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Frequently asked Questions

What's the difference between a lease and a month-to-month rental agreement?

The most important difference is that a lease has a starting date and an ending date, while a month-to-month (periodic) rental agreement does not have an ending date. If you have a lease, both you and the landlord are bound by the terms of the lease until the lease ends. A lease can provide tenants with security against rent increases or being asked to move out, but the lease also obligates the tenant to pay rent for the entire length of the lease.

Any lease of longer than one year must be in writing. Leases and rental agreements of one year or less can be written or verbal, but it is always best to have your agreement in writing.

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What if my lease is past the ending date, but I have not signed a new one?

If you started out with a lease (a rental agreement with a starting date and an ending date) and have passed the ending date without signing a new lease, the lease becomes a month-to-month rental agreement. When this occurs, you and the landlord are still bound by the other terms of the rental agreement. The most important differences to keep in mind are:

(1) The landlord can now make changes to your rental agreement by giving you proper written notice (usually 30 days) of the change.

(2) To terminate the tenancy, you will need to give the landlord a written 30-day notice. Or, if the landlord wants to terminate the tenancy, s/he will have to give you a 30-day notice.

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What if I need to move while my lease is still in effect?

Sometimes circumstances change, and a tenant needs to terminate the lease early. This can happen because of illness or family emergency, loss of employment, job transfer, etc. This is not the landlordís fault, and it precisely the reason the landlord wanted a lease in the first place. Nevertheless, many landlords are willing to negotiate about terminating a lease when the tenant has a good reason.

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Can the lease be terminated if the landlord agrees?

If you need to terminate the lease because of changed circumstances, talk with your landlord to see if s/he is willing to terminate the lease. If s/he is willing, make sure to discuss exactly when your obligation to pay rent will end and what will happen to your security deposit.

Once you have worked out a lease termination agreement you can both live with, be sure to put it in writing.

If you need help negotiating the termination agreement or putting it in writing, the Mediation Center may be able to help.

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What if my landlord won't let me out of the lease?

Now you've got a problem, because the landlord doesn't have to negotiate with you.If you move out and stop paying rent, you will have broken the lease, and your landlord can take steps to enforce it. The landlord can't force you to live in the unit, but you can be held responsible for the rent to a point.

The law does not permit the landlord to leave the unit empty after you have surrendered possession (informed the landlord that you have moved and turned over the keys). The landlord is required to make a reasonable effort to re-rent the unit, but you are responsible for the rent until a new tenant moves in. In addition, you may be required to reimburse the landlord for additional expenses (such as advertising) needed to find a replacement tenant.

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How can I convince the landlord to let me out of the lease?

Make it easy to say yes. If you can find a replacement tenant, and if you take steps to leave the rental unit in move-in condition when you leave, all the landlord has to do is sign a new lease with the tenant. If the costs for re-renting the unit are low, and if the replacement tenant has a good rental history, the landlord might be more willing to terminate your lease.

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Can I sublease or assign the lease?

Probably not. Most standard lease agreements prohibit subleasing or assigning your lease, so you will need to read your lease carefully to find out if it is permitted. You should also consult with an attorney about how to sublease or assign your lease if it is not prohibited.

In a sublease, you create your own lease with a new tenant. The tenant pays the rent to you, and you pay the rent to the landlord. In a subleasing arrangement, you are still responsible for payment of rent and repair of damages, but your subleasing tenant is responsible to you.

In an assignment, you transfer all of your rights and responsibilities to a new tenant. The new tenant then becomes responsible to the landlord, and you are off the hook. Some rental agreements permit assignments only with the landlord's approval.

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When is rent due?

Rent is due on the date stated on your rental agreement. Some landlords provide a grace period, but a grace period is not required. Most landlords make the rent due on the first day of the month, but you can negotiate a different date if your landlord is willing.

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How much can a landlord charge for rent?

Unless you are in a mobile home, there are no rent control laws in the Central Valley. A landlord can charge whatever rent a tenant is willing to pay. If you're already a tenant, the landlord can raise your rent as often and as much as the landlord wants, as long as you are given the proper written notice of the increase.

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What are the rules for a rent increase?

If you have a lease, the rent cannot be increased during the lease period unless the lease allows an increase. But the landlord can increase the rent on your renewal lease.

If you have a month to month rental agreement, the rent can be raised at any time if the landlord gives you a proper notice.

(1) The notice of an increase must be in writing.

(2) The increase can take effect any time in the month, no matter when your rent is due.

(3) Depending on the percentage of the increase, you might be given either a 30-day notice or a 60-day notice.

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How do I know whether I am entitled to a 30-day or 60-day notice?

(1) Start with the lowest amount of your monthly rent during the last 12 months (or since you moved in, if you have lived there less than a year). Then multiply that amount by 10 percent (example: $750.00 x 10% = $75.00).

(2) If the amount of the increase is more than 10 percent, you are entitled to a 60-day notice.

(3) If the amount of the increase is 10 percent or less, you are only entitled to a 30-day notice.

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What if I get the notice in the middle of the month?

(1) It is a good idea to check with the landlord about how you should deal with this, because there are more ways than one to do it.

(2) One way is to pay the regular monthly rent and then make an additional payment on the day the new rate takes effect.

(3) Another way is to prorate the rent for the month the increase takes effect. To do this, you need to figure out the current daily rent (current monthly rent divided by 30) and the new daily rent (new monthly rent divided by 30). Then multiply the current daily rent by the number of days before the increase takes effect, and multiply the new daily rent by the number of days after the increase takes effect. Add these numbers together, and pay that amount. (Example: Your rent is being increased from $750.00 per month to $800.00 per month. Your rent is due on the first day of the month, but the increase takes effect on the 17th of the month. Your current daily rent is $25.00 ($750.00/30). Your new daily rent is $26.67 ($800.00/30). Your rent for the first 16 days of the month would be $400.00 ($25.00 x 16), and your rent for the last 14 days of the month would be $373.38 ($26.67 x 14). Therefore the total rent due for this month would be $773.38 ($400.00 + $373.38). Using this method, it does not make much difference whether or not it is a 30-day month. In the example above, the difference between using 28 days or 31 days is only $2.71.

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Can my landlord charge extra for water, trash pickup, and other services?

Yes. If you are a new tenant, your rental agreement should state which services are the tenantís responsibilities and which are the landlordís. If you are an existing tenant, the landlord can change the terms of the rental agreement with proper notice.

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Can the terms of my rental agreement be changed?

Yes. As long as proper written notice is given, the landlord can change the terms of your rental agreement. A 30-day written notice is required for most changes. (Some rent increases may require a 60-day notice.)

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What if I don't agree with the landlord's demands?

Give in, move out, or try to resolve your differences. Unless the landlord has made an unlawful demand, or failed to give you a proper notice, your options are limited. If you give in, you will be required to do what the landlord demands. If you move out, you are required to give the landlord a written 30-day notice if you are a month to month tenant.

If you don't like or can't do what the landlord wants, you are always free to try to work out a solution you can both accept. That can be done by negotiating directly with the landlord or by contacting the Mediation Center to request mediation. However, if you cannot reach a settlement with your landlord and you end up going your separate ways, keep in mind that the landlord is the one that is entitled to the rental property, not you, so you need to plan accordingly.

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