Should I sign a new lease or go month-to-month?
April 4, 2012 5:36 AM   Subscribe

What are the benefits of renewing a lease versus going month-to-month? Location: Toronto.

I've been in my current apartment for almost a year, and the landlord has given me the option of signing another lease or becoming a month-to-month tenant.

- My rent is not being raised either way.
- No desire to move any time soon.
- However, my job is currently less than totally stable and something bad happening is not out of the question.
- My partner and I are awesome, hassle-free tenants.
- Located in Toronto.

(My hesitance comes from being burned once before after going month-to-month: shortly afterwards the landlord gave us notice to leave, saying they were "renovating." They offered to rent the apartment to us after the work was finished... for $400 more.)

I need help weighing the risks and benefits of these options. Do people normally sign another lease if they intend to stay long term? Why should I not? Is there anything better about month-to-month other than flexibility? Thanks!
posted by 1UP to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
The advantage of a lease is that your rent cannot rise during the period of the lease.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:50 AM on April 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

It depends on your relationship and trust-level with your landlord. For an old apartment, I had a lease for a year, then just went month-to-month following that with no real problems.

Month-to-month gives you flexibility, but it also gives your landlord flexibility also. The same thing would apply for a lease in that if you want to break the lease, most lease contracts will say you can do that if you give a reasonable amount of notice (2-3 months plus pay an additional fee - usually losing your deposit or something similar).

Is it possible to get a year-long lease with a stipulation in the contract that you can break the lease give at least 30 days notice rather than 2-3 months or more? This gives you more flexibility while maintaining the protection (liability, rules, rent rate) for both you and the landlord when it comes to the term of the lease contract.
posted by seppyk at 6:12 AM on April 4, 2012

Even in a month-to-month situation, rent may only be increased once a year, and only by the percentage set annually by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. The Landlord and Tenant Board provides a pretty comprehensive list of FAQs on those matters.

I don't really see much difference between month-to-month and signing another lease, barring your own discomfort with your past experience of going month-to-month (which may or may not have been legal anyway - it's not unheard of for landlords to take advantage of the fact that tenancy laws change frequently and are difficult for tenants to keep up with). If you go month-to-month, the terms of the previous lease agreement still apply. And, if you're concerned about needing to move before the period of the lease is up, a signed lease doesn't preclude you from negotiating with the landlord to terminate the tenancy period before the lease is up. You should also consider that even if you are renting month-to-month, you are still required to provide the landlord with 60 days notice of your intention to move, which doesn't really offer significant flexibility.
posted by GreenEyed at 6:15 AM on April 4, 2012

One suggestion is to sign a year lease for the security (landlord making repairs, wanting to sell, etc), but allowing you to move out early if you can find someone to fill the apartment - i.e, you do the screening to find someone who will fill the vacancy (and rental income for landlord) if you need to leave. I would put this in writing in a new lease, if the landlord is willing to accept it.
posted by raztaj at 6:24 AM on April 4, 2012

Toronto's tenant protection laws are pretty strong, so you're not missing out by not having an ongoing lease. It's fairly normal in anything other than professionally managed large buildings (small buildings, condo rentals, basement suites, etc) to not resign a lease after the first one expires, especially if there's no change in rent. It's still 60 days notice on either side even on a month-to-month lease.

So, yeah, without a lease, they could kick you out in 60 days. But without a lease, you could leave in 60 days. Whichever is more important/worriesome to you, go with that.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:25 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

In BC (probably similar to Ontario, but I don't actually know), it boils down to whether or not you'd be able to handle 60 days notice or not, which is what is required when your landlord wants to kick you out for reasons out of your control. On the flip side, you only have to give 30 days notice (once again, this is BC), which is nice. I personally look forward to the end of the the original lease and moving to the month-to-month, just because it means I have more flexibility; i hate feeling like i'm tied down. I've rented for almost 15 years, and I've never signed a second lease. That being said, I've also never lived in any one apartment for more than 2 years, so YMMV.
posted by cgg at 8:00 AM on April 4, 2012

The key for me, coming from some landlording experience (albeit in Maryland) is that the rent is the same either way. As a landlord, I'd rather keep an existing tenant in place rather than go through the aggravation of trying to re-rent. So in this situation I'd offer lower rent (or a smaller increase) on the 1-year option than on month-to-month, as an incentive for the tenant to take the 1-year and make my situation stabler.

The fact that your landlord is not doing this suggests that they've got some reason to want to terminate the lease inside of a year. If you're not interested in moving soon, then the 1-year renewal sounds like a safer choice for you.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 8:41 AM on April 4, 2012

Last place I lived, we rolled over to month-to-month from a lease without a thought. We had what I thought was a great relationship with the landlord, plus we were close friends with other tenants, who had lived there for 3 years and had been the ones who recommended us in the first place.

Well, there was a "misunderstanding" between us and a new tenant in the building, and rather than deal with the situation, the landlord just chose not to renew our "agreement" - which is much easier than evicting someone, although it packs the same gut-punch when you're a tenant. I suspect things would have gone differently if we were still in a lease.
posted by radioamy at 9:05 AM on April 4, 2012

The answers above that are not about Ontario are not very similar to Ontario. Ontario is a very renter-friendly province.

A landlord in Ontario can't evict a month-to-month tenant just by giving 60 days' notice unless they have a reason permitted by the Residential Tenancies Act. You can read the details in this web page from the Landlord-Tenant Board. You'll see that the reasons a landlord can end a tenancy are all pretty unusual circumstances -- security of tenancy is a Big Deal in Ontario. Most of the without-cause situations come down to "the landlord needs the unit back", and the LTB scrutinizes those cases very carefully.

So if the landlord had a permitted reason to evict you (say, they wanted to occupy the apartment themselves), they could give you 60 days' notice instead of waiting for a year's lease to come up. At this point you still don't have to move; if you haven't moved by the end of the notice period, they can apply to the LTB to end your tenancy. Your eviction is postponed until the LTB hearing is complete. If they have a bona fide need to evict you then you've got lots of time to find a new place (the original 60 days, plus the time for the hearing, plus whatever time the board considers reasonable between the hearing and the date their order becomes effective). If they don't have a bona fide reason, the place is still yours.

There is very little reason for a tenant to renew a lease in Ontario. I always went month-to-month after the first lease term is over and I recommend that for everyone else. Your relationship with the landlord doesn't matter, because all of the for-cause eviction reasons don't involve the term of the agreement, and the without-cause eviction reasons basically make it so that the landlord can no longer rent the apartment.
posted by mendel at 6:33 PM on April 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

Thank you, everyone! All answers were much appreciated. FYI, we ended up going month-to-month.

mendel, your answer was exactly what the landlord ended up telling us while discussing our options in more depth. He was very clear and transparent, and that gave us a lot of comfort.
posted by 1UP at 11:37 AM on April 8, 2012

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