Lease

Normally, a written lease will last for a fixed period of time, typically six months or one year. This will protect you from rent increases during that time. The landlord has the advantage of being assured that he will receive rent for that period. One disadvantage is that you are obligated for the rent for the entire lease period whether you live there or not, unless the landlord substantially violates the lease, the landlord rents the property to somebody else, or agrees to let you out of the lease. See "Termination and Moving Out."

If you never had a written lease agreement, or if your written lease has expired, you are probably a month-to-month tenant. A month-to-month lease continues from one month to the next, as its name implies, until either you or your landlord gives a one-month advance notice of termination. Sometimes landlord require tenants to give them more than a month's notice if you do not intent to renew the lease, so check your lease for this period to avoid problems. If you pay rent weekly, then you may be a week-to-week tenant and only one week's notice is required. No matter who terminates the lease, you should always keep a copy of the notice of termination as proof. See "Termination and Moving Out."

Changing terms in the middle or end of a lease

During the lease, one party cannot change any terms of the lease agreement without the other party's consent. Please note that consent can be given orally, in writing or by the actions of the other party. However, if an agreement is reached, it is best that it be made in writing, dated, and signed by both parties. Unless an agreement is reached, the parties must abide by every term in the lease agreement (including any house rules). However, one month prior to the end of the lease, either party can propose any changes to the lease agreement. For month-to-month leases, either party can give a 30-day advance notice of any change at any time. Unless the other party clearly terminates (or fails to renew the lease), then that party might be presumed to have accepted the new terms offered by the other party. In this case, consent is given by the actions of the party. A court may find that the tenant accepted the landlord's offer by her conduct alone. However, a tenant should not assume anything, as a court will decide each situation differently. Again it is best that a tenant get agreements in writing and signed by the owner or manager, rather than relying on oral or implied consent.

The same is true if the tenant is on a month-to-month lease and the landlord sends a notice on October 31 that the rent will be increased by $50 for December. If the tenant does not want to pay the increased rent he should try to negotiate with the landlord, indicating he will not renew the lease unless the rent is lower. If the landlord refuses, then the tenant must give notice that he will not renew the lease, and give the landlord 30 days advance notice of termination (or longer period of time depending on the lease). Otherwise, the tenant will be responsible for the higher rent. See "Tenant Duties and Consequences.