Most landlords enter into one year written leases with tenants. At the end of one year, the lease will expire (unless there is an automatic renewal clause). At that point, the landlord can decide if he or she would like to renew the lease with the current tenant, allow them to remain as month to month tenants, or to not extend their tenancy and rent to someone else.
A month to month tenancy is a rental period that runs for one month and automatically renews at the end of the month. It can be created by either moving a tenant in without a lease and accepting rent, by entering into a lease agreement that explicitly creates a month to month tenancy, or by allowing a tenant with a 12-month lease to remain in the premises and pay rent for the period after expiration of the lease. The main advantage of a month to month tenancy is the flexibility. If a landlord is not happy with the tenant, the landlord may terminate the month to month tenancy by giving a 15 day notice. Similarly, if the Tenant wants to terminate the tenancy, the tenant may give the landlord a 15 day notice.
Example 1: Larry wants to enter into a one year lease with Ted. Larry and Ted sign a one year lease creating a rental period of one year. The lease expires after one year. If Larry or Ted wants to terminate the lease prior to the one year expiring, they likely will be unable to do so without a mutually agreeable lease termination agreement. Unless the parties mutually agree to terminate the lease, they are stuck with each other until the lease expires.
Example 2: Larry wants to enter into a month to month lease with Tina. Larry and Tina sign a month to month lease creating a rental period of one month. At the end of each month, the lease automatically renews until either party decides to end the month to month lease using a 15 day notice.
Example 3: Larry has an empty apartment and his newly divorced friend, Ted needs a place to live. Ted moves in and pays his monthly rent. No written agreement was ever signed by the parties. Since there is no written agreement, the parties have created an oral month to month tenancy. At the end of each month, the lease automatically renews until either party decides to end the month to month agreement using a 15 day notice.
Because the rental period is relatively short and automatically renews on the first of the month, the move out day should always be strictly obeyed. Otherwise, the landlord risks being caught in another rental period once the first of the month rolls around.
Example 4.1: Larry enters into a written month to month agreement with Ted. Rent is due on the 1st of each month. Ted wants to move out because he has found a better deal elsewhere. Ted gives Larry a 15 day notice on April 10. Ted must move out on or before April 30, otherwise he risks owing Larry for May’s rent.
Example 4.2: Ted’s new place isn’t ready on time, so he officially moves out on May 5th. Even though it was by only 5 days, the rental period renewed automatically on the 1st of May, and Ted was still in possession of the rental property until May 5th. Ted owes Larry rent for May.