Many tenants have fixed-term leases—often a year long—that allow them to remain in their rental unit for a set period of time before the lease terminates. However, some tenants will find themselves in so-called “month-to-month” or “week-to-week” tenancies. Depending on the type of tenancy, state laws require different amounts of advance notice before ending a lease. Choose your state from the drop-down menu for more specifics about notice requirements where you rent.
Written lease terms overrule everything else
If a tenant has a written lease, there is a good chance that they know exactly when their lease is up: the lease says so. If a lease says it expires on July 31st (for example), then that’s it—past July 31st, the tenant is overstaying the lease. At this point, the landlord is free to begin eviction proceedings against the tenant.
In most states, the landlord has no special requirement to inform a tenant that their lease is about to expire. Nor do tenants need to inform their landlords that a lease is up, if it has a specified end date—unless it contains an automatic renewal clause, which are legal in certain states such as Massachusetts.
Oral and unconventional leases may not have an end date
Not every lease has a built-in expiration date. Many states consider verbal leases to be valid, even if they're never written down.These leases might not contain any specified end date, and be as informal as a landlord saying a tenant can crash in their extra room for a while and pay a certain amount every month or two.
Other leases create periodic tenancies. In these, a tenant occupies a rental unit on a weekly, monthly, or yearly basis (or any other period of time you can dream up—every 12 days would be legal, for example, if a bit complicated), with no set end date. In these cases, the lease automatically renews after a set period of time even if the lease does not explicitly state this—neither the landlord nor the tenant needs to take any action for the lease to renew. Lease arrangements like this give both landlords and tenants more flexibility.
Periodic tenancies can be created accidentally
While some rollover tenancies can be created by landlords and tenants specifically, others, called “holdover” tenancies, can be created without any explicit agreement. This happens when a tenant stays in a rental unit after their fixed lease is up—the tenant “holds over” in the rental unit. If the landlord continues to accept rent from the tenant, the tenant creates a periodic tenancy (usually month-to-month).
Advance notice is required to end a periodic tenancy
However, with this flexibility comes uncertainty for both parties—a landlord or tenant may choose to end the arrangement unexpectedly. To help renters navigate this uncertainty, most states require landlords to tell tenants in advance that a lease will no longer be automatically renewed. Many states also require tenants to tell their landlords in advance if they'll be moving out.
Often, at least 30 days' notice is required—but it can vary depending on how often the tenant pays rent.
Typically, a termination notice must be in writing. They can always be mailed to the party receiving notice, or given to them directly, but often they cannot be verbal or sent by text or email.
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.
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