Our lease is up, but we paid the last months rent... what to do?
March 5, 2014 12:19 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I rent a house in Seattle and our 12-month lease ended in February. We're now month to month. The issue is, we paid the last months rent when we signed the lease... then also paid rent the last month of our lease.

Now, I don't know what to do. I haven't spoken with the landlord about it, because I'd like to know exactly what my rights are and the best way to deal with this.

I certainly don't want it bundled into our deposit when we do leave, because the money would be needed for moving.

Any help is appreciated.

PS We were planning our honeymoon for the last two months and completely forgot. The landlord also didn't remind us or give us notice of the lease ending until yesterday when he casually mentioned it. We have paid March rent in full.
posted by lattiboy to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I was under the impression that the "last month" in "last month's rent" refers to your final month of residence, not the last month of the lease you're signing (unless they're the same thing).
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:21 PM on March 5 [4 favorites]

When are you moving out?

Since you've paid the last month, when you give your 30-day notice, you put in the letter (ALWAYS do a letter and email, not just word of mouth.)

Lattiboy and Lattigirl
April 1
Seattle, WA

Dear Landlord,

This is our official notice that our last day will be May 31. Please apply the last month's rent that we paid upon moving in, to our last month.


Lattiboy and Lattigirl

Then, you don't pay the rent for May.


More problematic if March is your last month.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:23 PM on March 5 [7 favorites]

That's always been how it was everywhere I rented. "last month" doesn't refer to the last month of the lease, it refers to the last month you live there, however long that may be.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:23 PM on March 5 [5 favorites]

Often time, month-to-month leases still require some advanced notice to move out without penalty. If your lease was well drafted, it should have some details about what the month-to-month terms really are.

When are you planning on moving? If you're leaving March 31st (and you have no requirement to give notice...which is doubtful), then yeah you've overpaid.

If you're planning on leaving April 30th and need to give 1 months' notice, then just write a letter to your landlord stating that you are leaving, and that you won't be paying April's rent because it was paid at move in.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:24 PM on March 5 [1 favorite]

It depends on the terms of your lease, but when I was in Seattle, my last month (paid when the initial lease was signed) was applied to the last month I lived there, even though I was now month-to-month with a higher rent. My landlady did not complain. I feel that if the landlord wants the "last month's rent" applied to the end of the lease period instead, they should return the additional check given for that time.

Often time, month-to-month leases still require some advanced notice to move out without penalty.

This is called a "one-way lease" and is illegal in Seattle ("Seattle Laws," Solid Ground Tenant Services). Your landlord can only require 20 days notice ("Know Your Rights: Vacating," Tenants Union of Washington State), but I would give at least a month if you know when you are leaving. It is nicer to the landlord and lessens the possibility of a dispute.
posted by grouse at 12:30 PM on March 5

Well, I feel dumb now.

Thanks guys.

I've never been "in charge" of a lease on a home before and was unaware of the difference in "last month".
posted by lattiboy at 12:31 PM on March 5 [1 favorite]

To be fair, I don't think this is like super obviously clear in many leases.
posted by grouse at 12:38 PM on March 5 [3 favorites]

You didn't know, you asked, you got the answer you needed. That's the opposite of dumb, so don't feel that way.
posted by davejay at 1:34 PM on March 5 [8 favorites]

By the way, the money should have gone into an escrow account, and any interest it earned would be yours. (Until it pays for your last month, it's your money, not the landlord's.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:07 PM on March 5 [1 favorite]

The interest on security deposits must be in a trust account, but the interest belongs to the landlord. "Unless otherwise agreed in writing, the landlord shall be entitled to receipt of interest paid on such trust account deposits." (RCW 59.18.270).

Last month's rent is not a deposit, so even that does not apply.
posted by grouse at 2:17 PM on March 5 [1 favorite]

No, last month's rent is considered rent received the year it is paid. Therefore, it does not go in an escrow account. And the landlord has to report it as earnings on that year. The tenant would get his most rent month's payment refunded, rather than last month's rent paid up front plus interest.

Only deposit has to be held in an escrow (or just a separate account). Where I am in the US, the landlord keeps the interest. (I got 23 cents in 2013!) Especially since the interested is reported as the landlord's income on taxes.
posted by ethidda at 4:57 PM on March 5

By the way, the money should have gone into an escrow account, and any interest it earned would be yours.

Oh, renters could only wish!
posted by BlueHorse at 9:10 PM on March 5

I stand corrected. (But one of my landlords did do this, and gave me the interest afterwards.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:07 PM on March 6

It is going to vary based on the state and your agreement. I'm not making an absolute statement about interest on deposits/last month's rent, only in Washington State.
posted by grouse at 12:22 PM on March 6

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