do I have to vacate my apartment? Can I leave in the middle of my lease? Can I stay few days longer if I need time before my new space is ready? My landlord says I have to get out before noon on the 31st because he needs time to clean the apartment for the new tenants – can he do that? I am a landlord – can I start showing the apartment before my tenant’s lease is up? Do I have to give notice?

Whether you are a landlord or tenant, it is important to know your rights and responsibilities when it comes to ending your lease or occupancy agreement.  Under a written lease, the tenant is entitled to occupy the premises until midnight on the last day of the lease; likewise, the tenant is obligated to pay rent through that date. Setting aside various special circumstances (such as active military duty, breach of the lease or other violations by the landlord, or you are a victim of domestic violence) there is no right to leave early unless it was negotiated as part of the written lease. And there is no right to stay longer, just because it might be more convenient.

If you are a month-to-month tenant at will, things are little bit different. Either the landlord or tenant can terminate the tenancy, but typically that needs to be done at least a full month in advance. Thus, notice on March 7 would not terminate the tenancy until April 30. And as with the lease, the tenant is entitled to stay until midnight on the final day of the occupancy.

Generally speaking, a landlord has the right to enter an apartment to inspect, make repairs and to show prospective tenants. Except in cases of emergency, such as a water leak or fire, this should only be done during normal business hours. Also, as a matter of best practices, it is a good idea for the landlord to contact the tenant and arrange for a mutually convenient time to enter. Tenants do not like surprise visits. But tenants should also understand that there are many circumstances where a landlord cannot easily arrange a visit in advance.

The best situation for both landlords and tenants is to do your best to speak with one another and coordinate the end of lease together, in advance. The landlord will want to know as soon as possible when the tenant will be out so that he can get the apartment ready for the next occupant. And tenants want to know that the landlord will not be bothering them needlessly. There is also value in having a brief walk through ahead of time to know if there is damage (even if not caused by the tenant, the landlord wants to know so that he can fix anything before the next tenancy begins), make arrangements for cleaning, trash disposal, and so forth.

Of course, as with most legal issues, there are always exceptions to the general rules. For instance, all of this assumes that there are no significant problems—the rent was paid on time, the apartment was in good condition and the parties left each other alone as much as possible.

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One of the difficulties faced by young people, especially those in our pricier urban areas, is finding an affordable place to live. It’s a natural and inevitable reaction to seek out roommates or housemates to share the expense.

With every relationship, there is the potential for conflicts and problems. In the case of roommates, this is exemplified by the popular TV series, “The Big Bang Theory,” where Sheldon Cooper insists that his roommate, Leonard Hofstadter, sign the infamous “Roomate Agreement,” a voluminous document that includes a host of crazy provisions such as adoption of an official flag, obligations on Leonard to drive Sheldon to work, and a clause on cooperation to destroy Godzilla.

But for the rest of us, the reality is that what may have seemed like a very workable arrangement at the beginning, turns out not to be so over time. Different schedules, food and music choices can be very annoying. If one party is unable to afford the rent or other charges, that leaves the other person paying more than their fair share. And if one party has their significant other move in (or just spend lots of time in the apartment), that can really be an imposition on the other roommate(s).

In most cases, a landlord will not get involved in these internal disputes and will expect that the rent and other expenses will be paid promptly. Otherwise, all of the occupants will face eviction and/or other legal action. And with a long-term lease, this means that the roommates will have to find a way to resolve these differences or face significant financial consequences.

While the Big Bang Theory roommate agreement is obviously taken to absurd extremes, I recommend that unrelated parties execute at least a simple memorandum of understanding that covers the basic issues that can arise. For instance, set forth exactly who will pay what amounts, when they are due, how to split utilities, cable, and other expenses, what happens if bills are not paid promptly, and procedures to follow if one roommate wants or needs to vacate the premises. Also consider general rules and regulations concerning noise, guests, significant others, cleaning, food and supplies, resolving grievances, etc. The parties may also want to include some sort of guarantee or co-signing by the roommates’ parents (obviously depending on the parties’ ages and station in life), and possibly a security deposit that is pooled to cover missed payments or other financial issues.

Of course, a written agreement is no assurance that the terms will be followed, but it helps to reduce misunderstandings and mistaken assumptions and provides a framework for managing what might otherwise be a source of added tension.

What do you think? Add your comments here...

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