Is written notice of tenant’s intention to move-out required?

Many leases have a clause indicating that a tenant must provide at least 30 days’ written notice of his intention to move-out. If no notice is given, according to the lease, the tenancy becomes a month to month tenancy and the tenant is liable for at least one extra month’s rent. How have Ohio courts viewed these clauses?

In one example, the rental agreement between Tenant and Landlord contained a clause requiring Tenant to notify Landlord in writing 30 days before the end of the rental term that he would be leaving the apartment. Tenant had rented Apartment for his mother, who became to sick to stay at Apartment. Tenant and Landlord both tried to get someone else to take over the rent for Apartment, but were unsuccessful. Tenant paid all amounts until the end of lease term. Landlord kept Tenant’s security deposit, arguing that Tenant had not given written notice as required by lease of intent to vacate at end of term.

The Court of Appeals held that while it is not per se unconscionable to have a clause in a rental agreement requiring written notice to the Landlord of Tenant’s intent to vacate, the purpose of such clauses is to require certainty, not to be hypertechnical. Thus, when the Court finds that Landlord was on notice of Tenant’s intent to vacate at end of lease term (even though such notice was oral), such notice is sufficient and the failure to give written notice will not justify Landlord’s withholding of security deposit.

The better policy is to provide written notice of your intent to vacate even if the lease does not require it. Send this notice via certified mail, return receipt requested and keep a copy of the letter. However, oral notice is effective if given in a timely fashion as required by the lease. The trick is to make sure you have a witness because the landlord will most likely deny that you gave oral notice.

McGowan v. DM Group IX (1982), 7 Ohio App.3d 349

Cummings v. Getz (February 11, 1985), Butler App. No. CA 84-09-105 (12th District), LEXIS 6078, unreported.

Hofer v. Cooper (March 17, 1989), Portage App. No. 1909 (11th District), LEXIS 870, unreported

Seginak v. ABC Management (September 18, 1987), Trumbull App. No. 3816 (11th District), LEXIS 8758, unreported

Ballard v. KMB Investors (August 3, 1993), Union App. No. 14-93-5 (3rd Dist.), LEXIS 3882, unreported.