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When the tenant breaches the lease by not paying rent or by doing something else prohibited in the lease, the landlord may evict the tenant. The first step in the eviction procedure is to give the tenant a Demand for Payment of Rent or Possession. By giving this notice, the landlord elects to terminate the lease. Once the lease is terminated, the tenant is no longer responsible for future rent for the balance of the lease term. Unless the lease expressly and clearly provides for continuing liability for rent after the tenant leaves the unit, the tenant is liable for rent only through the date of moving out and is not liable for future rent under the lease.
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Leases end for a variety of reasons. The most obvious reason is that the lease term expires. The lease also terminates if the tenant moves out with the landlord's agreement. In some situations, the lease may terminate if either party gives the other certain notice.
Finally, the lease may be terminated by the landlord after giving proper notice if the tenant breaches the terms of the lease. Termination of the lease is discussed in this section. The remedies available to the landlord or the tenant after the lease terminates are covered later in the section on Eviction.
If no expiration date is stated in the lease (or if there is no written lease) and if the tenant pays rent on a monthly basis, the tenant has a month-to-month tenancy. A month-to-month tenancy is certainly the most common type of periodic tenancy. However, the period for the tenancy can be week-to-week, six-month to six-month or year-to-year, depending upon the parties' agreement or how rent is paid. A periodic tenancy (for whatever the period may be) is automatically renewed for the next period, unless either the landlord or the tenant gives the other notice of termination. Either the landlord or the tenant can decide to terminate a periodic tenancy for any reason or for no reason at all.
To terminate a month-to-month tenancy for no reason or no cause, either the landlord or the tenant must give the other a Notice to Vacate at least ten days before the next rental payment is due. A year-to-year tenancy requires a three month advance notice to terminate. A week-to-week tenancy or a tenancy at will requires notice three days before the net rent is due. A six-month to six-month tenancy requires one month advance notice to terminate it.
Remember, a tenant is under the same notice requirements as a landlord if the tenant wishes to terminate a periodic tenancy. Failure to give timely notice will result in the tenant's liability for rent for another period. The notice must be in writing and delivered directly to the landlord or the tenant, as the case may be, or the landlord may deliver a copy to a member of the tenant's family over the age of 15 occupying the unit, or may post the notice conspicuously on the door of the unit. Mailing of the notice is not effective.
A lease that provides for a specific ending date terminates on that given date. Neither party has to give a Notice to Vacate when the term ends at a certain time by agreement. If the tenant does not move out by the end of the stated term (known as "holding over") and the landlord accepts rent, then the tenant may stay subject to the provisions in the original lease. The tenancy becomes a periodic tenancy for the same period as the original term.
For example, if the lease was for one year, and the tenant holds over with the consent of the landlord, the tenant gets a tenancy for another year, unless the lease provides otherwise. Some leases provide that if the tenant holds over with the consent of the landlord, the tenancy becomes month-to-month rather than a renewal for the full term of the original lease.
An assignment of a lease transfers the tenant's entire interest in the lease to someone else. Under a sublease the subtenant typically pays something more or gets something less than is otherwise given in the lease between the tenant and the landlord.
Unless prohibited by the lease, the lease may be assigned or sublet without terminating it. The first tenant remains fully responsible for all of the obligations of the lease. Neither assignment nor subletting releases the tenant from liability to the landlord. If the lease requires the landlord's permission to assign or sublease, the landlord cannot arbitrarily or unreasonably reject a substitute tenant. The withholding of consent must be reasonable.
A lease is a contract. The tenant promises to meet the obligations of paying rent for the period specified in the lease. If the tenant moves out prior to the end of the lease without the agreement of the landlord or without justifying circumstances, the landlord may keep the security deposit to cover the unpaid portion of rent and may then sue the tenant for the remaining rent due for the balance of the term of the lease.
The landlord has an obligation to make an effort to re-let the unit. This is called "mitigation of damages." If the tenant surrenders the unit to the landlord and the landlord accepts the surrender and terminates the lease, the tenant is relieved of the responsibility to pay all future rents, unless the lease expressly and clearly provides otherwise.
If the lease does not provide for forfeiture of the landlord's rights because of the landlord's breach of the lease, then the tenant has no right to terminate the lease or abandon the unit before the expiration of the lease, even if the landlord breaches the lease. However, if the breach of the lease by the landlord renders the unit unfit for occupancy or deprives the tenant of the beneficial enjoyment of the unit, then the tenant may be justified in abandoning the unit without further liability to the landlord. The tenant can also sue the landlord for damages resulting from the landlord's failure to live up to the terms of the lease.