A Must Use Form for Every Landlord: Release to the Rights of Possession

by | BiggerPockets.com

The “Release to the Rights of Possession” form is one of the most important forms that a landlord can use.  It is a must use for every landlord.  It helps protect you from future claims from former tenants.  Let me explain.

When you sign a lease with a tenant, you legally give them what is termed “possession” of that rental unit.  The tenant then occupies and possesses the rental unit for the term of the lease.  The “Release to the Rights of Possession” form comes into play whenever the tenant or the landlord decides it is time for the tenant to move on.  It could be at the end of a lease term, or it could be before the end of the lease term if some sort of problem arises.

The “Release to the Rights of Possession” form basically says two things:

  • First, that the tenant has vacated and ceased occupying the rental unit as of an effective date
  • Second and more important, that the tenant has removed all of his or her possessions from the rental unit.

This form should be signed by every tenant upon their move out.  If you have three tenants in a rental unit, make sure all three sign the form when they leave.

Why is this form so important?

The form is really sort of an insurance policy against the unscrupulous tenant.  Suppose for example, a tenant falls on hard times and cannot afford your apartment any more.  The tenant cannot come up with the rent and you threaten court action and eviction.

The tenant, not wanting an eviction on their record decides to leave and move out.  They take their belongings and give you the keys.  You do not get a signed “Release” form. End of story right?  Well, maybe not.

Three months go by.  You have cleaned up and re-rented the unit.  You get a call from your former tenant.  “Did you find my grandmother’s diamond wedding ring? I left it in the medicine cabinet.”  “No” you say.  “You stole it.” Says the former tenant and takes you to court wanting a $5,000 judgment.  What will the court do?  You do not have a signed “Release” form.  It may come down to he said /she said.  Not a position you want to be in when you are in court.

So, protect yourself.  Have all your tenants sign a “Release to the Rights of Possession” form when they end their occupancy on your property.  Make it a part of your move out procedure.

The only time you do not need to get this form signed is if you get possession via court order, say through the eviction process.  The court releases possession to you through the eviction process.  But that is a story for another blog post.  Happy Investing!

Photo: Wiertz Sébastien

About Author

Kevin Perk

Kevin Perk is co-founder of Kevron Properties, LLC with his wife Terron and has been involved in real estate investing for 10 years. Kevin invests in and manages rental properties in Memphis, TN and is a past president and vice-president of the local REIA group, the Memphis Investors Group.


    • Kevin Perk


      Good question. We have never had anyone even question the form. Of course there is no way I can force anyone to sign anything and if they do not want to sign, they do not sign. But, when you explain the costs involved to the tenant if they do not sign, you will most likely get a signature.

      If the tenants do not sign, that means I have two choices to get legal possession back. One, go to court to evict them to get legal possession. Two, use the abandonment provisions of the Tennessee Landlord/Tenant Act. Either way I am keeping their security deposit and charging them for court costs, storage fees, etc.

      So the answer is to tie the completed form to their security deposit if your local laws allow this. If you do not want to use such a legal term like “Release of Rights of Possession” just call it a “Move Out” form.

      Thanks for reading and commenting,


  1. Tenant belongs left behind is always a dilema. However you incorporate verbage, either a seperate sheet of incorporated in your lease, it needs to be addressed. Be advised that every state has different laws and they will over-ride your agreement.
    We also incorporate a abandendment clause that we post and give the tenant 7 days to respond too – if they dont the property is considered abandand and we take possession.

    • Kevin Perk

      Ja Santero,

      Good advice on understanding your local laws on this subject.

      The abandonment policy here in Tennessee is 30 days. Plus I have to pay to store any of their stuff.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.


  2. Will going through an attorney be required? I can’t find a PDF copy online anywhere.
    My leases already have clauses for property abandonment so I’ll have to review those sections with the form and see what can be improved. Thank you for making this contribution; it is very much appreciated.
    ~ Remrie Arrie

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