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Due to personal reasons, I am seeking employment in a different state. I haven't yet found a job - in fact I only just started my search - but I know that I will want to move, and I will want to be able to move as soon as I can once I have a job.

The problem is - I don't know when that will happen, and my lease will be up at the end of March (just 2 short months). My landlord will want to know if I'm renewing by the end of next month, and I don't know what to tell him.

My landlord is a fairly reasonable person - he has done plenty of work for the apartment when needed and we've done our best to be good to him in turn - though recently we did have an issue with breaking a window, he has fixed it for us in a timely manner, and we want to be fair to him in our plans to move out.

How can I reach an agreement with my landlord regarding a potential move out of state in the middle of a lease agreement?

  • To be clear, if you stay in town, you're planning to stay in the unit? – corsiKa Jan 29 at 0:39
  • @corsiKa It's more that if the job search takes longer than I anticipate, I will need a place to stay in town - which would be my current unit. – Zibbobz Jan 29 at 14:03
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    Whatever happens, keep your landlord up-to-date with info. They are not your enemy, and being pro-active with sharing helps them to plan their next steps, like organising a new tenant, or planning a refresh in the downtime. – Criggie Jan 29 at 19:25
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Inquire with the landlord about switching to a month-to-month lease, meaning you wouldn't have to renew for an entire year. It's been a while since I was a renter but I recall most apartment leases I've had in my life being for a one-year term for the first year, then month to month after that. You say you're a good tenant and he's a reasonable landlord, he may be willing to change the lease terms. It may also be a good idea to tell him why you're asking for the change, he may be sympathetic.

You'll need to check the laws in your state, and your lease as well, but leases can also be broken by the tenant. If the landlord is at fault, for example if the unit is uninhabitable for some reason, there's usually no penalty. In this case, there would most likely be an early termination fee: in my experience it's usually one or two months' rent. It can be the remainder of the original lease period. Your lease will probably list the fee, but also check your local laws to see if the state imposes any limits on what landlords can charge for an early termination fee. In Pennsylvania, I've terminated two apartment leases early, once the fee was an extra month's rent, the other time there was no fee because we gave the landlord plenty of notice, had a good relationship, and they easily found a new tenant to take our place.

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    In the UK, I've done this for my last couple rentals, we would call it a "rolling contract". I've never had a landlord say "no". The arrangement then becomes, I have to give 1 full calendar month's notice that I will be leaving. So once notice is given, I'm on the hook until the 28th of the next month and then that's that. – Kialandei Jan 27 at 14:11
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    I recently renewed my lease (corporate landlord). I was given a choice of how many months I wanted to renew for, with fewer months resulting in a larger monthly payments. If I converted to month-to-month, my monthly payment would be increased by $300. – Michael Richardson Jan 27 at 17:34
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    @Zibbobz The cost may be significant, or it may be zero. If your lease doesn't discuss this, the only way to find out is to talk to your landlord. – Dan C Jan 27 at 18:11
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    @Zibbobz You might be underestimating the potential costs/issues of terminating a lease early. Unless the penalty is clearly defined in the contract, you are on the hook for all rent payments until the landlord can find a new tenant. Some brief googling suggests that landlords are not required to search for a new tenant to mitigate damages in NY. – trognanders Jan 27 at 22:52
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    @Zibbobz - The couple of times that I've gone month-to-month, the increase in rent was less than 10%. It's almost always cheaper than ending a lease early (in fact, that's the very reason they're offered to begin with). – bta Jan 27 at 23:02
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Read your lease. It may already have a provision that it switches to month to month automatically after the lease term expires. I've had a few leases like that in the (distant) past. If that's the case, then you don't really have to do anything.

  • Note that this does give the landlord the ability to decide to find a new tenant in order to secure a longer lease, normally with nothing more than a 30-day written notice. – brichins Jan 27 at 22:29
  • In the state of California this is (by law, I've been told - without cites) the default behavior. After the lease term is up, if neither the tenant nor the landlord brings it up, it's month-to-month until a new lease/contract is signed. – Alex M Jan 28 at 1:02
  • This is a good idea - unfortunately my lease puts me in pretty bad terms with regards to breaking early. But otherwise it would be worth pursuing. – Zibbobz Jan 28 at 1:16
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    @Zibbobz why would you need to break your lease if you follow this answer? The whole point of this is you can move out within a month of knowing you want to leave with no penalty. – Kat Jan 28 at 1:39
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I was in a similar situation a couple of years ago, I was working abroad and didn't know when I would have to leave the country.

My landlord made me sign a one-year lease and agreed that I could transfer the lease to a new tenant for the remainder of the lease. This is called a sublease. His only condition was that the new tenant would be approved by the roommates. The caveat to subleasing is that you are responsible for the new tenant paying his rent, so make sure that he/she has a stable job.

