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RENTAL SAVVY

Moving? When to tell landlord

June 29, 2003|H. May Spitz | Special to The Times

Timing the notice when ending a rental is never easy. Is it better to give notice first and try to find housing elsewhere within 30 days, or wait until another place is found and risk paying double rent?

In either case, the tenant has to give a 30-day written notice to whomever the rent is paid. And letting the landlord know before the notice arrives is always a good idea.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau report "Why People Move," the desire for a new or better place tops the list of reasons for moving. Others are job, family or school related.

Whatever the reasons for moving, giving 30 days' written notice while searching for replacement housing has potential upsides and downsides. While money can be saved by not overlapping two rentals, the possibility of being homeless at the end of the month is daunting.

After notice is given, the owner has the legal right to lease the residence to someone else. The tenant will be required to vacate the rental whether he or she has somewhere else to live.

The option of holding off giving notice and then hoping to negotiate a later move-in date with the new landlord also has disadvantages. After a tenant finds a place, he or she may have to juggle two rent payments for 30 days in order to hold it. The new landlord may be reluctant to give away a month's rent. Some may "split the difference," however, and negotiate to divide the rent for the month.

In other cases, the current landlord may be unhappy with less than 30 days' legal notice and keep the deposit.

If you are considering changing your rental, first get organized and do your homework. When checking out the classified ads, note if the majority say "available now." That means rentals are vacant and waiting.

If you have checked out the market and discovered that there are plenty of choices, the stress of giving 30-day notice and worrying if anything will be available within the month will be lessened.

Even if vacancies are available, if your needs are unusual, such as accommodating a large pet, be prepared for a lengthier search. Credit problems, relocation from another city and the housing needs of large families can pose leasing challenges.

One family in the San Fernando Valley recently realized it had outgrown its one-bathroom rental home. The family chose to wait and do research before giving notice. With three small children, the bustling family found suitable homes were scarce.

Finally, the parents negotiated an end-of-the-month move-in date and gave written notice on the old rental. But the new lease fell through. Fortunately, the family knew the rental market from doing its homework. It let its previous landlord know what was happening and days later a rental opened up. The family moved out in time to a larger home, saving it the cost of double rent.

H. May Spitz is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer. Reader comments may be sent to hmayspitz@aol.com.

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