Understanding month-to-month leases
Month-to-month leases can be hard to understand, but it is important for a potential tenant to be a savvy advocate for him/herself when considering entering an agreement to rent property from a landlord, especially in a short-term arrangement which can change rapidly. When you are reviewing a month-to-month lease, it is wise to read the terms carefully and do your due diligence, ideally prior to signing the lease. You may need to conduct some research in order to understand any “legalese” you might encounter when reviewing the lease terms. Remember, it may take more time on the front end to ask questions and seek advice if needed from trusted sources, but this time will pay off with fewer headaches when it comes time to move out or renegotiate the terms of the lease for any reason.
What is a “month-to-month” lease?
A month-to-month lease is a legal instrument that allows a tenant to rent property from a landlord under an arrangement that may be altered or terminated by either party, provided that the proper amount of notice (usually specified in the lease and typically 30 days) is given by the party who seeks to alter or terminate the lease. This means that as a tenant, you are not locked into a fixed term/length of time you must rent the property (as you are with a long-term lease) but that you have the freedom to move out with fairly short notice. However, this also means that the landlord also may also make changes to the lease such as increasing the cost of rent, requiring you to move out sooner than originally planned, or even evicting you from the property, also with fairly short notice.
I am considering signing a month-to-month lease. What can I do to look out for myself?
Because prospective tenants may be vulnerable to exploitation by unethical landlords due to the tenant’s lack of caution or awareness when signing a month-to-month lease, here are some suggestions to help you navigate your next month-to-month lease negotiation as a strong, informed, and confidant advocate for yourself and your needs as a tenant:
- Read the terms carefully. Be sure that you understand exactly what your responsibilities are as a tenant, as well as the landlord’s responsibilities to you and to the property.
- Think proactively and plan ahead. Envision your goals for your future and then consider how your residential status is connected to your achievement of those goals. Will you be best served by having the flexibility of a month-to-month lease, or will you be better off with the longer-term predictability of a fixed-term lease? Ask yourself several questions to ensure you’ve considered all angles.
- Communicate effectively. Gain clarity from the landlord on anything that confuses you about the lease terms, the application process, or the property itself. Get the information you need on the front end of your consideration process so that you can make a wise decision.
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