  • Good advice, though in this case my wife and I are the only tenants, so the landlord probably wouldn't go for this. – Zibbobz Jan 28 at 13:15
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    You don't need to have roommates for a sublease. Getting roommate approval was an additional restriction, so in your case it could be simpler! – jgadoury Jan 28 at 14:57
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My personal experience renting is the best thing is to tell your landlord exactly what is going on in your life and your situation, so even if you do not have month to month written into your existing lease, then they are able to offer it to you, most landlords understand that their renter is a temporary situation that will one day change and if you have a good relationship they tend to be flexible if they are a good landlord. Remember all contracts are null and void if both parties can come to an alternative agreement they are both happy with and you can even do things outside the law if it's short term, the government won't care one bit if you are both happy with a day by day lease and it's unlawful in your state or territory as long as it only lasts a short time

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My advice would be to ask about switching to a month-to-month. Be prepared for a significant difference in the cost per month. In a recent lease the switch to month-to-month after the initial lease period resulted in a 15% higher rent amount compared with the 12 month extension rate.

If you know that you will be in the place less than the break even point, it can make sense to switch to month-to-month. But over the long term month-to-month can be more expensive.

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    Would it be worth pursuing something in-between, like a 3-month term instead? – Zibbobz Jan 27 at 15:19
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    @Zibbobz I think that depends on you. Will the uncertainty of your timeline result in more than 15% (or whatever the premium is) of your lease term being unoccupied? And if you don't find a new place in 3 months, will you want to re-up for another 3 months, or try to change the terms again? – Michael - Where's Clay Shirky Jan 27 at 15:25
  • Interesting. In my last rental, after we'd been there a year, the lease automatically converted to monthly -- with no cost increase. The only caveat was, we had to give at least a 30-day notice. This is in the midwest US, and some years ago, so it may not be the norm anymore, or in other areas. – David Jan 27 at 23:29
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As others have mentioned, a month-to-month agreement is the typical and likely solution. Another option may be to get a normal lease but with a provision for early termination.

When I was looking to buy a house years ago I was in a similar situation where my lease would be up in a couple months but I couldn't guarantee finding and closing on a home in that short of time frame. When I asked the management company about it the offered to have me sign a normal year lease but attached an addendum stipulating that I could terminate the lease early without penalty on the condition that a new home was purchased. I just needed to show them proof of ownership after closing.

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I don't know your landlord, but most places allow you to sign 1-month, 2-month, 3-month, 6-month, etc. leases, but the shorter the lease, the higher the rent. Also, check the lease break penalty in your contract, if it's 1 month's rent(very common), it may be worthwhile to just eat the hit, if the new job pays better.

  • I've never heard of that, and I've rented at a dozen places. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 29 at 12:53
  • All of the big commercial apartments that I've had to look at into around here(Seattle area, around the Microsoft campus, but I've heard that it's the same in other areas of the Greater Seattle area) have a policy like this, e.g 1.6k/m for a 6 month lease, 1.4k/m for a 2 year lease, 1.9k/m for a 2 month lease, etc. Maybe it's just a local quirk, due to the fact that a great many people move here from another country, make tons of money and discover they can afford to get a loan to buy their own place in a few months. I have never had to rent anywhere else in the US. Worth trying. – Eugene Jan 29 at 18:15
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Certainly the landlord has every incentive to want to pin you down for another 1 year's commitment, but that is not required. Almost any US lease falls over to a "month to month" lease at the end of the term. I know you're concerned about the rent going up significantly if you do, but every rental I've ever had, the month-to-month rate remains the same as last year's lease (unless they affirmatively raise it).

I gather you've been renting for several years, re-signing a 1 year lease every year. The landlord is unlikely to have a problem with breaking a lease near the end of the lease; after all, the lease has served its purpose by assuring that you aren't a short term tenant. Since you have a convivial relationship with the landlord, the landlord is likely to let you out of it without a hassle.

Given your plans, signing another 1-year lease would be madness. You are committing to guarantee the rent for the next year on the unit. Landlords have a duty to mitigate your losses, i.e. find another tenant, and whatever the other tenant pays reduces your obligation by that much (hopefully 100%) -- but if the new tenant is slow to find or doesn't work out, the landlord's losses are on you. Functionally, you are committing to pay rent for a whole 'nother year. Don't do that unless you can really afford that.

I get the power of habit, and it's been your habit to sign new leases every year. Stop.

I hear you're worried about a month-to-month tenancy being significantly more expensive. You need to check your state's rental laws; but that sounds very unusual. On the other hand, it would not surprise me for a landlord to offer a lease with different monthly rates, including a month-to-month lease (a contradiction of terms) at unreasonable prices; the purpose being to goad you into signing another year lease, or get you to sign away your rights under state or local law. If you're under rent control and the landlord gets you to consent to an otherwise illegal rent increase, then you lost your rights. But if you can't escape that clause, breaking a lease is likely to cost you at least 1 month's and probably 2-3 month's rent, and possibly the full twelve... so consider that in perspective and balance your risk accordingly.

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