A month-to-month lease agreement (“tenancy at will”) is a legal contract between a landlord and tenant for the rental of real property with a monthly pay period and no specified end date. It can be terminated with proper notice, which varies by state.
About Month-to-Month Rental Agreements
These types of agreements may be used for temporary housing, college apartments, or long-term tenants who have lived in a particular rental for a number of years. A month-to-month rental agreement enables either party (tenant or landlord) to alter or terminate the rental agreement on a monthly basis. Changes to a month-to-month rental agreement typically require a 30-day notice. If no changes are made, month-to-month rental agreements automatically renew at the beginning of each month and continue to do so until either party terminates the agreement.
A month-to-month rental agreement is a written document between a landlord and tenant that officially recognizes a legally binding relationship between the two parties. This document outlines an agreement for the renting of property and details the monthly rent, property description, in addition to the landlord and tenant’s responsibilities. A landlord agrees to rent their property to a tenant for a fee, and the terms of the rental are described in detail in the form of a month-to-month rental agreement.
Standard month-to-month rental agreements should contain the following elements:
- Premises. The space to be rented.
- Landlord. The owner of the premise or lessor.
- Tenant. The renter who wants to live in the premises or lessee.
- Term. The start date of the tenancy.
- Rent. The amount of money paid by the tenant.
Month-to-month rental agreements may also be used for these dwellings:
- Room Rental
- Mobile Home
- Vacation Rental
- In-law Suite
- Other living spaces
- Rent-to-own options
Do I Need a Rental Agreement?
Renting a property without clearly written rules and expectations of the tenancy is an invitation for trouble. The landlord-tenant relationship can be complicated—with so many federal, state and local laws that govern residential property rentals makes it that much more complex. By writing a rental agreement, all of the details of your tenancy will be recorded and legally binding—and as a result (if written in detail) can reduce unintentional violations by either the landlord or the tenant.
Some landlords don’t use written agreements—they prefer to have a verbal agreement with their tenants. While verbal agreements can be legally binding, they can be difficult to prove to a judge. By signing a written rental agreement your arrangement becomes legally binding and you have proof of your agreement.
Fixed Lease vs. Month-to-Month Rental Agreement
A fixed-term lease secures a tenancy for a longer period of time, typically a year. During that time, the landlord is not allowed to raise the rent, change the terms of the tenancy or terminate the lease on short notice unless the lease allows for modifications or the tenant agrees in writing to the changes. Landlords in high vacancy areas often prefer leases.
A month-to-month rental agreement secures a tenancy for a short period of time, typically a month. Month-to-month rental agreements automatically renew each month unless the landlord or tenant provides their notice to terminate. Landlords can typically increase rent, change the terms of tenancy, or terminate the agreement on short notice. Landlords in steady rental markets often prefer month-to-month agreements. However, month-to-month tenancies mean tenant turnover which involves more work to keep the property full.
Month-to-month rentals are commonly more expensive. Landlords will typically offer a lower rental price for fixed-term leases since the tenant commits to the property for a longer-term.
Month-to-Month Rental Agreement: Pros and Cons
Month-to-month rental agreements come with a fair share of pros and cons for both tenants and landlords. Let’s take a look at the top pros and cons for each party:
- Flexibility for tenants who may have taken a temporary job, working in an area on contract for a period of time, or for those who are not ready to make a year-long commitment.
- Tenants can typically move to a longer, fixed-term lease when available.
- Tenants can end their lease in 30 days without penalty.
- Flexibility for landlords who may have a difficult tenant or one that has damaged the property or is frequently late with their payments.
- Rent Increase Flexibility
- Higher Rent Prices
- Possibility Of Fluctuating Rent Prices
- Possibility Of An Unexpected Lease End
- Tenant Turnover
- Increased Risk of Vacancy
- Possibility Of An Unexpected Lease End
Common Rental Agreement Provisions
A month-to-month rental agreement is a written plan of the tenancy—it defines the rights and responsibilities of both the landlord and tenant(s). It also serves as a guideline for when rent is due, the duration of the tenancy, and specific rental provisions that are either required by law or agreed to by the landlord and tenant.
Terms and conditions should be negotiated (if negotiable) by the landlord and tenant(s). If you are concerned that you’re not getting a good value for the amount you would be paying on rent or are worried by the house rules and provisions that have been added on to a month-to-month rental agreement, then negotiating terms can help you find out what options are available to you.
To negotiate rent, get an idea of the market pricing in your area by going online and viewing related properties and their monthly asking price. Landlords are less likely to negotiate on the price of rent and more likely to offer tenants additional benefits. So, what else can be negotiated on besides the rent? Here are a few items you might consider trying to negotiate:
- Security Deposit
- Late Rent Penalties
- Smoking Policy
Keep in mind, landlords are not required to negotiate rental pricing, fees, benefits or other provisions they have added. However, tenants have the right to shop around and not sign a rental agreement that does not fit their criteria.
