July 15, 2014 2:40 PM   Subscribe

A friend thought his lease ended August 1st, but he just got a call from his landlord saying that it ended two days ago. They don't have anyone slated to move in for two weeks, but say that they need that time to have the apartment professionally cleaned. What are the best steps for him to take? What rights does he have legally? We are in North Carolina.

Also, they're going to apparently charge him money for every day his key isn't returned. He's considered just making a copy and then returning it, while continuing to occupy the unit - is this a horrible idea?
posted by matkline to Law & Government (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
i would assume your friend's first step would be to look up a tenant's rights advocate in his locality. however, the onus is on him to know when his lease ends, so he may be pretty SOL here. have him check over his lease as well to see if there is a stipulation that the landlord must inform you x number of days before your lease ends.

the key trickery, though, is a SUPREMELY bad idea, and he is going to be responsible for the money.
posted by koroshiya at 2:46 PM on July 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

What does the lease say? Often, year leases automatically go month to month unless the landlord (or tenant) gives 30 days notice in advance...
posted by three_red_balloons at 2:46 PM on July 15, 2014 [9 favorites]

Does he have a copy of his lease? It'll be very hard for anyone to officially advocate for him if he doesn't have a copy of what the signed agreement is.

He should absolutely not make his own key copy in order to illegally occupy the unit.
posted by quince at 2:47 PM on July 15, 2014 [7 favorites]

Assuming you're serious in thinking they may just be concerned about having their key back, I'm pretty sure you're wrong. They want the apartment back. Once your friend gives them the key he is, in effect, saying "Here, I give up possession of the unit to you". I'm not your/your friend's lawyer but he would probably be converting himself from a tenant who withholds possession to a trespasser, subject to criminal penalties.

Check the lease, as three_red_balloons suggests.
posted by uncaken at 2:48 PM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

It is almost certain that while the lease ended, his right to occupy did not, unless this was specifically stipulated in the lease. And this is so bizarre that your friend should absolutely assume this is a scam or trick. He needs to get a copy of his lease and find the number for whatever body governs rental laws in his area.

Also, if he happens to have a friend who is a Realtor(tm), he should call that person and ask if this is at all common in their area.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:49 PM on July 15, 2014 [14 favorites]

He needs a copy of the lease. Even if both parties allowed the lease to run out, I'm pretty sure that SOMEONE needed to give 30 days notice. (Except in New York City for some reason.)

So, find the lease, and DON'T give back the key!

They can't evict him in two weeks, so he should just keep on keeping on with his plans to move out on the 31st. He also needs to put that in writing, certified mail, followed up with text and email.

He paid rent on the 1st for the whole month, correct? If they cashed the rent check, I doubt SERIOUSLY they have a leg to stand on.

But to be on the safe side, call the city and find out what resources there are regarding landlord/tenant law in your area.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:57 PM on July 15, 2014 [7 favorites]

It's hard to know what's going on here without more details but I can totally see this happening with no bad faith on anyone's part if the landlord and your friend are both a little flaky. "Are you planning to renew the lease?" says the landlord, meaning for a new term starting July 13th or whatever. "No, I'm going to be moving out at the end of the lease," your friend says, meaning August 1st.

This is assuming the lease actually does say that it ends on July 13th (your friend has looked at the lease, right?) and that he was not planning on staying. Otherwise I don't know what the heck happened here and he should definitely contact a local tenant's rights organization.

If that's what happened, though, I think the best thing for your friend to do is to figure out how to move out as soon as possible. Again, I'm assuming he was planning on moving on August 1st. Get a storage unit, crash on a friend's couch, whatever. It's only two weeks. Maybe try to negotiate with the landlord to put this off until the weekend.

Copying the key would be a huge mistake. As soon as he returns the key someone will be over to check out the apartment and clean it. Giving them the key back is saying, "I'm done living here."
posted by mskyle at 3:01 PM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

A couple of things need to be clarified.

