How Much Notice is Required to End a Month-to-Month Tenancy?
Many people have simple month-to-month tenancies. They pay their rent each month. Either side can and the arrangement at any time, just by giving "proper legal notice." What does that mean, exactly?
What Is A “Month-To-Month” Tenancy?
A month-to-month tenancy is when you pay rent each month, but there’s no agreed time period or limit for how long you’re going to stay there.
You haven’t agreed to rent the place for a year, or for six months, or for three months. The landlord hasn’t agreed to guarantee that you can stay there for a year, or six months, or three months.
Instead, you’ve both agreed only to rent the place one month at a time and pay the monthly rent as you go.
The month-to-month agreement can be verbal or in writing. Most of the time, though, month-to-month arrangements are not written down.
The most important feature of a month-to-month tenancy is that it can be ended at any time, for any reason, by either side. The only requirement is that the person who wants to end the arrangement must give proper legal notice ahead of time to the other side.
How Much Time Is Required For “Proper Legal Notice Ahead of Time”?
In short words, “until the end of next month’s rent.”
The law at WV Code 37-6-5 says that the required advance notice is “one full rent period.” A “full rent period” is the entire time between one rent due date and the next rent due date.
So there are two significant time elements:
- (1) The notice must arrive before the start of the next rent period (that is, before the next rent payment is due); and
- (2) The notice must take effect after the end of the next rent period.
Is This The Same As A “30 Day Notice”?
No! In most cases a plain “30 day notice” will not meet the legal requirements.
For example, suppose your rent is due on the 1st of the month. Your landlord sends you a notice on the 20th, which says you have to be out by the 20th of the next month.
This notice does arrive before the next rent due date, so it meets the first time element.
But this notice takes effect too early. It doesn’t give you all of the next "full rent period." You get only part of the next "full rent period." So it doesn’t meet the second time element.
So be careful. Most of the time a 30 day notice is NOT valid. A 30 day notice would be valid only if it happened to be delivered exactly on the day before the next rent day, and if the next rent month was 30 days long and not 31 days long.
Does the Notice have to be in writing?
Yes, absolutely. WV Code 37-6-5 specifies that the notice must be in writing. If it is not in writing, it is not legally binding.
- Verbally telling the landlord that you want to move is not legally adequate. The landlord could hold you to another month of rent even if you actually moved out.
- The landlord verbally telling you that you have to move out is not legally adequate. The notice must be in writing, and it must give "one full rental period" of notification.
Does this ‘proper legal notice’ requirement apply if one side has broken the rental agreement?
No. If one side has violated the rental agreement, then the other side is no longer obligated to send “proper legal notice” The side that breaks the agreement loses the protection of the notice requirement.
Suppose the landlord did not provide a functioning source of heat in the winter. This violates his legal duty as a landlord to provide a safe and habitable place to live. The tenant can move without giving the normal advance notice. The landlord does not get the protection of the advance notice requirement if the landlord broke the rental agreement.
Suppose the tenant did not pay rent. The landlord can go directly to court for eviction. West Virginia law does not require this landlord to send advance notice. The tenant does not get the protection of advance notice if he broke the rental agreement.
What is the Advantage of a Month-To-Month Tenancy?
Flexibility. Neither the tenant nor the landlord is locked into any time period beyond a month. Either one can end the arrangement, at any time, for any reason. The only requirement is to give "one full rental period" of advance notice.
If the tenant decides she doesn’t like the color of the paint she can move out after she gives proper legal notice ahead of time.
If the landlord decides he wants to rent the place to his cousin, he can evict the current tenant simply by giving proper legal notice ahead of time.
What is the Disadvantage of a Month-To-Month Tenancy?
Very little Protection. Neither side has any guarantee of more than one month at a time. The landlord has no promise that the tenant will stay more than one or two months. The tenant has no promise that the landlord will let him stay there more than one or two months.
Suppose John pays the rent every month exactly on time, fixes up the place, and is a terrific tenant. But the landlord decides he wants to rent the house to his cousin who is moving home from Ohio. Once the landlord sends a proper legal notice ahead of time, John’s going to have to move.
Record Keeping Tips
- Keep records of the date you pay your rent. If you don't have a written rental agreement, the date on which rent is paid will define your "one full rental period."
- NEVER pay rent in cash without getting rent receipts. Make sure they are dated and signed by the person who takes the rent money.
- Keep copies of all letters, notes or cards from your landlord, and the envelopes they came in.
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