An agreement to vacate property is often needed when a tenant and a property owner agree to the terms of when a rented or leased property will be vacated.

Definition of Vacate

The word “vacate” is commonly used two different ways in a legal sense. In terms of property, vacating the premises means to leave a property, devoid of any personal belongings. When a judgment or court order is vacated, this action renders it null and void or canceled. An individual can vacate a property involuntarily, such as by receiving an eviction notice through a court order, or leave the property by choice. Lease and rental agreements usually include terms outlining how and when the tenant must vacate the property when the period of the lease ends.

Landlords or property owners may require their tenants to pay deposits for any potential damages. The security deposit would be refunded to the tenant after they vacate the property, as long as the tenant didn't cause any severe damage to the property. If the tenant leaves any personal items that the landlord must dispose of or damages have occurred during the tenant's lease term, the landlord can keep part or all of the security deposit to pay for the repairs or disposal costs.

Civil procedure rules for state and federal governments provide the authority to alter judgments that have previously been made. When a judgment or court order is rescinded, altered, or canceled, this process is referred to as vacating the order. When a lawsuit comes to a definitive end and the relief requested by either or both parties has either been denied or granted, this action is called the judgment. A judgment ends the litigation process and a plaintiff may collect any damages awarded.

Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, rule 60(b), a federal court may relieve a party from a judgment that has been determined to be adverse, as long as it meets one of the requirements for a substantial issue:

  • Newly discovered evidence
  • Fraud
  • Mistake
  • Judgment satisfaction

If the party against whom the judgment goes did not receive sufficient notice of the action, this could be grounds for seeking to vacate the judgment. For example, if the plaintiff in the case has made an effort in good faith to locate the other involved party but cannot find them to serve notice of the legal action, the court might allow the plaintiff to publish the notice in a local newspaper.

If the defendant doesn't appear in court on the day of the hearing, that defendant may receive a default negative judgment that goes in favor of the plaintiff. However, that defendant might request a motion to vacate the judgment after the judge has ruled. One argument that might help the defendant's case is the idea that the plaintiff should have made more of an effort to serve the notice of legal process in person. By receiving the required notice, the defendant might have been able to appear on the day of the hearing and argue their case.

Most courts prefer not to grant motions to vacate judgments. This is particularly the case when the motion relates to evidence that has been newly discovered. If the party requesting to vacate the judgment didn't exercise due diligence to get the evidence in time to show it during the original court case, the court won't grant the motion to vacate. In some jurisdictions, newly discovered evidence is not grounds for a judgment to be vacated.

How Evictions Work: Rules for Landlords and Property Managers

When evicting a tenant, the first step is making sure the lease or rental agreement is legally terminated. This process is done by providing legal written notice to the tenant, as outlined in the termination statute of the specific state in which the property is located.

If the agreement is being terminated based on a violation, such as failure to pay rent or violating the rules, the tenant may have the option to reform their behavior, such as by paying all outstanding rent or rehoming a pet that isn't allowed in the residence. However, if the tenant doesn't reform their behavior or vacate the property, the next legal step is filing a lawsuit to begin the eviction process. This process is also referred to as a lawsuit for unlawful detainer.

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