Understand Your Rights and Responsibilities
Review your area's landlord-tenant laws as well as the lease itself. Both can tell you how you are legally obligated to inform your landlord that you are terminating the lease. For example, if you are renting on a month to month basis or you have a lease that has an automatic renewal option, you may have to mail your letter within a specific time frame. If you are terminating your lease for reasons other than non-renewal, research the law to ensure that you have grounds for breaking the lease. Common grounds for legally breaking a lease include military service or a landlord's refusal to make a major repair.
State the Date and Reason for Termination
State your move-out date at the beginning of your letter. Then explain why you are leaving. If you are breaking a lease, rather than opting not to renew, provide details that support your case. Cite the law, ordinance or lease clause that gives you the right to terminate the lease. Next, briefly explain your situation and why the law or ordinance you cite applies to you. For example, if you are moving because your landlord has refused to make needed repairs, describe your attempts to notify the landlord of the problem.
Request Your Security Deposit
If you paid your landlord a security deposit, ask for it back. Include the amount of the deposit and a request that your landlord send it to you at your new address. If you don't have a new address yet, provide your landlord with the address of the post office box or a family member who is willing to receive mail for you. If you live in California, you have the right to request a move-out inspection so that you can address damage that would result in a security deposit deduction.
Keep Your Cool
Resist the urge to take a snarky or threatening tone in the letter, even if you have legitimate complaints against your landlord. Be respectful and focus on the facts in your letter, even if you are terminating your lease because of serious repair issues or unsafe living conditions.