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Can a landlord use an expired lease to determine when I can move out?
September 21, 2010 7:06 AM   Subscribe

Does it matter when my lease began if I'm no longer under the lease, but still occupying the premises?

YANML: I've been on a month-to-month renting basis in my apartment as of July 1, 2010 (after my year-lease expired). On September 15, 2010, I gave my landlord 30 days' written notice that I'd be moving out on October 15. He sent me back an email that said, "I need to look at your lease and see whether it starts on the 15th or on the 1st. If it's the first, you'd be out of there as of Nov. 1st. If it's the 15th, Oct. 15th. Either way, I understand the intent and we'll work out the details moving forward."

(I have always paid my rent on the first of the month, but I just found on a Michigan tenant site that Either the tenant or the landlord may terminate the lease by giving a minimum of 30 days written notice. The 30 days notice can be given on any day of the month, except when there is a lease clause which specifically states that notice of termination must be given on the first or last of the month. Which mine does not.)

I didn't reply to it, and a few days later he emailed me again with a copy of my lease attached, that said "Here's what I have for your lease, let me know where you stand and we'll go from there."

Well, where I stand is that I don't HAVE a lease, so it doesn't matter, 30 days is 30 days, and I'll be out. There is a whole litany of problems with this place which I have not been shy about with him (the most recent being a week without gas/hot water because the landlords didn't pay the gas bill for over 2 months). The apartment is pretty old and gross, and any improvements to it have been done by me and my boyfriend.

When I went to month-to-month this past July, I never signed anything, no agreements, etc. but the rent was raised by $40. So I've been paying the increase even though I'm under no signed obligation to do so, and thought the 30 days' notice was pretty considerate since I'm under no obligation to do that either.

I have an application in at a new place and don't anticipate any problems getting in there, and may even be able to move in on October 1.

So: If it goes the first way and I don't move out til the 15th, can they "come after me" since my non-existent lease began on the 1st? If I move out on the 1st, can they come after me for "violating" my 30 days' notice? I don't plan on paying any more, so it doesn't make a difference on that end. I guess my biggest concern is the 30 days notice. If I chop it to 15 days instead, is that a big deal? (I can't stress enough that I am under no written agreement to do anything at this point)
posted by slyboots421 to Law & Government (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
but I just found on a Michigan tenant site

Does this mean you live in Michigan?
posted by I am the Walrus at 7:13 AM on September 21, 2010


(I can't stress enough that I am under no written agreement to do anything at this point)

We don't know that - your lease may have language in it regarding the parties' obligation should it become a month-to-month tenancy.
posted by amro at 7:18 AM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


your lease may have language in it regarding the parties' obligation should it become a month-to-month tenancy.

This - I live in Texas so this may not be applicable, but our lease required 60 days notice even after we go from a signed lease to month-to-month. Read your lease carefully, and if you can't find any language, then respond with exactly what you wrote here
Either the tenant or the landlord may terminate the lease by giving a minimum of 30 days written notice. The 30 days notice can be given on any day of the month, except when there is a lease clause which specifically states that notice of termination must be given on the first or last of the month, which ours does not. I gave written notice on the 15th of September and I will vacate the premises by 15th of October.
posted by muddgirl at 7:27 AM on September 21, 2010


Yeah, just because you are occupying the property after the expiration of the lease does not mean that you are "under no obligation." Most leases do contain provisions that govern the terms of your occupancy after the lease term expires if you go month-to-month thereafter. Also, many municipalities have their own laws that establish defaults for month-to-month tenancy (whether that tenancy follows a lease term or not).

All that to say that just because you don't have a new signed agreement doesn't mean you don't have obligations. Leases in a lot of places don't need to be signed at all -- it's just better for everyone if they are so that there's a written instrument everyone can point to in case of disputes. And, of course, the lease you DID sign may in fact speak to the current conditions anyway.

Re-read your lease, see if it has a provision regarding post-lease month-to-month tenancy, look up your local laws (or call a local tenants rights organization), and don't assume you can just depart when you want and/or without notice.
posted by devinemissk at 7:28 AM on September 21, 2010


I am the Walrus - Yes, I do live in Michigan, sorry, forgot to put that in there.

My lease doesn't say anything about month-to-month arrangements. The extent of what I was told at the time was that it would automatically slip into month-to-month status after the year had expired, if I chose not to renew my lease.

devinemissk - that's about what I was wondering, how far my obligations extend. I mean, I feel like I'm being pretty considerate giving notice when my instinct for the past month has been to just run and not look back. But how does anyone get "prosecuted" in a situation like this? Say I did choose to cut and run. What grounds would they have with which to sue me or otherwise go after me?
posted by slyboots421 at 7:33 AM on September 21, 2010


They probably would just try to keep your security deposit. If your lease doesn't have any month to month provisions, just quote him Michigan statute for notice and see what he says.
posted by Kimberly at 7:39 AM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


IANYL. TINLA.

First, the thing most landlords do when tenants cut and run is refuse to return the security deposit. So be prepared to kiss that goodbye. Best case scenario (depending on a lot of factors), that would be the end of it.