When completing a month-to-month rental agreement, you’ll want to address the following:
Deposits and fees. Some of the most common issues between landlords and tenants center around security deposits. Many states have laws that limit the amount a landlord can ask for, how the deposit can be used, how the deposit will not be used and how the deposit will be returned after any deductions or non-returnable fees have been deducted. Expect to detail the amount of the security deposit, cleaning and pet deposit, or the last month’s rent. You might also want to include details on where the security deposit will be held and if the landlord will pay interest on the deposit (required in some states).
Grounds for termination of tenancy. Landlords often include a clause stating that any violation of the rental agreement by a tenant or their guests can be grounds for terminating the tenancy.
Names and addresses of landlords. The landlord’s name and complete address should be included in a rental agreement. If the landlord is using a property manager or company that is authorized to receive notices on their behalf their name and address should be included also. Some states require a landlord to disclose the contact information of anyone authorized to speak on behalf of or accept payments for the property to the tenant(s).
Names of tenants and occupants. Each adult who resides in the rental should be named as a tenant and sign the rental agreement. By requiring all adult occupants to be official tenants allows a landlord to hold each tenant legally responsible for paying the total amount of rent and following the terms. If one of the tenants terminates their portion of the agreement, landlords can legally seek the entire rent payment from any of the other tenants on the agreement.
Rent. There’s a lot more to this than the monthly rent amount. Rental agreements typically specify the amount of rent due, when and where it’s due, acceptable forms of payment and any additional charges or late fees that apply. Keep in mind, in areas without rent control, landlords can charge any amount for their property.
Rental property details. Your rental agreement may include the property details such as storage areas, furnishings, and other amenities that are included with the rental property. Before signing a rental agreement, make sure that it includes the complete address (building and unit number, if applicable) as well as any amenities promised. For example, if the rental includes storage space, you will want to provide information on where it is and how to access it.
Tenant’s maintenance responsibilities. Rental agreements usually include a provision making the tenant responsible for keeping the rental clean and in good condition. It also obligates a tenant to reimburse their landlord to repair any damages they caused.
When and how landlords may enter the property. Many state laws specify when landlords may legally enter a rental property and the amount of notice required to the tenant. Landlords will sometimes include this information in the rental agreement while others might not be aware of these laws and write in illegal provisions. Check your state and local access laws and make sure that your rental agreement is compliant with them—illegal entry and tenant privacy violations typically have legal consequences.
Term of the tenancy. The term of the tenancy is the length of time the property will be rented. Month-to-month rental agreements should include a start date and renew automatically until the landlord or tenant decides to terminate.
Disclosures and Other Provisions
After adding all of the essential information to the rental agreement, you may want to tailor it to reflect the individual aspects of your rental. If a rule or regulation is pressing enough to you that you would want to terminate a tenancy if it was violated, be sure that it is included in the rental agreement. Additional rules that are not as important can be written in a supplementary document. Here are some commonly included policies that are added to a rental agreement:
Attorney fees and court costs in a lawsuit. Some rental agreements will define who pays the expenses of a lawsuit if the landlord and tenant go to court over a breach of your rental agreement such as, a dispute about the security deposit. These clauses explicitly require the losing side in a landlord-tenant dispute concerning the rental agreement to pay the winning party’s attorney fees and court costs.
Condition of the rental unit. Rental agreements customarily include a provision in which the tenant agrees that the rental is an inhabitable condition when they move in and promises to alert the landlord immediately to any dangerous conditions if they occur.
Limits on guest stay. Landlords might limit overnight guests to keep long-term guests from attaining the station of full-fledged tenants who have not been screened, approved by the landlord or listed on the rental agreement.
No illegal activity. Landlords can limit their potential liability by including a clause prohibiting illegal and disruptive behavior—like using drugs, dealing drugs or causing trouble. If the tenant is involved in any illegal activity, the landlord can terminate their tenancy.
Pets. Landlords can prohibit all pets, or restrict the types allowed—with the exception of service and emotional support animals. If a rental is pet-friendly, it is helpful to include pet policies in the rental agreement. Examples of this would be to write out how many pets a tenant can have, what types, breeds, and sizes of animals are allowed.
Restrictions on the number of occupants. Landlords will typically set a limit to the number of people who can live in their rental property. Federal law requires that landlords allow two people per bedroom.
Restrictions on the use of the property. Landlords can set any kind of rules and restrictions that they want on their rental property—as long as it’s not discriminatory, retaliatory or violates your state’s laws.
Smoking. Landlords can prohibit or restrict smoking of any kind in their rental property. If the landlord wants to limit smoking, they should include where tenants may smoke.
State and local disclosures. Many state and local laws require landlords to disclose documentation, policies, or specific unit information to tenants prior to moving in.
Common state and local disclosures include:
- notice of mold if the landlord knows that it exists
- disclosure of recent deaths that occurred in the rental unit
- state sexual offender registry information
- notice of sex offenders that live in the area
The only federally required landlord disclosure pertains to lead-based. Known as Title X, this disclosure is designed to protect families from exposure to lead from paint, dust, and soil. Section 1018 of this law requires the disclosure of known information on lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards before the sale or lease of housing built before 1978.
