Am I currently an at-will tenant?
February 11, 2012 8:13 PM   Subscribe

Massachusetts rental filter: I signed a lease for a term of one year back in 2010. As stipulated in the lease, I informed my landlord in writing of my intention to stay for another year. That year would end in June 2012. Am I currently an "at will" tenant? I found another place that is more affordable and want to give 45 days notice to vacate, but I am unsure of where I stand.

I read the lease a few times and I don't see anything that remotely applies here. I have asked a couple of friends who are Mass landlords and they say that they are pretty sure I am "at will", or month to month at this point. I am going to run this by a lawyer but this seems like a simple enough question and the lease I signed is a standard fixed term lease, printed from a form bank off of the internet. I get along fine with the landlord but I do not feel that it is a good idea to give my notice without knowing the answer to this question. You are not my lawyer, I know this. I guess I am wondering if my letter of intention renewed the term of the original lease even though I did not sign another lease document with the new dates?
posted by lakersfan1222 to Law & Government (10 answers total)
So, wait. You signed a one year lease in June 2010. Then you informed your landlord in writing of your intent to stay for another year, and since June 2011 you have been no longer on your initial lease. But you did not sign a new lease in June 2011. Is that all correct? Has your rent stayed the same?
posted by J. Wilson at 8:25 PM on February 11, 2012

All of this is correct, yes. Rent is the same.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 8:26 PM on February 11, 2012

but I'm not sure if that letter of intent somehow extends the original lease, like, am I bound for another year because of the letter? Like I said, this may be a simple question.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 8:29 PM on February 11, 2012

I'm not sure, but I think there is a good chance that you agreed to extend the lease for another year -- and you are not month-to-month.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:48 PM on February 11, 2012

I agree with J.Wilson. You don't need a fancy big long piece of paper that says "lease" at the top to actually create a lease. But you do need some kind of agreement. It looks as if the letter you signed is that kind of agreement. But your landlord, if you have a good relationship with him, might let you out of it. But this doesn't sound very much like you're in a month to month tenancy, either. A month to month tenancy results when the lease period ends and you don't take any further action.

One other way to think of it would be this way: if you had signed that in June and then he had unilaterally raised your rent, wouldn't you have argued that you had renewed for another year at the same terms?
posted by MoonOrb at 9:19 PM on February 11, 2012

I just did A LOT of research on this!

If you did not sign a new lease, you are an at will tenant and can give 30 days notice any time.


The regulatory agency you want to phone to confirm this is the mass att'y general's office consumer helpline, number at the end of the PDF, here.

It's a surprisingly quick phone call, BTW! Lot's of gibberish in the recording about no related issues, just hang out on the line until a real person comes on, which is relatively quickly:)
posted by jbenben at 11:50 PM on February 11, 2012

Holy cow - if the original lease didn't say anything, and the landlord didn't give you a new lease or something to sign after you sent in the letter of intent, I would think that you aren't anything, and aren't bound. That's my guess.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 5:14 AM on February 12, 2012

Well jbenben that may or may not be true, my last apartment had an automatically renewing lease, so even though we didn't sign anything, if we told the landlord we were staying for another year, then the lease renewed for the next year. This landlord was actually very up on the law and followed it precisely so I believe automatic renewals are allowed. However, the only way to find this out is to look at your lease and see what it says.
posted by katers890 at 5:57 AM on February 12, 2012

this is awesome, thank you so much for the help. I will confirm everything tomorrow and update.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 7:36 AM on February 12, 2012

Sorry about the late update, I've been moving out! The answer to this question was a little bit of all of the above pieces of information. The renewal aspect of the lease was written poorly, and I was effectively renewing the 2010-2011 term instead of the 2011-2012 term. This info came from a lawyer who read my lease and also the atty general's office recommended by jbenben. I got out on a loophole, and my legal status was/is that of an at-will tenant, regardless of the LL's intention. It's unfortunate, because the LL was not very happy about me leaving (yeah, her inner thug came out....awesome), even with a little extra notice. I was glad to find the loophole in the lease, because staying at my current place was becoming difficult financially and it is very remote and isolated. The lawyer, who kindly advised me for free, directed me to write a letter stating that as an "at-will" tenant, I was terminating my tenancy at the address on suchandsuch a date.

So, yeah, the lease was intended to renew for a fixed term, but the language was not clear, the paperwork was not totally in order, and I got out. Now, I am concerned about the LL ganking my security deposit for whatever reason. I'm kind of a vet at legal matters though, and I did my research and I've got a loophole there, too. I'm not afraid of court if it comes to that, the security deposit is a large sum of money. Landlords: stay on top of the legalities!! Tenants: know your rights!!

So, bitter and sweet, I'm on my way to better things.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 5:29 PM on March 6, 2012

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