Lease changes

Written lease agreement

Normally, a written lease will last for a certain time period, like six months or one year. Your landlord can’t increase your rent during this time, unless the lease gives the landlord the right to do so. This is good for your landlord, too, because they know that they have a tenant that will pay rent for that period of time. One disadvantage is that you have to make sure the rent is paid for the whole lease period even if you move out, unless the landlord breaks the lease, the landlord rents the property to somebody else, or agrees to let you out of the lease. See Moving out.

Month-to-month lease

If you don’t have a written lease agreement, or if your written lease term 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 (ending the lease). Sometimes landlords require tenants to give them more than a month’s notice if they want to move out. Your lease agreement will say how much notice you have to give them. If you pay rent weekly, then you are a week-to-week tenant and only one week’s notice is required. No matter who terminates the lease, you should always make sure that the notice is in writing and keep a copy as proof. See Moving out.

Changing terms in the middle or end of a lease

During the lease term, neither you nor the landlord can change any part of it without the other party giving consent. Some leases may give the landlord the right to change certain terms, but this is rare.  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, at the end of the lease term, the landlord or the tenant can propose any changes to the lease agreement, such as a change in the rent amount. For month-to-month leases, either party can give a 30-day advance notice of a proposed change or notice of termination at any time.

If you and your landlord talk about a change to the lease but do not agree on the change, it is important to confirm in writing that no agreement was reached.  If you don’t put it in writing, the landlord might think that you agree based on your actions. This is why you should get all agreements in writing. That way, if you ever go to court, you’ll have evidence for the judge. 

Example:

Tenant is on a month-to-month lease.

Landlord sends a notice on October 31 that the rent will increase by $50 per month beginning in December. 

Tenant does not want to pay higher rent, so they tell the landlord, “I will not renew the lease unless you keep the rent the same or reduce the amount of the increase (in writing). 

Landlord says no, “I will not lower the rent.”

Tenant gives the landlord a 30-day (or longer, depending on their lease) advance notice that they will be moving out. 

If the tenant stays and does not move out, they will have to pay the higher rent, or be evicted.