Tenant Didn’t Move Out at the End of the Lease: What Happens Now?

by Chris on February 7, 2011

While many landlords fear that a tenant will leave before the lease expires, it is also common for the tenant to remain in the rental beyond the term of the lease.  This “hold-over” tenancy can present a number of disadvantages for a landlord:

Eviction and other disputes may be governed under special  hold-over tenancy rules rather than the tenancy agreement.

The landlord may lose control of when the tenant moves out and creates a vacancy, which could be at a time when it is difficult to get a new tenant in.

Scheduled maintenance, which is easier to perform in a vacant unit, may have to be postponed.

Restrictions may prevent the landlord from raising the rent during the period of the hold-over, or for a longer time in some cases.

WORST CASE SCENARIO:  The landlord has promised the rental property to someone else, but the existing tenant was not planning to move out.  The landlord could be liable to the new tenant for the costs of housing and storage while waiting for the rental to become available. 

The laws governing hold-over tenancies vary, but in most cases the tenancy becomes a month-to-month arrangement, and subject to those rules.  For instance, the landlord may have to offer 30-days notice to terminate or change the lease terms, and a tenant can give a 30-day notice and move out.  By accepting rent from the tenant after the lease has expired, the landlord may be consenting to a hold-over tenancy.

LANDLORD TIP:  The best course of action is to contact the existing tenant about 60 days before the end of the lease and find out their intentions. 

Having that statement in writing helps if the landlord ends up in a legal dispute with a new tenant over possession of the rental property. 

If the landlord does not like the existing tenant and wants to end the tenancy at the lease term, the landlord may have to take legal steps to re-gain possession, so it’s good to know well in advance what they may be facing.  

On the other hand, if the landlord likes the existing tenant, it may be beneficial to negotiate a new full-term lease or renewal so the landlord is not left to guess when the tenant may decide to give notice and move out.

Another option to consider is having your legal adviser review your standard lease agreeement and if necessary add in any available options for hold-overs.  For instance, are you allowed to increase the rent once the tenancy goes month-to-month?  Can you opt to have the lease renewed for a new term, for instance one year, rather than go month-to-month?

Staying in control is the key to keeping tenancies profitable for the landlord. 

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris May 5, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Hi Melinda,
Sounds like a mess. Often tenants are liable for the repair if they did something to cause the damage. Make sure you get your plumber to write out what the problem was — or describe what they find down there (yuck!) and keep good documentation so you can prove it was the tenant’s fault. Here’s a blog post that has more information: http://www.landlordtalking.com/tips/do-tenants-have-to-pay-for-repairs/
Good luck!

Lawrence June 20, 2014 at 3:20 am

The article did not answer the question.

It did present the problem and why it’s a problem. BUT it did not advise what exactly can a landlord do, if he want’s the tenant out and they refuse to leave even after serving a 30 day notice that the month to month lease will not be renewed.

What kind of eviction is this? How best to handle it?

minecraft pc September 22, 2014 at 4:24 pm

Ridiculous story there. What happened after?
Good luck!

Keith March 19, 2018 at 9:48 am

I have a sticky tenant situation. In live in CA. My landlord wants to end our lease which expires on 5/31/18. I am in full agreement with him. The problem is I have a soon to be ex-wife that is living there and may not be willing to move out by 5/31/18. I signed the lease because the soon to be ex had lousy credit. She and her kids are on the lease as occupants. I have left the premises 10 months ago and faithfully paid the rent. So when the lease expires and if she does not move out, do I get into trouble even though the lease is over and I moved out. He has threatened legal action but I left and his case is not with me. Do I have to worry? How can he evict me if I am not there and he thinks he can mess up my credit but again I am not there to evict.

Jo Morris March 21, 2018 at 7:50 am

my tenants lease expires on the 31st of March – I sent a letter, which he signed and returned, acknowledging that the tenancy will not continue and they will be moving out on the 30th of March.
I have reason to believe that they do not intend to move out.
The reason that this is such a problem is that I need to move in on the 31st of March as the lease for the house that I live in expires then.
Thus leaving me homeless with a truck full of my possessions if they do not move out.
What provisions I can take befere hand to ensure they leave?

Kush September 15, 2018 at 6:26 pm

My lease was expired on 1 st April 2018
The lease holder lady left the apt in April
But her son and his family has not vacated the
The apt since April 2018
Not paying rent since April 2018

Kindly advise me what to do

Carlos May 15, 2019 at 9:41 am

From Florida. My tenant lease expired on April 30 but didn’t move out until May 3 , what is the tenant responsibility? Thank you

Frankco S. Lee October 28, 2019 at 9:09 pm

I have a lease ending 12-16-2019 with an unruly tenant.He brought in 5 at-will tenants without my consent and permission. They became a public nuisance group and I’ve been complained by neighbors. They ignored my “ notice to perform covenant “ many times and not pay their share utility bills. I sent him both 90 days and 60 days “notice to terminate tenancy “. What can I do when time is up and he said they won’t move out? Can I call the police because without a rental contract , they are intruders ,at least they are transpassers , am I right? Please help!

KIM December 12, 2019 at 8:51 pm

i have a court case pending , paying the courts monthly rent my lease is up in 15 days do i have to move waiting for an arbitration hearing

Raja May 29, 2020 at 1:22 pm

the landlord has sold the property to a new landlord. The new landlord wants the property to be in vacant. The tenant who was already living in the property has fixed term lease which ended 3 years ago but the old landlord told him he can stay as long as he gets the new place. Now the tenant is saying my new place will be ready next year. How can the new landlord get the property vacant.

Brown August 14, 2020 at 1:46 pm

My son-in-law retired from the military after 23 years of service. His property was leased during his deployment. Due to his retirement, he did not renew the tenants rental agreement; and advised them of such in January 2020 . The rental agreement ended July 31, 2020; however the tenants refuse to leave the property; claiming, due to the Pandemic. They do not have a rental agreement at this point and does not pay a dime in rent. Does this fall under the California tenant protection, eviction moratorium. What rights does he have?

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