Lease/notice to vacate question?
April 25, 2010 5:00 PM   Subscribe

I am a landlord in WI. My current tenants in one of my units had a 6 month lease that converted to a month-to-month agreement at expiration. This same leave requires a 45 day notice (prior to the end of the month leaving to vacate which was signed as part of the non-standard provisions). They have been talking about buying a house for a long time, but nothing had surfaced yet. Last week, I received a call from one of the tenants that he was filling out his offer to purchase and wanted to know the amount of days required for notice bcs he wanted to close on either 5/31 or 6/30.

I reminded him it was 45 days and said he still had time to give me notice for 5/31 provided I received it in writing before the 15th/16th...I even left a fill-in form at his residence to use if he needed it. I wanted something final from them bcs I have been in the lurch so long, and bcs I wanted to begin advertising (for either June or July). I heard nothing after that, so I called and sent a reminder note, nothing. Finally I called him on Friday (the 16th) and asked what was up...he indicated he did not have a firm offer bcs it was being countered.

I was getting tired of the indecisiveness, but at this point, there was nothing to do but wait. A few days later, he left a mssg. stating that he got the house, and wanted to return my form. He asked in his mssg if he could still vacate on 5/31 or did I want him to do 6/4 (which would be 45 days from the day he called)...however, the prob is that he cant give notice for "during" the month...lack of notice by 4/16 meant that he could not terminate the agreement until the end of June (6/30). I have discussed it with some of my inner circle...some think I am just being unreasonable since "he was only 4 days late"...however, bcs I made such a good faith effort to get his answer, and bcs in an opposite situation, I could not tell THEM to leave on less than 45 days (without some type of compensation), how am I really being unfair to expect them to abide by their lease?

At any rate, he wants an answer. Due to the sensitivity of this situation, I am trying to research my options before replying. Unfortunately, my research is giving me mixed answers on whether I can require a 45 day notice on a monthly lease to begin with. I want to be fair, and legal. Right now, my idea is to send a letter, reminding him of the requirement, and indicating that their responsibility continues through June. Then I would offer to advertise for a tenant, effective June 1, and if I get one, they'd be off the hook. So, if I get a tenant, obviously, none of this will matter, but if I don't there could be a fight on my hands. Any thoughts/advice? Anyone have experience with something like this? Thank you!
posted by mdn31 to Law & Government (31 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It seems rather odd that you're asking for not just 45 days' notice, but 45 days plus the remainder of the month, which is in this case 71 days. Do people never move in the middle of the month in Wisconsin? Notice is for giving you time to advertise and prepare, and 45 days seems plenty for that.
posted by alexei at 5:14 PM on April 25, 2010 [4 favorites]

I am not a lawyer (and could be totally wrong), but I've rented a bunch of places in WI and I was always under the impression that when a lease expires and you are month-to-month that the required notice is one month. So if he gives you notice by before the end of April, he'd need to be out by end of May. I don't think you can expect the terms of the lease (45 days) to apply after that contract has expired.
posted by sulaine at 5:17 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

My experience as a landlord is limited, having managed just a few units for a few years. I think you should be glad to have a tenant willing to give more than 30 days' notice on a month-to-month lease. Thinking you have a right to collect rent through June 30 is bound to result in disappointment.
posted by Snerd at 5:18 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Really the imposition of petty conditions like "if you don't give notice before day x in the month, it's another month" like that is just one of the more annoying examples of the kind of warfare that the rentier class loves to wage on the renter class. Fortunately it would illegal where I live.

In practical terms, is 45 days really not enough? Would it really be that hard to find another tenant to replace the current one? I'm an involuntary landlord at the moment (bought a house subject to a fixed-term lease) and even if I could wring a few extra dollars out of a tenant this way I just wouldn't bother. There's enough of that kind of thing in the world already.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 5:25 PM on April 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

I agree, he has a month to month lease, I don't think he really has any obligation to give you notice at all, as long as he pays for the month and moves at the end.. Say thank you to him and wish him well and let him leave when he wants...
posted by HuronBob at 5:39 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

"It seems rather odd that you're asking for not just 45 days' notice, but 45 days plus the remainder of the month, which is in this case 71 days. Do people never move in the middle of the month in Wisconsin? Notice is for giving you time to advertise and prepare, and 45 days seems plenty for that."

It also seems rather odd that you'd think he'd be able to find a tenant willing to move in on June 4, given that most are out of their old place at the end of the month and will need somewhere by June 1. "45 days notice" seems to me to imply 45 days prior to the end of the month in which you intend to move out. Unless renting weekly, normal renting tends to go in one-calendar-month (or larger) chunks.

