Month-to-Month Leases: What You Need to Know
Typically, lease agreements are good for 12 months. However, there are times when you might find yourself in a situation where the standard 12-month lease agreement will not fit your needs. You might not be able to commit to the financial requirements of a standard lease or you only need housing for a shorter period of time.
If you find yourself in the aforementioned situation, a month-to-month lease might be a better choice for you. But what exactly is a month-to-month lease, and when should you opt for one over a standard lease?
Here’s everything you need to know about this particular renting option.
What is a Month-to-Month Lease?
A month-to-month lease is a type of rental agreement between a renter and a landlord that establishes tenancy without a long-term commitment. Also known as a short-term rental agreement, a month-to-month lease renews occupancy terms every month until either the tenant or landlord terminates the lease.
The main difference between a standard lease and a month-to-month lease is that either party can terminate the lease at any time and for any reason without penalty -- as long as notice is given. The notice period will depend on the state; New York and California both require 30 days notice. For Massachusetts, it can either be 30 days or the interval between payments -- whichever is longer.
Aside from the lack of a lock-in period, most of the terms in a month-to-month lease are similar to a standard lease agreement. You will still need to undergo a background check, pay a security deposit, and shoulder any penalties for late rent payments. If the landlord requires renters insurance, you will still need to get it to qualify for a month-to-month lease.
Why Would You Want a Month-to-Month Lease?
People opt for a month-to-month lease if they are looking for flexibility in their rental agreement. For example, if you are only staying in a certain city for a month or so because of work, it doesn’t make sense to sign a standard lease. You can also opt for a month-to-month lease if you are in the process of looking for the perfect long-term apartment. You can explore various neighborhoods until you find the right permanent housing for you.
Take note that having a month-to-month lease doesn’t necessarily mean you need to let go of the apartment after a month! In fact, if you have a good relationship with your landlord, your lease can last for years.
What to Consider Before Getting a Month-to-Month Lease
The flip side of having a month-to-month lease with your landlord is that they will have as much power in the agreement as you do. That means that your landlord can terminate the lease for any reason without needing to justify their decision. They only need to give you the same 30-day notice before they terminate your lease, and you will not be able to appeal the decision if they have made up their mind.
You should think carefully about whether you can live under this kind of agreement with your landlord before you enter into a month-to-month lease.
Pros of a Month-to-Month Lease
Here are the pros of a month-to-month lease:
If you are unsure about your housing plans in the near future, a month-to-month lease works immensely in your favor. You can explore other rental options, get a job in another city, or travel without worrying about getting stuck paying for an apartment you won’t use. You won’t need to worry about lease dates either since there is no fixed move-out date.
Should you decide to change the terms of the lease agreement (i.e., you want to switch it to a standard lease), you can do that as well!
As long as you give proper notice before you end the lease, you won’t incur any penalties for terminating the agreement. If the unit has no damages and no unpaid dues, you will also receive your security deposit back in full.
Cons of a Month-to-Month Lease
Here are the cons of a month-to-month lease:
Unsure living situation
Basically, your whole lease agreement is going to be a gamble every month. Remember, the landlord can terminate your lease for any reason as long as they give notice. Under a month-to-month lease, you will not be eligible for the renter protection you’ll have under a standard lease. Furthermore, landlords have the right to raise the rent or change the terms of the rental agreement every month.
Generally, month-to-month rental prices are more expensive compared to standard rental prices for two reasons. First, landlords are looking for security; since they can’t be sure that they’ll have a long-term tenant, they will charge more to cover any potential losses. Second, maintaining a month-to-month unit is more expensive, so landlords will pass the cost on to the tenant.
Can be difficult to find
Considering that these units are more expensive and difficult to manage for landlords, you might have a hard time finding a month-to-month rental property. It can be harder to find them in large cities since most short-term rentals are used as Airbnb properties to maximize profits. This means that you’ll have a lot of competition, particularly during peak season.
Can I change the terms of my month-to-month lease?
It depends on your agreement with the landlord. You can switch your month-to-month lease to a standard lease if both parties agree. This process will be easier if you are a model renter.
What can I do if my landlord decides to end the lease against my wishes?
Unfortunately, you won’t have any legal recourse if the landlord decides to terminate your lease after giving you proper notice.
If your plans in the future are unsure, a month-to-month lease is a good option as long as you understand the cons of this type of agreement. Be prepared to pay a higher monthly rent, as well as being unsure about the stability of your tenancy.
However, if you plan to stay in one city for a year or longer, opt for a standard lease. It is cheaper, more secure, and you will be protected by renter laws in your city.