When Do I Have to Tell My Landlord If I'm Not Going to Renew My Lease?

When Do I Have to Tell My Landlord If I'm Not Going to Renew My Lease?

Last updated: April 2008

The following question was submitted to John Roska, an attorney/writer whose weekly newspaper column, "Q&A: The Law," runs in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Illinois Edition) and the Champaign News Gazette.

Question

How much notice do I have to give my landlord if I’m not going to renew my lease? My current lease is up in 3 months. I’m looking for something cheaper, but if that doesn’t work out, I’d go ahead and renew for another year. How long can I wait before letting my landlord know one way or the other?

Answer

Written leases usually do not automatically renew. That means that unless your lease or a local ordinance requires you to, you don’t have to tell the landlord that you’re not renewing. You can just move out when the lease expires. You should check your lease to be sure. A clause that requires you to give notice if you want to renew your lease or one that automatically renews your lease, can cause unpleasant surprises if you ignore it.

If a lease doesn’t automatically renew, your right to live in the apartment expires when the lease ends. It is implied in most leases that you will simply move out when the lease is up. You can try to renew your lease before it expires. But if you don’t, you can just move out.

If you don’t move out and your lease has ended, you’re what the law calls a “holdover” tenant. That’s risky because you are at the landlord’s mercy. They can choose to either let you stay or evict you. If the landlord lets you stay, they can also choose the term of your new lease. It might be for the same term of the old lease, or just month-to-month. It is entirely up to the landlord.

If the landlord chooses to evict you, they can go directly to court. They don't have to give you any notice because your lease already told you when your right to stay in the apartment expired. That is the one time—after a written lease expires—when a landlord can skip a written notice before filing an eviction case in court.

So if you are not renewing your lease and your lease does not say anything about giving notice to your landlord, you do not have to tell your landlord anything. You can just move out. However, in order to avoid problems, you should try to give your landlord at least 30 days notice before the lease expires if you are not renewing.

Some leases require that you tell your landlord whether you’re going to renew. Obviously, you should comply with your lease if it says this.

Local ordinances may also impose requirements. Urbana requires tenants with month-to-month leases to give a full month’s notice that they are not renewing. Actually, that’s what any month-to-month tenant is required to do. That gives the landlord one last month of paid-up rent to find a new tenant.

Urbana also requires landlords to give tenants at least 30 days notice if any lease won’t be renewed. Otherwise, lease renewals are subject to negotiation. As noted above, leases usually do not renew automatically. If your lease does not automatically renew, and neither your lease nor a local ordinance requires some advance notice about renewal, you’re on your own. 

As with a non-renewal, it’s nice to know what’s going to happen at least 30 days before the lease is up. That means you should start your renewal negotiations with your landlord 60 to 90 days before the lease expires.
 

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