Second, if the laws in your jurisdiction allow, there may not even be a lawsuit -- your landlord might just be able to go get a default judgment against you for the rent he claims to be owed (based on laws that say he's owed 30 days notice from the start of the established term of the lease, i.e., the 1st of the month -- IF that's what your jurisdiction allows, which I don't know because I am not your lawyer or a landlord-tenant lawyer nor do I know what city or town or municipality you live in). He could then (again, depending on your jurisdiction -- I am not your lawyer nor am I am a landlord-tenant lawyer) use that judgment to get collections involved and then it could go on your credit report and show up every time you want to get a loan, etc.

If I were you, I'd google and see if there's a tenants' council in your municipality. Those places typically have help lines you can call to find out what the local laws are. Do that.
posted by devinemissk at 7:40 AM on September 21, 2010


Also, do not assume that just because you do not have a written lease, you do not have a lease.
posted by willbaude at 7:44 AM on September 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Not a lawyer. Just going to tell you what I would do if I were in your situation.

I'd re-read the lease that my landlord sent me very carefully. If I still had my original lease, I'd compare every point on there to make sure he hasn't changed anything. If there was no clause about month-to-month after a year (which you've already said... just being thorough), I'd consider it done. I'd inform my landlord (especially since he is basically putting the ball in my court) that, as I read it, I am under no obligation and the 30 days notice is sufficient, and I'll be out by Oct 15th. If you find out from the new apartment you can move in the 1st of Oct, and he is giving you a hard time, ask him if he'd prefer to start the new tenants on the first, because you can accommodate that.

Basically, I'd decide to take the risk that, even if there was some weird unwritten rule somewhere that wasn't in the lease, my landlord wouldn't bother suing me for 15 days rent.

Again - this is maybe not the best/smartest/legal-est advice. Just what I'd do.
posted by coupdefoudre at 7:45 AM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Your lease may simply roll over into a month-to-month agreement after the initial lease term is up. As such, you may still be under a lease.
posted by kindall at 8:04 AM on September 21, 2010


IANAL, but in many states the landlord would be in the right here ... If your lease ended on the last day of a month, you renew for one month increments in a month-to-month tenancy, thus if you end on July 31 and stay on, you agree to an Aug 1 - Aug 31 tenancy at that moment. Then the law imposes a 30 day notice requirement, but also requires you to stay on the term itself, so you can't give notice on the 15th and move out the next 15th, you have to wait until the next month-to-month lease term is up. In other words, you'd never be able to end your month-to-month tenancy on anything but the end of the month. So 30 day notice can be converted into almost 60 day notice if you don't time it right.
posted by JakeWalker at 8:07 AM on September 21, 2010


Also, n.b. that Michigan may have default rules on this that support what I wrote above, that wouldn't need to be spelled out in your lease. I don't know if they do, but it wouldn't surprise me.
posted by JakeWalker at 8:08 AM on September 21, 2010


IANYL, TINLA.

I never signed anything, no agreements, etc. but the rent was raised by $40. So I've been paying the increase even though I'm under no signed obligation to do so.

I would strongly suspect that this is not true, that you are under 'no obligation'. If your jurisdiction is anything like mine, there will be a legal provision allowing a landlord to bump up rent in the case of a month-to-month. That bumpup can be quite exorbitant, which serves as incentive for tenants to sign a renewal.

I can't stress enough that I am under no written agreement to do anything at this point.

This is also probably not true. Typically when going month to month or overholding, provisions of the lease will simply carry on, unless those provisions are amended by statute (such as the amount of rent). Your lease will likely still govern your tenancy, despite it going month to month.

Getting someone with trained eyeballs to look at your lease (a lawyer, a tenant's organization) would be a very wise move on your part.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:48 AM on September 21, 2010


In addition to what's correctly been stated so far, most well-written leases (of which you are still likely bound as other people have said) indicate something to the extent of "rent is $xxxx, due on the first of every month" and make no provisions for pro-rating whatsoever. Such wording is used exactly to prevent what you are trying to do.

You could always move mid-month, but you still owe for the entire month.

Not all leases are well-written, of course.
posted by saeculorum at 8:55 AM on September 21, 2010


The rent increase was going to happen whether or not a lease was signed - it happened for all tenants - but then I paid a little bit extra for being month-to-month.

I trust that these guys know what they're doing and have probably thought of every loophole, and I don't want to be a bad tenant after being a good one for so long, but the thought of them holding me back from leaving until November 1 just makes me angry! Especially when I have signed NOTHING and my lease says nothing about month-to-month just being an extension of the same terms. I've read it carefully twice since posting this.

They took about 10 months to evict a girl in the complex who didn't pay rent the whole time, and as I mentioned in the original post, the gas was off for a WEEK for non-payment before they could finally get everything straightened out. They're not exactly intimidating.

My mom is a landlord and has told me not to worry, just to be out on the 15th. They've screwed me enough this whole time where I'm not exactly worried about hurting their feelings or anything!
posted by slyboots421 at 8:59 AM on September 21, 2010


My mom is a landlord and has told me not to worry, just to be out on the 15th. They've screwed me enough this whole time where I'm not exactly worried about hurting their feelings or anything!

