What happens at the end of the lease?

Questions Tenants Should Ask Their Landlord

Tenants.com tenant couple renting a homeHow awesome that you have found your perfect rental home or apartment!  You have been able to enjoy your new place for almost a year but now, the lease ending date is near.  Are you planning on staying in your current home with the perfect amenities and perfect location?  If so, you have some important steps to take before you lose that chance.  The first major step is to take out that legal contract and read, read, read your lease carefully to determine what happens at the end of the lease.  If you are unsure about the terms or about what you are expected to do, contact your Landlord and confirm it with him/her so there are no surprises.  Your lease may have a provision where you as the Tenant are to be given the option to renew the lease for a certain time period.  Provided you have followed your lease and have not been constantly late on making your monthly payments or have been issued official warnings about unapproved activity, you may be able to send a written notice to the Landlord to exercise that option to renew.  But, this is not the time to procrastinate!  Your Lease Agreement will most likely specify the exact number of days that you are required to notify the Manager of your intent to renew.  That, of course, doesn’t mean that you should wait until that exact time period – the sooner the better.  If this is the perfect place with the perfect location, you certainly don’t want to find yourself having to pack up and move because you did not act in accordance with the Lease Contract.

Of course, it may happen that when you contact your Landlord to request a renewal, the Landlord may choose not to renew.  Again, the Lease Contract has all of the clues so be prepared prior to the end of your term.  There can be many reasons why the Landlord may choose to end this Tenant Landlord relationship; however, they too have legal responsibilities in accordance with the Lease Agreement.  There are times, for example, where the property may have been sold.  The sale of the property does not automatically end a lease.  It is required that the Landlord notify all tenants when the property ownership changes and they are required to notify you of the new owner’s name and address.   That notice will be delivered personally, mailed or posted at the front office or somewhere on the property.  At any rate, you may not be forced to move, but you may need to expect potential changes.  Of course, if the Landlord is holding funds from your Security Deposit, they are required to transfer those deposits to the new owner. Meaning, your Security Deposit is safe.

If for some other reason, the Landlord decides not to renew your lease, your original signed Lease Agreement will detail the time frame that they must provide written notice of that decision, or more often than not, the lease simply expires at the end of the term, and you will need to move unless you request and receive renewal permission according to the terms of the lease.  It is the landlord’s option to renew the lease (or not) no matter whether you have been a good tenant (or not). Of course they must follow all of the terms of the Fair Housing Act, which bars the landlord from discrimination against the tenant.

In the case that a non-renewal is required of property manager, they too must follow the lease and provide proper timing and service of the Notice of Non-Renewal. If the Landlord intends to terminate the tenancy but fails to provide a non-renewal in accordance with the Lease, it can result in an unwanted extension of the tenancy.

Likewise, if the tenant misses the renewal deadline in the lease, it may mean that they either have to move or pay a higher rent upon renewal. This is especially important in commercial leases that may be for a number of years, and the expiration may be overlooked. It may seem unfair if you have paid on time and (in your mind) was a perfect tenant, yet you are not allowed to renew and remain in your ‘perfect’ home or business rental.  And yes, you will be required to find a location, pack up and move. The Landlord has that right to make a tenant leave at the expiration of the lease just as you have a right to leave after the term.

Your signed lease may indicate that if the lease is not renewed prior to the expiration date, the lease term will automatically be set as a month-to-month lease.  Be prepared, however, and know what that might mean for you as the Tenant.  The provision may indicate that your monthly rent amount can be increased or there may be additional charges incurred for the term.  If your lease were to turn into a month-to-month lease, you should be notified of the terms of that extension.  Along with knowing the new monthly rate and potential fees, you should be aware of the number of days of notice both you and the landlord will be required to give to the other party of his/her intention to finally terminate the rental agreement.

When you sat down with the Landlord and signed that original lease, you legally agreed to pay rent for the indicated term, so what happens if you have the opportunity to accept a new job in a location on the other side of town, or what if you simply don’t feel safe in your new home and it is not as perfect as you imagined?  Can you simply give notice that you plan on moving?  As much as you may not like the answer here, you are legally bound in that little thing you signed called a Lease Agreement.  If you were to accept a job out of town and have no choice but to break the lease, you are most likely going to have to pay a penalty, which could range from several months’ rent or rent through the end of the term. Prior to making any major changes in your life, check your lease! There are quite a few leases out there that include some kind of ‘break-lease clause’ that might allow you to leave early provided you pay those extra MONTHS of rent and/or forfeit your Security Deposit. As bad as this might sound, at least you wouldn’t be required to pay out the entire lease.  Once you have completely educated yourself on your legal responsibilities and/or rights, the first thing to do is to talk to your Landlord.  If it turns out that you don’t have that coveted ‘break-lease clause’ included in your lease, and your landlord is not willing to give you a break, you still have a few options. One of them is not to take it out on your Landlord.  Remember that you are legally bound here and breaking the lease will cost your Landlord additional funds that he or she did not plan on since it was understood that your Unit would be rented through the end of the term.  There are some states that allow for military transfers, or require the landlord to make a reasonable effort to find someone to live in the home/apartment that you plan to vacate and then there are some states that place that burden on you to find a replacement.  Remember though that the Landlord is not required to rent to just anyone to correct your situation, so don’t think that you can find some Joe Blow that you just met who is not qualified to take your rental. The Landlord will always put the potential tenant through the same screening process that you went through.  One other option is to check both in the contract and with your Landlord to see if sub-leasing is allowed.  Then again, you MUST find out what your responsibilities would be if Joe decided to quit paying.  Will you still remain on the Lease Contract and be expected to pay if the new tenant defaulted?  Will you still lose your Security Deposit?  So many important details that you will need to know!

Another big consideration is that if your Landlord ends up incurring costs from your unlawful termination, they may have the right to sue you if that cost exceeds your Security Deposit.  It is possible that the Landlord could sue for the cost to find a qualified tenant, for the time the rental unit is vacant, and for attorney fees if such a clause was included in the Lease Agreement.  I will say it again…read that contract before you move forward on any action.

There are many times in our lives that we choose to ‘skim over’ documents that we sign.  This is not one of those times.  The possibilities of whether you can renew your lease, the time frame that you are required to notify the Landlord, when the Landlord has to notify you that you have to go find a new place and what will happen if you decide to break your lease are all detailed in those tiny words that you legally agree to.  This contract is so important that you may want to take your lease to an attorney if you don’t understand everything that is included.  I might have mentioned in this article already that it is a binding contract so know what you are signing.

So that little question of what to do when my lease is about to expire will be quite clear once you read your contract.  Don’t be caught off guard.  Be in the know and make the right decisions.