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Ask Sam: I have no lease and am renting month-to-month. Can I move out whenever I want?

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Question:

My lease ended several years ago and my landlord never sent a renewal, but has been accepting my rent each month. When I'm ready to move out, do I need to give 30 days notice or can I give less? Can I give notice mid-month and pay prorated rent into the next month?

Answer:

When a lease on a New York City rental expires but a tenant continues to occupy the apartment, and the landlord continues to accept rent, that creates a month-to-month tenancy, says Sam Himmelstein, a lawyer with the firm Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph LLP who represents residential and commercial tenants and tenant associations.

"The tenancy is renewed for 30 more days every time the tenant pays another month's rent," Himmelstein says.

A downside of this arrangement is that it can make things a bit precarious for you. As Himmelstein explained in a previous column, landlords can raise the rent on month-to-month leases by whatever amount they choose. A tenant doesn’t have to agree to the increase, but the landlord can terminate the tenancy if they don't. 

On the bright side, your landlord still has to give you 30 days notice if he or she wants you out. You're not necessarily required to return the favor.

"There's no reciprocal obligation from the tenant unless there is something in the lease that requires it," Himmelstein says. "When a lease expires, it doesn't get renewed in terms of length, but substantive terms still project into the monthly tenancy." 

This means that certain stipulations set forth in your lease still apply. If your landlord forbids pets, for instance, you can't now adopt a puppy just because the lease has expired. And if the lease included a clause requiring you to give 30 days notice before moving out, that too is still binding.

"But those clauses are usually not in leases, because landlords don't want to give you the option of terminating early during the term of the lease," Himmelstein says.

This means that once your lease expires, you likely can move out whenever you want, without giving your landlord a month's notice. 

"You might want to do it anyway, as a matter of courtesy if you have a good relationship with the landlord, so he or she can start planning to re-rent and hire a broker," Himmelstein says. 

It might also be a good idea to give your landlord a heads up if you think you might need a recommendation someday when you're applying for another apartment. 

Related

Ask Sam: I've been renting for 19 years with no lease, and the landlord wants to evict me. What are my rights? (sponsored) 

Ask Sam: Can my landlord kick me out of my apartment so his family can move in? (sponsored)

Ask Sam: How do I protect myself from a landlord's illegal eviction attempts? (sponsored) 

Ask Sam: How much notice do I have to give my landlord to leave a rent-stabilized apartment? (sponsored)

Read all the Ask a Renters' Rights Lawyer columns here.


Sam Himmelstein, Esq., represents NYC tenants and tenant associations in disputes over evictions, rent increases, rental conversions, rent stabilization law, lease buyouts, and many other issues. He is a partner at Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph in Manhattan. To submit a question for this column, click here. To ask about a legal consultation, email Sam at [email protected] or call (212) 349-3000.

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