1) What date does the written document say the lease ends? There is a lease, right?
2) Does the lease automatically roll over to month-to-month if tenant does not give notice?
3) Did the tenant actually give notice?

jbenben - it's North Carolina, not California.
posted by radioamy at 3:23 PM on July 15, 2014

If your friend is a UNC student, the office of student legal services may have some resources; if they don't, this site has a number to call for a free or low-cost 30 minute consultation with an attorney who practices in the area of LL/Tenant law.
posted by Schielisque at 6:00 PM on July 15, 2014

I assume your friend has arranged somewhere on 1 August. If that is the case, look up how long it takes to evict someone his jurisdiction. I can pretty much assure you that if he says "Sorry, I'm unable to leave until 1 August, I'm afraid you'll have to evict me" it will take longer than two weeks.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:04 PM on July 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Here is some guide on your local law. So, the questions to ask are: was this a lease with a fixed date to expire (vs a year to year)? If so, there is no requirement on the part of the landlord to give any kind of notice.

Also, as noted above, did your friend pay rent for the whole month? If so, well, the landlord's case becomes a bit more complicated.

However, really if not necessary it is in the best interest of both the renter and the landlord to avoid any kind of legal proceedings like an eviction. His best bet is to clarify what his terms were, then come to a deal with the landlord. For example, if the lease really did expire but the landlord did accept the month's rent, is your friend willing to work with the landlord on getting a professional cleaning done while he is still on the premises? Can he find somewhere to move early and negotiate a new date (along with the return of any rent he paid?). There are a lot of unreasonable jerks out there who are landlord...but most are pretty reasonable, especially if you start talking about actual the actual local law. The landlord's likely fear here is that they have a new renter that he will lose if the property is not vacant and in good shape by August 1, and they are coming on strong to ensure that. I'd start with requesting a negotiation that benefits both parties, and only go the lawyer/court route if needed.

Under no circumstance would I copy the key and then stay there without the landlord's knowledge. That's a gross violation that is only going to make things ugly.

From the link above:

Holdover Tenant
At the end of a lease term, a landlord and a tenant both have an option to renew the lease or rental agreement. A landlord who does not wish to renew the agreement is not obligated to do so. In that case, the tenant must surrender possession of the leased premises at the end of the lease. A “holdover tenant” is one who, without the consent of the landlord, remains in possession of the premises after the expiration of the lease. (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 42-26.)
Depending on the term of the lease, a landlord must provide one of the following termination notices before the end of the then-current lease:
two-day notice if the lease was week-to-week
seven-day notice if the lease was month-to-month, or
one-month notice if the lease was year-to-year.
(See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 42-14.)
When the lease expires, the landlord is not required to give the tenant any options. The above-listed termination notices, also called “unconditional notices to quit,” simply notify the tenant when the lease is due to expire and state a deadline by which the tenant must vacate the premises. If the tenant does not move out by the specified date, the landlord can proceed with the eviction without further notice.
Importantly, the landlord must not accept any payment after the expiration of the lease term and before filing a complaint. This includes partial payment. Doing so may create a new tenancy based on the same terms as the original lease or rental agreement. (See Kearney v. Hare, 265 N.C. 570, 144 S.E. 2d 636 (1965).)

posted by freejinn at 9:11 PM on July 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Why doesn't he just move out? It seems like the easiest and most ethical path, and of course he should be charged for the additional time he is staying there.
posted by metasarah at 9:51 AM on July 16, 2014

#1: He was called with this information? That seems really weird to me. If they were going to evict, they need to give notice, and not just with a phone call, right? I'm not a lawyer, this isn't legal advice, but isn't that true everywhere? Seems really sketchy.
#2: The landlord and your friend don't agree on what date the lease ends, but July 13th is pretty different from the 1st of August, especially since a lot of places start things on the 1st of the month.
#3: Depending on how much they charge, it might be a good value to just pay the money for the "extra" days. Moving is disruptive enough without having to put all your worldly possessions in an intermediate location before moving to a new place.
#4: If your friend has items of personal or monetary value, he should probably move them now. Better to have the TV and the graduation gift from Mom tucked away somewhere safe than risk having less-than-careful cleaners come through, or, God forbid, the sheriff to put his stuff on the street. Unlikely, but it's a weird situation. Good luck.
posted by wnissen at 5:05 PM on July 16, 2014

Depends on what kind of lease he has, but sounds like they would have to go to court to evict him, and by the time the process did its thing he would be out.

But it really depends on the kind of lease he has. I am in real estate school right now and we just went over this. But no, in any case they have to go to court to evict him assuming my NC realtor text is correct.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:56 PM on July 16, 2014

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