsible for rent until the lease term ends or until the landlord finds a new tenant. This is because California law requires landlords to mitigate damages by attempting to re-rent the unit as soon as possible.

What happens to the security deposit when a tenant surrenders an apartment?

The tenant’s security deposit may be used to cover any unpaid rent or damages beyond normal wear and tear. The landlord must provide an itemized list of deductions within 21 days of you vacating the unit.

Condition of the Apartment

Once the landlord receives a notice to surrender possession from the tenant, an inspection should be immediately scheduled so that the landlord can provide a list of items the tenant needs to clean/fix before moving out.

Any damages beyond normal wear and tear may be deducted from the tenant’s security deposit.

Legal and Credit Implications

If the tenant decides it’s a good idea to abandon the rental property without the landlord’s consent or without a legal justification (such as a constructive eviction or breach of habitability standards), the landlord may sue for unpaid rent and any additional costs incurred.

Related: What to do When the Tenant Suddenly Disappears from the Property

Any unpaid rent and any resulting legal judgments can negatively affect your credit score.

Surrender Agreement

In some cases, the tenant and the landlord may agree to terminate the lease early. This agreement should be documented in writing to protect both parties. This agreement can outline the terms of surrender, any fees to be paid, and the condition in which the apartment should be left. You should check with your legal council before accepting a surrender agreement.

A tenant surrendering the rental property isn’t ideal for the landlord in most cases, but sometimes it could be the best solution to come to a surrender agreement with the tenant as it could benefit both parties. Especially when a tenant has a legit excuse to terminate the lease agreement early, such as an out of state job proposal, or sudden loss of income. We hope this article has shed some light on what to expect when a tenant either abandons or surrenders their apartment.