Real Estate

Here’s What You Should Do When Your Landlord Doesn’t Renew Your Lease

published Aug 14, 2022
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I’m currently in a situation I haven’t experienced before. I’ve been living in my apartment in Chicago for about three years, and have always had a lease. But we were supposed to renew in March, and we never heard anything from our landlord. So we’ve been paying rent, and the landlord has been accepting it, without any word of a lease. Of course, we haven’t said anything at this point — which means we’re on a month-to-month rental agreement.

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If this has happened to you, you know it can have both positives and downsides. Here’s what you should know.

Why didn’t I get a lease renewal?

Landlords might have myriad reasons for not sending up a lease renewal. In my case, I’m pretty sure our landlord just forgot, but assumed that because we were still paying, we still wanted to live there. Which is true, of course, because have you seen the housing market lately? But according to Peter Beckford at RE/MAX Premier in Atlanta, Georgia, there may be other reasons afoot for other tenants.

“The primary reason a landlord would not want to renew a lease is because a tenant is not paying their rent on time, not taking care of the property as agreed, or breaking some rule defined in the lease agreement,” Beckford says. “Another reason landlords may not want to renew is because rental rates have increased dramatically and they don’t want to ‘leave any money on the table.’ They may feel their previous rental agreement with their current tenant doesn’t reflect the current market value and what they could get. For some landlords, the risk of a few days’ vacancy while getting a new tenant is worth the trouble for the increase in rent.”

Should I say something?

You should absolutely bring up your lease renewal to your landlord. If you don’t, there could be some room for interpretation on the rules of your tenancy, which is never a good thing. And make sure that if you have a discussion about the lease terms, that it’s put down on paper.

“Calling, email, or text are all appropriate means of communicating with your landlord but once something is agreed upon, you will always want that in writing and a part of the lease agreement, even if added as an amendment or addendum,” Beckford says.

Be sure, as well, that you discuss the “how, when, and how much advance notice you should give to renew your lease, in addition to what happens if you don’t,” Beckford continues. That way there’s no confusion about your living arrangements moving forward.

Why does my lease need to be nenewed?

When you don’t renew your lease officially, you switch to a month-to-month renter. That means that your landlord can decide to evict you pretty much whenever they want. However, as long as you’re paying rent and they’re accepting it, you still get all the rights of a tenant in your city — and they have to give you at least 30 days’ notice that you’ll be moving out. A lease keeps your renting timeline stable, so your landlord can’t decide to evict you in, say, the middle of the school year while your kids are in classes.

What are the perks of month-to-month renting?

Month-to-month is great if you’re trying to buy a home but you’re not sure when the deal will go through. You’ll be able to close the deal and move out in 30 days with written notice. That being said, it’s important to have your landlord on board for this, so you don’t end up homeless. Communication is key when you don’t have an annual lease.