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Terminating your Lease-Myths and Misunderstandings

Jan. 20, 2018

When do I have to vacate my apartment? Can I leave in the middle of my lease? Can I stay few days longer if I need time before my new space is ready? My landlord says I have to get out before noon on the 31st because he needs time to clean the apartment for the new tenants - can he do that? I am a landlord - can I start showing the apartment before my tenant’s lease is up? Do I have to give notice?

Whether you are a landlord or tenant, it is important to know your rights and responsibilities when it comes to ending your lease or occupancy agreement. Under a written lease, the tenant is entitled to occupy the premises until midnight on the last day of the lease; likewise, the tenant is obligated to pay rent through that date. Setting aside various special circumstances (such as active military duty, breach of the lease or other violations by the landlord, or you are a victim of domestic violence) there is no right to leave early unless it was negotiated as part of the written lease. And there is no right to stay longer, just because it might be more convenient.

If you are a month-to-month tenant at will, things are little bit different. Either the landlord or tenant can terminate the tenancy, but typically that needs to be done at least a full month in advance. Thus, notice on March 7 would not terminate the tenancy until April 30. And as with the lease, the tenant is entitled to stay until midnight on the final day of the occupancy.

Generally speaking, a landlord has the right to enter an apartment to inspect, make repairs and to show prospective tenants. Except in cases of emergency, such as a water leak or fire, this should only be done during normal business hours. Also, as a matter of best practices, it is a good idea for the landlord to contact the tenant and arrange for a mutually convenient time to enter. Tenants do not like surprise visits. But tenants should also understand that there are many circumstances where a landlord cannot easily arrange a visit in advance.

The best situation for both landlords and tenants is to do your best to speak with one another and coordinate the end of lease together, in advance. The landlord will want to know as soon as possible when the tenant will be out so that he can get the apartment ready for the next occupant. And tenants want to know that the landlord will not be bothering them needlessly. There is also value in having a brief walk through ahead of time to know if there is damage (even if not caused by the tenant, the landlord wants to know so that he can fix anything before the next tenancy begins), make arrangements for cleaning, trash disposal, and so forth.

Of course, as with most legal issues, there are always exceptions to the general rules. For instance, all of this assumes that there are no significant problems—the rent was paid on time, the apartment was in good condition and the parties left each other alone as much as possible.