I'll chime in, however, to say that the OP is being unreasonable. 5.5 weeks is as good as 6 weeks for the purposes of finding new tenants -- unless there is such a dearth of renters that finding a new one in even six weeks is unlikely.
posted by astrochimp at 5:44 PM on April 25, 2010

The tenant is trying his best to accommodate your 45 day request, in spite of his "indecisiveness", which amounts to him stressing over the intricacies of a home purchase and isn't anything like indecisiveness. If he's been a good tenant let him have the 4 days, or at least let him move out on the 4th. I have rented lots of times and never heard of an end-of-the-month restriction.
posted by monkeymadness at 5:46 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm neither a lawyer or a landlord, but in my opinion the whole point of a month-to-month lease is that it is, well, month to month. Requiring more than a month's notice goes against the expectation set up by the lease terms. Regardless of the 45-day provision in the lease, if it were me I'd not require payment beyond the end of May. And if he vacated earlier and I found a tenant who moved in and started paying rent for any part of May, I'd send the old tenant a refund based on the number of days the new tenant paid for. That's what one of my old landlords did for me.
posted by expialidocious at 5:49 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

the prob is that he cant give notice for "during" the month

Why not?

I've seen, signed, or heard about quite a few leases in the Midwest that began on the 15th of the month (or the 5th, or the 10th, depending on my moving plans). Is there a compelling reason to believe that you couldn't find tenants who would be willing (or who would prefer) to move in on 6/5 or 6/15?

And, moreover, isn't it likely that your current tenant would be able to move out on 5/31 if necessary (even if his notice is technically for 6/4)? Would you really prefer to be "right" and have him pay the extra 4 days' rent, rather than have a new 12-month tenant pay for those 4 days (plus the rest of the year)?
posted by Meg_Murry at 5:54 PM on April 25, 2010

This isn't indecisiveness. This is the reality of scheduling closings when you are buying a house. He's giving you plenty of notice. Be grateful. (I used to work in a rental department. Believe GRATEFUL.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:17 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm fairly amazed that you are going to be able to have a new tenant in place so quickly! You should really be thankful that you own a house in such a market - this is not the usual way things go, and that is to say nothing of having no maintenance nor even inspections to conduct while the the house is empty. Wow. One out at midnight, and another in at dawn.

The lease may give you the right to require another whole months rent, but in reality you had a fair warning and knew what was going on. If it were tenants that asked for references and recommendations, not landlords (and that has been the case in markets at times), what would you do? 4 days, gosh.
posted by Some1 at 6:21 PM on April 25, 2010

my research is giving me mixed answers on whether I can require a 45 day notice on a monthly lease to begin with

This is the crux of your question, and nobody here is going to be able to give you a clear answer since you are talking about a nonstandard clause on an expired lease. For a definitive answer you should call WI's Tenant Resource Center.

For what it's worth, I would be very, very surprised if the law was on your side. I have rented in 4 different states, and in my experience 30 days is the max that would ever be required for a month-to-month situation. It seems especially remote given that the lease is expired.

If it were me, I'd go ahead with May 31 and concentrate on finding a new tenant rather than wasting time researching the slim chance that you can charge him an extra month.
posted by susanvance at 6:35 PM on April 25, 2010

Putting aside whether the law is on your side, would you argue that 41 days it not enough time to find a new tenant, but 45 days would have been?
posted by reeddavid at 7:13 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

OP, you're being completely unreasonable and the law is against you. Month-to-month means month-to-month, the 45 day requirement is no longer operable.
posted by ewiar at 7:27 PM on April 25, 2010

Be generous. There is nothing to be gained for you by being a hard nose about the four days. If the situation were reversed, you would want someone to be just a little lenient with you. You never know when you might run into these people again, and so it is better to leave them with a happy feeling about you rather than a bitter one. The more people that think well of you in the world, the happier a life you will lead. They'll go out of their way to give you good referrals, good service, and who knows? Maybe a job down the line. Being inflexible gains you nothing here. Being flexible gains you grateful people who will be similarly likely to go out of their way to help you. Besides, maybe they know friends who need to rent. How you deal with them very likely will directly influence your ability to quickly rent out the space.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:03 PM on April 25, 2010

If the tenant is being such a headache, why not accept the offer, making it clear that he cannot "overstay" just because something falls through later. I know nothing of the legalities, but it sounds like setting a date sooner than later would be a worry off your mind. Put the exception in writing, though, and have 'em sign it, perhaps?
posted by Ys at 8:09 PM on April 25, 2010

