Renewing (or Not Renewing) Leases

In most states after a one-year lease expires, the tenancy reverts to a month-to-month rental agreement unless you issue a new one-year lease and it is signed by you and your tenant. After a successful tenancy, few landlords or tenants worry about having a new one-year lease. But there are a few exceptions — in some states the lease automatically renews into a second one-year lease.

When You Want Your Tenant Out

If you do not want your tenant to stay longer than the period specified in the lease, you should notify your tenant at least thirty days before the lease expires that the lease will not be renewed. Or you can give the tenant a Notice to Quit, effective when the lease expires.

If you really want the tenant out, don't take any money from your tenant for extending the lease a few extra days beyond the expiration date. In most states a lease automatically converts into a month-to-month rental agreement after it expires if the tenant stays on. If you accept money and later want to formally evict the tenant, the payment might be construed as your having given consent to the rental agreement under the terms of the old lease. Then you'll have to give the tenant another thirty-day Notice to Quit.

When You Want to Change the Lease

Give your tenant sixty days' notice if you want to increase the rent or change some of the rules when the lease expires. All that's required is thirty days, but the extra month gives your tenant time to think about how the changes will affect her. There will be time for your tenant to look at other apartments and compare features and prices, to plan a move and give you plenty of notice, to negotiate with you, or to decide to go along with the changes and just stay put.

When You Want Your Tenant to Stay

Two or three months before the lease expires, phone your tenant to find out if she intends to renew. If you'd like to raise the rent, this is the time to say so. But generally landlords who have good tenants will keep increases minimal so the tenant won't leave. When you start looking for another tenant to sign a lease, that's the time to implement a major increase in rent.

Not less than thirty days before the lease expires, send your tenant a letter inviting her to renew and indicate that the rent will be increased when the new lease goes into effect. This ensures there will be no misunderstandings with regard to dates and amounts.

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