Just don't expect to get your security deposit back easily then.
posted by amro at 9:10 AM on September 21, 2010


Thanks everyone!
posted by slyboots421 at 9:20 AM on September 21, 2010


but the thought of them holding me back from leaving until November 1 just makes me angry!

You can move out whenever you want. They are not holding you back from leaving. They're just trying to make it clear that you owe the full month's rent for October. If you're not planning on paying any rent for October anyway, I don't see why you're bothered.

Maybe I'm reading it wrong but you say you don't want to be a bad tenant but you also say you're not planning on paying any more - have you already paid October's rent? If you have they're certainly not going to come after you for giving up the apartment early. If you haven't then they *might* go after you for the unpaid rent, if the security deposit doesn't cover it (or the deposit is needed to cover damages)
posted by missmagenta at 9:43 AM on September 21, 2010


No, I haven't paid October's rent. I planned to just let them use my security deposit for the half of October I'll be there. It should cover it, especially if they figure in the $50 they're giving everyone "off" because of the gas shutoff.
It does state specifically in the lease that the security deposit cannot be applied to the last month's rent, but that's where I get a little tough and say "Let them come after me."

But that just furthers one of my original questions - if I don't plan on paying October rent (which I don't) but can be OUT by October 1.... which is worse, cutting my 30 days' notice short or trying to get away with my half-of-October-using-deposit plan?
posted by slyboots421 at 10:04 AM on September 21, 2010


Whenever I've had shitty landlords, I've always looked into whether my apartment or house that i was renting has a certificate of occupancy. If my unit doesn't I usually just tell the landlord that im not going to pay my last month or month n a half rent (whatever the security deposite was) and they dont really have any recourse because they are mostly afraid to get caught renting illegally anyhow. In my experience this happens most often in large houses converted into apartments. Some places require the landlord to have a rental license on the property. If you find out that there is no rental license on the property and the owner has it registered as an owner /occupant property, you can also bend the rent paying rules a bit to get your security back. This is not legal advice, this is just a gamble I've taken and won every time.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:15 AM on September 21, 2010


Also, landlords are supposed to put your security deposite in an interest bearing account. I've never had a landlord actually do this and have also used that as ammo to just not pay the last month's rent. I always leave my apartment clean and damage free.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:22 AM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's already too confusing to answer point by point, but some of the answers that you marked best answer are.... probably not.

Check on this in your state, because USUALLY state and local landlord/tenant law trumps whatever is written in the lease. That's why it is OK for you to go month-to-month w/out a lease. The lease was a formality, the real deal was and is landlord/tenant statutes for your jurisdiction.

There will be some sort of landlord/tenant bureau in your local jurisdiction - go ahead and confirm this lease vs. law thing with them. Once you know the law is the final word on all this, you'll feel much more confident going forward.

You are most likely correct. If the state law says "30 days from whatever date of notification" then yada yada. Your landlord is (probably very) mistaken (more on that below.)

- Point out the state law to your landlord. Politely (in writing) ask for a walk-thru before the termination of your lease. You want to fix defects and get your security deposit returned.

(BTW. In California, it is illegal for landlords to keep the deposit for back rent money owed. Deposit is only for provable damages to the premises. Check on this in your state. There is no reason to ever permit a landlord to keep part or all of your deposit for rent rather than damages beyond normal "wear and tear" if it is illegal in your state, right?)


- Your landlord sounds misinformed so far, not like he/she is trying to take advantage. Approach him/her from this perspective until you know otherwise.

- Keep everything in writing.

- Take pictures of the empty apartment for your records. Just in case.


Good Luck.
posted by jbenben at 10:30 AM on September 21, 2010


Oops. Just saw your update about not paying rent through your last date of occupancy. That puts a different spin on things, I think.

I 100% recommend against this, YMMV.

You will be putting yourself in the position where, if landlord is motivated, they will take your entire deposit for "damages" and then go after you (small claims court? debt collection agency?) for the remaining 15 days rent.

You owe rent on days you occupied the premises.

If you are intent on leaving without paying, at least make sure you return the keys via certified mail with return receipt and a letter stating you are returning the keys and officially terminating your tenancy. That documentation, plus your written 30 day notice will insulate you from legally owing rent from 10/15 thru 11/1.

If you go the "angry" route, then you give up the walk-thru and any possibility of an amicable termination with return of your full deposit.

Nothing you've written so far indicates you need do anything but be on the up-n-up. The law is most certainly on your side so far. Just confirm the law for yourself, and then in writing to your landlord.

Proceed in good faith. You can't lose if you follow the rules here.
posted by jbenben at 10:57 AM on September 21, 2010


Okay, the new place just changed things... I'm signing there on the 14th of October. So, I will take jbenben's advice about how to handle making sure I don't owe for the second half of October.

Sometimes I wish that security deposits could be used for this type of thing.... We'll be at pretty much a wash by the time this is all said and done!!

Thanks again everyone!
posted by slyboots421 at 11:48 AM on September 21, 2010


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