I am completely shocked at how it seems most of the posters are in favor of the tenant, if not, downright, offended by my asking this question. I have been more than fair to these tenants over the past year and a half of their tenancy. I suspended my yearly rent increase at their request bcs they "were struggling" only to learn they are buying a house? They signed a lease without informing me that the wife was pregnant (due 1 month from lease signing). They have not been the easiest tenants, and I have been more than accomodating. They did not follow my pet agreement (allowing their dog to poop in the yard without picking up after it), etc. They have been on again, off again with the house thing for a long time, and again, I TRIED to get their response in time. IF the situation were reversed, and it was a tenant on here, stating that they had a 45 day notice stipulation their lease for vacating, but the landlord is booting me out early (albeit 4 days) or raising the rent without the proper 45 days notice...I am sure all the fair housing advocate types would rally to support the tenant, but bcs I am a landlord, running a business, and abiding by a contract, I am the bad guy? Where does it end? Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the responses, as this will help me write the next lease, but, it is still very startling.
posted by mdn31 at 8:21 PM on April 25, 2010

Saving up for a down payment can definitely mean struggling. About the timing: Think about buying your properties. Things don't always go according to plan. Weird things happen on the other end that you have no control over. It's a tricky process with lots and lots of pieces involved. It's not surprising that there were four days of lag time while they were trying to get things sorted out. Giving them four days of leniency isn't saying that you're a bad landlord or a bad person. It's just saying, you don't have to stick to the letter of the law. If they're such bad tenants, you should be happy to get rid of them!

This isn't about "fair housing." This is about being decent to people that will continue living in the same community as you. What would you gain from being hard nosed with them? If you can't come up with something really really concrete (an extra month rent does not count), then it's not worth it. The extra month of rent is less than what you would be charging a new tenant anyway, so you'd be better off with someone new.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:31 PM on April 25, 2010

This has nothing to do with fair housing advocate types rallying to support the tenant and everything to do with you being pedantic and inconsiderate. You are indeed being the bad guy if you expect them to in practice give you two and a half months notice on your month-to-month lease. Month-to-month implies that they can leave with a months notice. They gave notice before the end of this month, they should be able to leave at the end of next month.

You don't really expect to find support for your outrage that they had a child while renting from you, do you?
posted by foodgeek at 8:33 PM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

I really don't understand the problem here. Can't you just read the lease? If you really want to be a hard-ass about the 4 days, it's well within your rights.

But someone posted this: "45 days notice" seems to me to imply 45 days prior to the end of the month in which you intend to move out.

"Seems to imply" doesn't have anything to do with this. Unless it's explicitly stated in the lease that your tenants need to give 45 days ending on the last day of the month, then they're well within their rights to stop paying you rent after 45 days.

But seriously - is it really worth getting in a big tizzy over? Don't you have time to find someone else to move in? No one's playing the big-bad-landlord card really does seem like you're being pretty unreasonable.
posted by nosila at 8:45 PM on April 25, 2010

They signed a lease without informing me that the wife was pregnant (due 1 month from lease signing).

They were under no obligation to tell you this, and moreso, if this information had resulted in you not renting to them, you would have been in violation of more than a couple of anti-discrimination laws.
posted by swngnmonk at 9:00 PM on April 25, 2010

Actually, swangmonk, they are required. I list the occupants on the lease, and in this case, it was for 2 adults...I do not have issues with fair housing laws, but I do have an issue with purposeful point in anything I said before was that if I was really as unreasonable as ppl are making me out to be, I would have called them, and/or evicted them on other grounds.
posted by mdn31 at 9:06 PM on April 25, 2010

however, the prob is that he cant give notice for "during" the month

Legally, unless your lease clearly states the month to month terms otherwise, they are only obligated to provide you with 28 days notice. That notice having occurred, they are responsible for that entire term (so, until 5/31).

They are not obligated to 45 days plus however many days until the end of the month.

Again, if you have a lease or agreement that clearly outlines that, well, that's one thing. But if not, they've given you more notice than they legally have to.

I'd recommend you retain a lawyer and get actual legal advice if you are intent on getting these customers to pay for a nearly full month of rent over and above their (apparent) obligations.

As for your surprise at the responses - well, really, this is just basic customer service. You said yourself, you're running a business. The first rule of business is that the customer is always right. If you want to be a hardass about 4 days rent for people you don't even seem to like all that much, well, I guess you may have a right to. But it's not the way I run my business and it's not the sort of business I am a repeat customer of.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:23 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hi mdn31,

I see your point of view, and understand that you are running a business. I would note that, as a businessman, its probably just best to let the four days slide. I say this especially because it sounds like the tenant was acting in good faith. I'd just point out the possible risks to your business that you take by denying him the four days: you're going to have a pissed off tenant.

If he's upset, what if he decides to withhold rent, create a legal fuss, damage the property, etc.? All of these issues would be expensive to deal with. I recognize that these are all remote possibilities, but they are possibilities. These are possible risks that you have to balance against possible rewards (which I assume would be the extra one month of rent you would generate by forcing him to stick to the notice requirements?) So you have to balance the possibility of getting one months extra rent, against the possibility of creating a bad situation, that has a remote possibility of being expensive.