Subletting. Cautious landlords do not allow tenants to sublet their rental property without their written consent. Landlords should review their state’s subletting laws to see if they are required to allow subletting.
Utilities. The month-to-month rental agreement should state who pays for each utility that services the premises. Generally, a landlord will cover the garbage and water. Tenants normally pay for the internet, cable, gas and electric service.
Lease Termination Notice Requirements by State
The following states require a tenant to provide notice for month-to-month rental agreements:
Alabama: 30 days (§ 35-9A-441)
Alaska: 30 days (§ 34.03.290)
Arizona: 30 days (§ 33-1375)
Arkansas: 30 days (§ 18-17-704)
California: 30 or 60 days (§ 1946)
Colorado: 21 days (§ 13-40-107)
Connecticut: 3 days (§ 47a-23)
Delaware: 60 days (Title 25 § 5106)
Florida: 15 days (§ 83.57)
Georgia: 30 days (§ 44-7-7)
Hawaii: 45 or 28 days (§ 521-71)
Idaho: 30 days (§ 55-208)
Illinois: 30 days (§ 735 ILCS 5)
Indiana: 30 days (§ 32-31-1-1)
Iowa: 30 days (§ 562A.34)
Kansas: 30 days (§ 58-2570)
Kentucky: 30 days (§ 383.695)
Louisiana: 10 days (CC 2728)
Maine: 30 days (Title 14 § 6002)
Maryland: 30 days (§ 8-402)
Massachusetts: 30 days (§ 186-15B)
Michigan: 30 days (§ 554.134)
Minnesota: 30 days (§ 504B.135)
Mississippi: 30 days (§ 89-8-19)
Missouri: 30 days (§ 441.060)
Montana: 30 days (§ 70-24-441)
Nebraska: 30 days (§ 76-1416)
Nevada: 30 days (NRS 40.251)
New Hampshire: 30 days (RSA 540:3)
New Jersey: 30 days (§ 2A:18-56)
North Carolina: 7 days (§ 42-14)
North Dakota: 30 days (§ 47-16-07.2)
Ohio: 30 days (§ 5321.17)
Oklahoma: 30 days (§ 41-111)
Oregon: 30 days (§ 91.070)
Pennsylvania: 15 or 30 days (§ 250.501)
Rhode Island: 30 days (§ 34-18-37)
South Carolina: 30 days (§ 27-40-770)
South Dakota: 15 or 30 days (§ 43-32-13)
Tennessee: 30 days (§ 66-28-512)
Texas: 30 days (§ 91.001)
Utah: 15 days (§ 78B-6-802)
Vermont: 60 or 90 days (§ 4467)
Virginia: 30 days (§ 55-248.37)
Washington: 20 days (§ 59.18.200)
Washington, DC: 30 days (§ 42-3202)
West Virginia: 30 days (§ 37-6-5)
Wisconsin: 28 days (§ 704.19)
Wyoming: No Statute
Conditions That Invalidate A Month-to-Month Rental Agreement
Residential rental agreements can contain provisions that violate state, local and/or federal laws. It is unlawful for a landlord to require a tenant to waive any of their rights or place discriminatory conditions in a rental agreement. Illegal provisions may result in the landlord being liable for damages.
Here are a few examples of illegal provisions:
Charging penalties instead of fees. A penalty is a means to prevent specific behavior, while the fee is intended to cover losses. Individuals are not legally allowed to charge penalties but they can charge fees. So basically, while fees are legal, they cannot amount to a penalty. An example of this may be increasing the fee for late payments in order to punish the tenant for paying late. These penalties are not only unenforceable, but they may also violate state and local laws on landlord retaliation.
Making the tenant responsible for maintenance and repairs. Landlords need to pay for the property’s maintenance and repairs, however, many rental agreements are written to purposely confuse tenants when describing the landlord’s responsibilities. This is to make tenants feel that the maintenance and repair responsibilities are theirs. Watch for language stating the tenant is responsible for maintenance and repairs — it is illegal and unenforceable.
Warranty of habitability. Every state has specific health and safety codes that provide minimum standards for rental units. If those standards are not met, proper notice is given by the tenant and the repairs/fixes are still not made within the allowable time period, a tenant would be considered “constructively evicted”. Do not sign a rental agreement without a clause requiring the landlord to keep the unit habitable.
Security deposit. Security deposit deductions are the most common cause of month-to-month rental agreement disagreements. Tenants cannot be charged for damage they did not cause, costs the landlord did not incur, or normal wear and tear of the property. Many states regulate how a landlord can use a security deposit. Before signing a rental agreement, make sure that it does not contain language that deviates from your state and local laws.
Landlord Licenses. In Washington, D.C landlords are required to obtain a rental license and business license (D.C. Code § 47-2828) prior to discussing a rental agreement with a prospective tenant.