Given the possible hassle of the situation, and given the fact that the lease violation is more technical than substantial at this moment (4 days late:it's not like he's giving you a week's notice), I don't think the risk is worth the reward. You should just let the four days slide.

Also, on the upside, you could have a happy ex-tenant, who may recommend others to you in the future.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 9:37 PM on April 25, 2010

And I do want to point out that I really do see both sides of the argument. At this point in time, I think the issue is pretty moot, because it's only been four days, and so there hasn't been any serious harm. But I think people are often dismissive of landlords, and I want to step in and defend OP anyway.

I think the pro-tenant argument has been well described above. But I also think it is important to see this from the perspective of a landlord. OP is running a business that is (at least part of) his livelihood, and it is important to note that when tenants don't act according to their lease, the landlord suffers financially. It's not fair to just say that a tenant should be able to shift these costs to the landlord.

From a fairness and rights perspective, OP is subject to a lot of regulations and conditions that come with the territory of being a landlord, and it is only fair that if he has to abide by them, then the tenant should as well.

(I would also like to note that I am currently a tenant)
posted by HabeasCorpus at 9:49 PM on April 25, 2010

businesswoman! Sorry!!!

Shit. I need to practice watching my pronouns.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 9:58 PM on April 25, 2010

As someone who is a tenant, my assumption was always that once the lease period expired, and the month-to-month phase began, time limits stipulated in the lease didn't apply. Specifically, if he's renting month to month, it makes no sense that you could require him to give more than a month's notice. He's just not renewing the next months period.
posted by jacalata at 11:11 PM on April 25, 2010

IANAL, but I would be very surprised if the law was on your side with regard to a 45-day notice clause in an expired lease. The tenants are currently month-to-month, and if you press them about paying for the entire month of June and they choose to take you to small claims court I very much doubt you will win.

I would suggest instead letting them know they need to be out May 31 or pay pro-rated rent until they are fully moved out (June 4). This may be a workable compromise for you both.
posted by asciident at 12:31 AM on April 26, 2010

Hi again Mdn31 -

I don't mean to be harsh, but it is a bit worrisome that you seem unaware of some of basic housing laws. Unless there is a specific occupancy limit, your tenants were not required to disclose a family member that doesn't exist yet. Different terms on the basis of a pregnancy would be discrimination, and would be a federal crime under the Fair Housing Act. You could easily get sued in such a situation.

To the question at hand:
You are trying to figure out the intricacies of a possibly illegal, nonstandard clause on an expired lease, and it sounds like you have devoted several days to this task already without finding a clear answer. There are probably plenty of grounds for your tenant to fight you on this point, and the situation could quickly escalate into an expensive legal mess. Given that the family is struggling, if you push the point you might also have to deal with nonpayment of the last month, property damage from a disgruntled tenant, and a host of other issues that could cost you far more in the end.

For the sake of your time and sanity, the most advantageous path for you really is to agree to the end of May as the move out date and concentrate on finding another tenant.
posted by susanvance at 7:14 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you're frustrated with this tenant and want to take out your anger in an inappropriate, counterproductive way--by insisting upon more than 45 days' notice because 45 days from now is the 4th, rather than the 1st of the month. A more reasonable response would be, if their dog has done damage or created a mess in the yard, take the cost of repairs or landscaping out of their deposit. Or, if future tenants ask something of you that you don't want to give (i.e., request that you not raise the rent), don't say yes.

I've had enough annoying neighbors, and have interacted with enough reasonable landlords to know that some tenants are incredibly frustrating (or messy, or irresponsible, or shady, or whatever). But thinking, "this person has been a totally annoying tenant, therefore I'm going to get even by making him give 70 days notice" is an inappropriate, probably illegal use of the contract you made with him. You should consider sitting down with a lawyer to get a better grasp of the legal side of your chosen business--and you should feel empowered to say no/speak up to your tenants when they do something wrong such as leaving dog poop in the yard. It's entirely appropriate to get upset when people take advantage or behave inappropriately, but it seems like you've let this fester until now, when they're finally leaving: instead of just saying "good riddance" and making plans to handle your next difficult tenant differently, you're looking for revenge.

Also, it would never even occur to me to write "two adults and hopefully one infant in a month" on a lease--even setting aside the possibility that it was a high-risk pregnancy and that there was some question as to the outcome.
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:08 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've moved into apartments before the 1st of the month, and occasionally I've paid a pro-rated month's rent for those extra weeks or two.

If you want to be hard nosed about this, and it seems that you do, charge them 4 days of rent for the 4 days they're there in the next month.
posted by hwyengr at 4:27 PM on April 27, 2010

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